“What is your greatest fear in life?” The answer to this question has always been one that needs no long pauses of thought or great consideration – my greatest fear is losing my father, uBabayi. If I had to sum up all the things my father has done and taught me over the 21 years of my life, this essay would definitely become a thesis, but I would never miss an opportunity to celebrate that man so I will gladly summarise.

I lost my mother at the tender age of 5. My three sisters and I were left with just one parent, ubab’wethu uBra’Skhu. I can’t imagine what a daunting task it was for him to raise four children of the opposite gender, all on his own, but he never made us feel like a challenge or a burden. I vividly remember him at the back of every school concert I acted in primary school, bringing home extra papers for all the subjects I took in high school and signing me up for extra classes whenever he felt I needed the support.

I remember the day my matric results came out and I had achieved a Bachelor pass with no distinctions, I felt I had disappointed him. I went to his room to show him my results with tears running down my face. After I showed him the results, followed by a whispered apology, he wiped my tears and gave me the warmest reassuring hug I have ever gotten, wathi, “You have done your mother and I proud. Don’t ever look down on your achievements again.”

After that day I received acceptance from a very distant university and they needed me to come register immediately. My father’s financial situation at the time was dire as he had other obligations from my other siblings, but he assured me that he would make a plan. Days later I was moved into a comfortable room with a new fridge full of food and registered for the course of my dreams. That year,2017, reassured me of something I have always known – I have a cheerleader who loves me.

I am also reminded of an incident where people from my hometown ridiculed my father for driving the same car for years and not upgrading. On one of our routine nights, where we would sit together in that very same car they ridiculed and listen to jazz, I remember him saying, “All those people laugh at me now, but they don’t know that I am investing in my children’s futures – they can go fetch my other cars from the universities, I am paying for my childrens’ education.”

That night I came to the realisation of the sacrifices that man has made and still continues to make.

So what does a father mean to me? A father, to me, is a place of safety. A constant comforter. Your shield from the cruel world. Your first love. Your pillar of strength. Your biggest cheerleader.

Mkhize! Gcwabe! Khabazela! You taught us unconditional love and forgiveness. You sacrificed so much for all of us to stand before you today as graduates, usebenzile! Siyokubonga njalo.

So tell me, who wouldn’t fear losing such a man?


This was one of the highly commended entries in the My Father essay writing competition. Click here to read other excellent essays from the competition.