A TEENAGER AND HER DAUGHTER’S LOVE TEACHES US A LESSON
Having a baby at a young age is challenging, but now imagine giving birth at 17 to a baby who suffers from Cerebral Palsy. Nosphiwo Queen Gum, from Gugulethu, did just that and her story is beyond inspiring. It gives encouragement to South Africans and teaches us that no matter what challenges we are faced with, we do have the strength to overcome them.
‘Being from a single parent family, I had to grow up quickly,’ says Queen. ‘My mother was a live-in domestic worker, which meant I only saw her at weekends. We were always on the move.’ When she was 17, Queen gave birth to a beautiful baby girl called Simamkele. ‘She had a condition called Cerebral Palsy. Doctors told me that it was unlikely that she would survive longer than a year. I didn’t give up fighting for her and Simamkele always found the strength to pull through.’
Queen dropped out of school to take on the job of caring for her daughter full time, ‘It was my responsibility’, she says, ‘but I wanted to go back to school and I did so after one year. Many people helped me to do that. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is so true. You need support. I told myself I wasn’t going to fail. I would spend my evenings at Red Cross Children’s Hospital and go to school in the morning. When I returned to my daughter’s side I would study in the bathrooms where there was light. I got used to that life and I successfully finished high school.’
‘I became very protective about my daughter; I didn’t want her to be judged for her disabilities because I just saw her as any other child. We would play together, talk, laugh and even get irritated. She was my best friend.’ Long hospital visits and illness were a continual part of their life, and after nine years, Simamkele passed away with Queen by her side. ‘I always knew that one day the time would come. A few days before, I could sense her slipping away. I prayed, and after having many talks with myself I released her. To love is to let go. That night it was stormy and I knew an angel had left this world.’
Almost exactly a year on, Queen’s life is full. ‘It has been a difficult journey to get used to her not being there, but I now work as a coach, passing on my experience and strength to other youth in Cape Town. ‘My job is the best job in the world because I am living my purpose. I believe my calling is to serve others.’
What stands out above all else is Queen’s thirst for life, her laugh and her beaming smile, no matter what challenge she is faced with. She lives by a key piece of advice that she often shares with the youth she works with: ‘Don’t be a victim of your circumstances. Try to be a victor and take it one step at a time.’
Today Queen celebrates hers and Simamkele’s story, a mother and daughter who taught each other everything there is to learn about unconditional love, perseverance and strength.
Queen is a Leaders’ Quest Coach at Salesian Life Choices.