Around this time, last year, a young life came to a tragic end. In the flower of his youth, Steez closed his eyes forever in death. I look back now, just days past the anniversary of his death and wonder; "would the circle, be unbroken, bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye.."
It is hard to believe that Steez has sunk behind the horizons of life. That he will not rise in this life again. Short in stature, immense in worth, the young man trod life’s pathway with dignity and purpose. The boyish face, the steely radiance, the tenacious demeanour, the aura of confidence, all conspired to form what parents would be proud to call their own. He walked daily in the blinding lights of national stardom, as the future beckoned, unknowing it called him to an early grave.
The boy from Mahalapye’s dusty streets shone with the brightness of a star in a moonless night. Yet even as the clouds hugged his shoulders, and the admiration of his peers taunted his young heart with temptation; as pleasures fame brings lay arrayed before him; his feet remained firmly on the ground. His body was here, but his soul remained home.
We had occasion to take a walk together not long before he died. It was for a course beyond ourselves. He had a passion for the village of his birth and spoke candidly about his boyhood. About the things he had and the thinks he never had. The boy had conquered the city, but it was the village that had conquered the boy.
When we met, he was pleased. I was pleased too. He expressed admiration for my humble labours. “I longed to meet with you.” He said; “You are my role model. I actually wrote a song about you. I will send it to you”.
I had beheld this boy as a model for the youth of my village to emulate. The discovery that I could even have remotely inspired him in any way, was humbling. I almost cried.
But big boys don’t cry. Psychologists say that is bad advice. But I do not seek to advice on this score. I only speak to the reality of my youth. In Mahalapye, by the time a boy is 16, unless he spent his boyhood hiding under his mother’s apron, the streets have beaten all the tears out of him. Those I grew up with know what I mean.
You did not choose your fights. The fights chose you. Steez, and I agreed to meet, to discuss the ideas we shared and to see how we could try and be of some significance to our village. Of course I could not have known, that our meeting would be the first, and that it would be the very last.
But such are the vicissitudes
Sometimes, as I walk through my village and I think of Steez, I think that the darkness I see is the absence of his light. That death blew away the light-house on a stormy night, leaving a thousand village boys at sea. For he was a model to young and old alike.
Raised in a melting pot of virtues and vices, he defied all negativity and survived the tempests that steer young men to vanity and gloom. It is a story worth repeating, that a boy from my village emerged from the back of a donkey cart to earn his place on the national stage. That he showed himself worthy of every applause his nation had given him. And that his name was Steez.
But then I know. Oh, yes I do. That the longest speech is not necessarily the best. I have heard men send crowds to sleep with jingoistic nonsense. And I have read Lincolns orations. Yes, just a few fleeting seconds and centuries after, we remember all he said. He spoke to futurity. His life was a prophecy. If life was a speech, Steez would be the Gettrysburg address. Judge not life by its length, but by its content.
Yes longevity we all desire. But we have no hold on the levers of fate. A baby dies in its innocence before “its lips learn to form a word”. A highwayman lives to be a 100 years, his guilt garnished in glory and fortune. Vanity. It is vanity of vanities”, said the philosopher.
It is beyond a man to count his days. But it is within a man to make his breath count. Strangers say; “Hi Kgosi! Aren’t you scared you would get killed?” Then, I remember Steez and the many who may have thought my example worthy of some emulation. I say; “By my troth I care not. A man can die but once. We each owe God a death. Let it go which way it will. He that dies this year is quit for the next.” A year has passed. The sun still rises and sets. The winds will blow and calm follows. And yes, stars still shine in the dark. But never as brightly as Steez. So long, Son.