Mmegi Online :: Requiem: Jeffrey Motlhatlhedi Makgolo
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Requiem: Jeffrey Motlhatlhedi Makgolo

No single person looks forward to writing a eulogy about a loved one. But then again, no one can write an obituary about a stranger. It often is our wish that our friends and relatives can eulogise us because we cannot fathom the pain of coping once they have departed.
By Correspondent Tue 11 Nov 2014, 16:03 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Requiem: Jeffrey Motlhatlhedi Makgolo








But I have been strengthened to eulogise my friend who became a younger brother in the last decade or longer that I have known him. My strength came from directing the funeral proceedings at Ditlharapa, Jeffrey’s birthplace and seeing the unmatched courage of his 16-year old son, Kelesitse relating the life of his father and close buddy to us all. Kelesitse outdid himself. Those that did not know his father got a clear glimpse of him from the narrative and yes, Kelesitse painted a picture of the tragic scene at Lake Ngami in vivid details that fateful Sunday, when three men aboard a fibreglass canoe drowned. Without any written notes in hand, Kelesitse grabbed the attention of us all and sent everyone sobbing when he concluded his 20-minute dedication:

“I walked into the waters to identify the body of an unknown man retrieved from the lake by a fisherman. In the boat, there lay the lifeless body of my father. I administered CPR; there was no sign of life. I got angry at mom and I said things I should have not said. I want to stand here today and profusely apologise to mommy. I was angry at the fisherman for bringing my father’s body to the shore so late for CPR to work. I was angry at the rescue team that took forever to arrive from Maun. I was angry and confused. But I want to tell you today that my father indeed bid me goodbye and I bade him farewell. We both may have not understood what that meant at the time, but Ntate o re laetse. Everything happened in an hour after dad said goodbye. I have not cried since the tragedy,” Kelesitse chronicled the events of Sunday, November 2, 2014.

I must point out that Kelesitse broke down and released a wail with tears rolling uncontrollably down his cheeks when he mentioned that he never shed a tear since the tragedy struck. Yet the boy amidst the weeping salvaged the courage to invite his only brother Olorato to come join him to find comfort in each other’s arms. By then the atmosphere felt like death had just stung the multitude that descended upon an unknown village in Barolong farms. Their mother, who has been strong for her sons to not break down in public, also let tears roll down. This was for me, a beautiful closure that the whole family needed. They hugged to comfort each other in the dark hour that has befallen them.

I must say that from the scene that took place at Ditlharapeng, a friend would find courage to make his personal reflections on the priceless friendship we shared with Jeff. Jeff had many names amongst his friends. I referred to him as a Philosopher because of how he was able to view what many of us saw as simple concepts of life, yet analyse them closely to make meaning that was unconventional. He was fond of asking his children ‘what they would do without him being around’, something I admonished him harshly several times.

But each time, my dear friend would respond: “I am making these boys tough. My father made all of us tough from an early age.” I saw the toughness this past weekend when Kelesitse opted to be in the programme to celebrate his father’s life, something unusual for children of that age. Now I am made to see the philosopher in my friend, who used death to not scare his children, rather, prepare them for the eventuality. Death is a subject that many of us avoid discussing especially with close ones for obvious reasons, but he made it a regular topic with his family; I can only surmise philosophers can do so.

Jeff and I would have attended a funeral of our friend on the eve of his passing in Polokwane, South Africa but he made it known to me days before that he had finally heeded my call

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to take his family on a getaway weekend, and that he chose the tourist spot of Maun. I must hasten that Jeff was not on holiday per se in Maun, as that would surely have included my family as well. Jeff simply took advantage of the coincidental trips that brought he and wife to Maun on separate work assignments. He worked for Debswana, while  Naomi works as the Cultural Specialist at the American Embassy. It made sense that the expenses the family would incur concerned the two boys who were flown into Maun to join their parents. While across the border, Jeff and I sent back and forth text messages and I got some photos of a happy family with anecdotes of what they were doing together. But perhaps as a sign of bad omen, when my phone’s battery died, I could not recharge it using the wall plug in my room, nor in the car.

That cut me off from any communication, let alone from my friend who was facing imminent danger across the waters of Lake Ngami. When night had fallen and I managed to recharge my phone back at my house, one of our friends phoned to seek confirmation of the story of the tragedy in Lake Ngami, but sketchy as the details were by that time, the name that immediately cropped up was that of a media personality, Laona Segaetsho. Laona was no stranger to me and it was enough dose of grief to have him mentioned in that breadth, needless to have both of them.

The natural instinct was to phone Naomi from whom I was sure details of Laona’s passing would categorically be confirmed true or false. Laona was Information Specialist in the department of Public Affairs at the American Embassy. It was not answered for several times. In the end, a hysterical voice answered and I sought to speak to his mother. Kelesitse mumbled a lot of things that did not make sense. I then asked to speak to his father and in the midst of what seemed gibberish, he answered: “You can’t talk to him.” At this point I was growing impatient with him and begged to speak to his mother, again. It was a foregone conclusion in Naomi’s mind that with hours gone past since her husband’s body was retrieved from the deadly waters, I ought to have known.

“Botsadi, just as you have heard…We are in despair and utter shock,” Naomi said.

“Heard what?” I was feeling frustrated because no one was telling me for the record, what had exactly happened. I went numb at learning of Jeff’s passing and Laona’s imminent passing as scuba divers were combing the dark waters by nightfall. Laona’s body was retrieved the following morning, while the poler’s body was found on Tuesday. One body a day!

If there is any tragedy that has ripped me apart and robbed me of two friends and colleagues, the Lake Ngami happening has no match. I opted to eulogise Jeff not because I care less about Laona, rather our friends who knew him as close and better than I do have done a sterling job in the week past. To my Philosopher, rest in eternal peace until we are reunited in the great celebration of those who have longed to rise up with our Redeemer! I must assure you that your close friends shall continue to dote over your boys and we shall strive, albeit no attempt of replacement of your fatherly role, to remain present in them and your wife’s life. We sorely miss you and my eulogy speaks on behalf of our inner circle, as you know it. Hey, by the way, Thero Raborokgwe at the funeral held the audience in stitches when he mentioned the Pep Store next to your house. We all saw the shopping mall and laughed big! For a while, it seemed as though, we were at a celebration! RIP!

 RONALD MOLOSIWA*

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