Thando was an orphan who lived with her maternal grandmother and her seven cousins. She was only 3-years-old when she lost both of her parents in a horrific car accident. Thando was taken in by her maternal grandmother and has been living with her for the past seven years. When she was first taken in by her grandmother, Thando used to cry a lot, didn’t want to be touched, had trouble sleeping for long periods and was sad most of the time.

Her grandmother would tell her cousins: “Don’t be troubled by her strange behaviour. Thando is grieving for the loss of her parents. Grieving means feeling immense pain and sadness at not seeing her parents and experiencing fear at not knowing what happened to her. Since Thando is still young, she deals with emotions through crying and behaviour. She cannot understand the meaning of death, so she finds it hard to cope with the situation. We need to explain things to her in ways she can understand. We also need to support her.”

Thando grew older. She was still withdrawn from her cousins and liked playing by herself. Thando’s favourite games were making mud pies, cookies and cakes. Her favourite and only toy was made from dried grass stuffed inside an old sock that had mismatched buttons as eyes and added wool on top to make her homemade doll look pretty. Thando named her doll Thandiwe (meaning ‘beloved’).

She named her doll ‘beloved’ because every time she held Thandiwe close to her, she felt loved. She enjoyed the attention Thandiwe gave her. Thandiwe didn’t interrupt her when she spoke. Thandiwe was the only thing in Thando’s life that remained the same, never broke promises and never hurt her feelings. Thandiwe was always there to share the many journeys that Thando went on in her imagination. Thando dreamt of going on a plane and flying to a land filled with green lush trees and grass, warm sunny skies with lots of butterflies of different colours decorating the sky.

She smiled when she thought of the sweet tasting fruits that filled her tummy and made it tingle. Thando imagined throwing her hands up high in the air as she swirled in circles, giggling endlessly after running around the great big mango tree in the centre of the magical garden filled with all her favourite fruit trees. Thando loved spending hours in her garden. She felt very special in this magical place. It provided her with everything she wanted and needed.

Thando’s cousins could not understand her daydreaming. They felt irritated that she did less chores, as she would stop working or even slow down while they had to do their part and cover her portion. Each time, Thando’s cousin would scream at her: “There you go again! What is wrong with you?” At times she didn’t hear them, but when she did she would simply turn her head towards them and smile without saying a word.

When this happened in front of her grandmother, the old lady would simply mutter to herself: “She leaves this misery-filled place to live in a place of love. I am too old to give you all that you need. I give you bread to fill your tummy, but I am too tired to spend time with each of you to fill your hearts with enough love.”
Thando heard her grandmother. She hurried to her with her arms stretched out wide. She stood on her toes as she reached higher to hug her grandmother.

Thando said to her grandmother: “Thandiwe reminds me of all the love I get from you. I am grateful and I will always love you, Gogo.”


Tell us what you think: Who or what is your special “Thandiwe”?