Sunday, June 25, 2006

Crossing the finish line


Dear friends,


Last week I related to you about how our lives are like an ultra-Marathon. It is with that thought in mind, that I share with you that yesterday my very dear Aunty Dorothy crossed the finish line. Dorothy is my mother's elder sister. She is now with her Lord, for whom she had a great devotion, the love of Jesus that she learnt at her mother's knee, blossomed into true Christianity and she remained his faithful servant all her life. She was 91 years old.


On Monday last week, Mum, Aunty Helen, Dad and I went down to the nursing home to visit her. Despite getting over a bout of pneumonia, she was still very chipper and cheerful. Mum and Helen talked about various members of the family, some of whom she remembered, others not, but nevertheless she took a great interest. She had such a lovely sense of humour that lightened the mood of the room immediately. As it happened that day, I had been doing a teaching practice at a primary school and Aunty Helen picked me up on her way through to meet my parents. I had joked with her, saying that I bet she hadn't expected to pick up her nephew from school again. She said to Aunty Dorothy that she had picked me up from school a bit earlier, to which Aunty Dorothy very quickly, but with a laugh in her voice said, "Now you are exaggerating!" - That little exchange will remain with me as a treasured memory. Even though her memory was failing her, she definitely had her wits about her.


Growing up in Basutoland (Lesotho), Aunty Do (pronounced Doe) was given a Sotho name which was Mamahatho. Last year, she had a fall which resulted in her breaking her hip. The following is a poem written at that time by my mother who pictured her lying in hospital, looking over her life.


The Song of Mamahatho

Memories, shared with Jesus

A tribute from a loving sister



As I near the end of my journey and the dear gates of Home I can see

I reflect on the way that You took me, and the joy there is going to be.

I remember a mother so pretty, who loved me and cared for me so;

But I was so small when you called her, and I didn’t want her to go.


The year I was born, the world went to war and Dad had to go far away -

Back in Basutoland, Mother and I really missed him, so we found a way

To be nearer to him, at Mother’s old home, so we sailed away on a ship -

But we both fell ill and kept to our cabin, so it was a terrible trip.


When I got better, my mother was gone, and she didn’t come when I cried,

But You were so faithful, Aunt Brenda was there, to love me and stay by my side.

Then Daddy came home - The Great War was over and we all got so fond of each other

For we all loved my mother and missed her so much, that it helped us to love one another.


So Dad married my aunt and we all went back home to Basutoland, where I was born,

So You proved your love, and I had a new Mum, a new name, a new family, new Dawn.

But You loved me too, and You gave me a big happy family to love:

Three brothers, two sisters to love me, were the first gifts you sent from Above.


Happy hours in Basutoland’s mountains, happy holidays down by the sea,

We grew up mid love, fun and laughter, my sisters, my brothers and me

Of course there were times when my pathway led me down to a valley of tears

But your loving hand always guided me through all the worries and fears.


,In all the worst times You were faithful, bringing comfort, encouragement, hope,

And You showed me the way up the mountain, with advice, and a shove up the slope!

You took me to pinnacles of pleasure. You brought Terry into my life,

And You gave us our four lovely children and fulfilled me as a mother and wife.


One dark day it happened. My Terry was gone, so sudden, so brutal, I thought I would die…

But you held me close, and whispered your love, and I gave you my grief and the sorrow passed by.

It seemed no time at all before grandchildren came, and my family burst into bloom.

There were babies and toddlers all over the place and seldom a moment of gloom.


Time appeared to be running as years hurried by and babies all turned into teens,

And all of the time I was conscious of You as You lead me through wonderful scenes.

Then came the weddings, one after another and more lovely children to see!

With all these Great-grandchildren I am so blessed! Loving Lord, You are so good to me!


And so I thank You, as well as I can, for Your faithfulness, guidance and care;

For Your bountiful gifts that have lit up the road that we’ve traveled, and soon we’ll be There!

I give Thanks for my family, every last one, my grandparents, uncles and aunts;

My cousins far spread now, their husbands and wives and their children, all part of the Dance.


For my dear lovely Mother, whom I long to see when I get home in the morning.

Dear Dad will be with her, and my second Mum, and my Terry! The new day is dawning!

Brothers and sisters I mustn’t forget: Tom, John, Paul Helen and Ruth.

Each with a family for me to love, and I do love them so, that’s the truth!


I give thanks for my children, so precious to me, and their loved ones, (my dear children too)

Seventeen grandchildren, husbands and wives, and the babies so sweet and so new;

And when I get home, I hope they won’t cry by my grave or by some memory wall

For I’ll be so happy to be Home with You, and I’ll watch over them all.


They will see me in the wind and the rain and the sunlight that brightens the hill.

In the bright little birds at the window pane and the roses that nod at the sill.

And the wish of my heart is that they will know You, and that You will be close to each one,

So that you’ll bring them all home at the end of the day, when their journeys on Earth are all done.





Brenda Dorothy Anne Kennan was born on 9th October 1914, at Mohali’s Hoek, Basutholand. Her father, Tommy, an officer in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, went off to war in Europe. Dorothy, her mother, decided to return to England with little Dorothy to wait for her husband there. Aboard ship, on the way home, little Brenda contracted measles. Her mother decide to keep this a secret and nursed her privately in their cabin. As result, Dorothy caught measles too. When they reached England, little Brenda who was then three, recovered from the illness, but sadly her mother didn’t, and she died. Dorothy’s younger sister, Brenda, took responsibility for caring for little Brenda and little Brenda bonded with her. Tommy returned after the war and their common sadness at losing a wife and sister drew them together, and they got married. This upset many of the family, but eventually they accepted it and Tommy and Brenda lived a very long and happy life together, having five more children. To avoid confusion and to honour the child’s mother, they decided to call her by her second name, Dorothy.


Dorothy married Terry Dutton in 1940. They had four children Dorothy Margaret (Polly), Robin, Myles and Frank. In 1963, Terry suddenly passed away, leaving Dorothy with a family of teenagers. Looking at her family today, we can only say what a wonderful job she did.


I did not meet Aunty Dorothy until I was a teen, as I grew up in Zimbabwe, and she always stayed in South Africa. However I did know about her as every year, on or around my birthday, I would receive a birthday card with a postal order for a few Rand in it from Aunty Do. I did not realise until later in my life, what a sacrifice that was for her. I would see her from time to time, when we visited Howick, but sadly, did not get to know her as I would have liked. I remember her cards always contained a sweet letter written with much affection.


The poem above reflects her strong faith, and her many friends will remember her faithful service to her church and her neighbours. Mum says she is sorry that she made the poem so long, but summarising 9 event-filled decades is not an easy task.


See you next week.





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