Sibiya and MaKhumalo follow the stretcher carrying their unconscious daughter into the casualty ward.

“You can’t go beyond this point,” says a nurse.

“But she’s my daughter!” MaKhumalo protests.

“I understand, Mam. But only hospital staff are allowed in here. There are benches in the reception area where you can wait. We will do our work and keep you updated.”

“But she needs me,” says MaKhumalo.

“Mam, please do as I say. You are wasting precious time I could be using to save your daughter by arguing with me!”

MaKhumalo and Sibiya sit on the edges of the benches. They can’t sit still. They pace up and down in turns.

“Baba, do you think Lungile will make it?” Fear reverberates in MaKhumalo’s voice.

“Please don’t think like that, MaKhumalo. Lungile will make it,” says Sibiya.

“I can’t lose my baby,” MaKhumalo breaks down.

Sibiya comforts his wife. He is facing the casualty ward and his body tenses up when the doctor appears. “Here’s the doctor,” he whispers

“How’s my baby, Doctor?” MaKhumalo sniffles.

“We were able to pump her stomach and get most of the pills out. She’ll make it. But we need to observe her for a bit more and she needs to rest. If she has improved you can take her home tomorrow.”

“Thank God! Can we see her?”

“She is sleeping. You can see her for just a few minutes.”

Sibiya and MaKhumalo look down at their sleeping daughter, thankful she is alive.

* * * * *

There is hollowness in Lungile’s eyes as she rocks to the bumps in the road on the way home the next day. She has lost a lot of weight over the past six months she has been depressed. It seems there is something literally eating her from inside her body.

MaKhumalo is grateful her daughter is alive but that gratitude slowly turns to anger as the car gets closer to home. As soon as they get in the lounge and close the door all hell breaks loose.

“What on earth is wrong with you, Lungile? What is wrong?! What is this ‘depression’? Are you going crazy? Are you losing your mind? To try to commit suicide, of all things! You are the most ungrateful child I have ever seen. We pay large sums for your studies at university! And this is how you thank us? Why are you trying to kill yourself? Your life is the envy of your friends. They wish they had your life. But you want to kill yourself!” MaKhumalo is nearly out of breath when she ends her tirade.

“I’m … I’m sorry, Mama,” says Lungile helplessly.

“Is it a boy? Did you break up with your boyfriend? Where did you get this notion of suicide? You have embarrassed us!”

“That’s enough, MaKhumalo. Tomorrow we will wake up early to see a sangoma. He will definitely fix your problem,” says Sibiya.

“But I need to see a psychiatrist! They are the ones who are trained to help people suffering from depression.”

“You are not going to that doctor because you are not mad. This is something spiritual. Sleep early because we will wake up before sunrise.”

“But, Ba–”

“Shut your mouth and do as I say! My word is final!” says Sibiya.


Tell us: What do you think of MaKhumalo describing Lungile’s suicide attempt as ’embarrassing’?