In 2013 I moved in with my mother after years of not staying together. She was a beautiful light-skinned woman with long black hair and super white teeth. She lived in Evaton in a small RDP house with one bedroom, a toilet and a kitchen. We lived there along with my two brothers and my stepfather.

I was doing Grade 7 then at Thabeng Primary School where I fell in love with netball and joined a choir. Two months down the line, my mother fell ill, and we all took it lightly until she started getting weak. She was a woman who liked joking around and had a loud laugh. Suddenly it was quiet.

“You will all miss me one day when I am gone,” she said.

Days went by and she became worse.

“Mama, can we please go to the clinic?” I pleaded.

“Why is your stepfather not here? It has been two weeks now,” she said.

My stepfather had not been around since my mother got sick; he did not come home as much as he used to. He was a truck driver and did long distance deliveries. He delivered wheelchairs to hospitals around South Africa.

She finally agreed to see a doctor and we left the house at 8am. There was a big puddle right before the clinic’s gate. You had to prepare yourself before you jumped because the puddle was wide. I jumped first and waited for her to jump too. There was silence. I could see that she was struggling. It took everything in her to try to convince herself that she could do this.

“Andikwazi Sima mntanam amadolo wam awavumi. My knees won’t let me jump Sima, my daughter,” she said.

I offered to help her but she refused. She tried to jump but she ended up falling into the puddle. People started staring and the next thing I saw were tears running down her cheeks. She felt like she had failed to do the simplest thing that a human could do – jump. From that day I decided to quit netball and the choir so that I could come back home early and take care of her because she couldn’t walk on her own. She needed assistance with everything. At the age of 13, I had learned how to take care of a grown up. I bathed, clothed, and fed her.

“Sima ntombazane yam uzokhula ube ngumfazi ozowumisa umzi wakhe, uyoyibamba imela ngobukhali bayo. One day you’ll grow up and build your own home from scratch, you’ll have to hold the bull by the horns,” she said.

I told my mother that my coach was begging me to come and play in an important game one Saturday. She told me to go as she would be love to see me happy and excelling in doing what I love.

Saturday came, I was so tired and emotionally drained from taking care of my mother but I told myself that I was doing it for her. As skinny as I was, with dark black short hair, I told myself that nothing would ever stand in my way. I played so hard that I started to get blisters under my feet. We won the match and I was crowned ‘Woman of the Match’.

For the first time, it felt like my house was two hours away from my school while it was just fifteen minutes away. I was filled with joy and could not stop singing and thinking how proud my mother would be. I was jumping and skipping all the way.

I finally got home and I saw my whole family there. When I walked in they all looked at me in the saddest way ever. I went to my mother’s room and she was not there. It then hit me that she had passed away.

Today, I am a 22-year-old woman, too matured, smart and strong for my age. I learned how to be independent and strong at an early age. The world showed me the complications of life and gave me the heart to deal with such pain. If it was not for my mother getting sick and passing away, I would not have known my strengths and weaknesses. I learned how important life and family was to me, and I am glad I went through all that. I wouldn’t change my past for anything. Against all odds, I persevered.