Mtuseni is traveling to the rural province of Kwazulu Natal this weekend to hold a memorial ritual for his brother Moses, who died last September.
I never got a chance to meet Moses. On my trip to Johannesburg this winter, the first thing Nester showed me was a photo shrine she had set up for her eldest son. It felt like, after meeting the little ones Bongeka and Musa, she wanted this new figure in her family’s life to know an important member they had recently lost. He was a strong, handsome kid standing tall and proud before the camera. We laughed at her album with pictures of Moses and Mtuseni as adorable little kids growing up. Two brothers only a few years apart in age. I never had a brother, but I know it can be a special and complex bond.
Mtuseni had frustrations with his older brother, who was unemployed and “a drunk” in Mtuseni’s words. He was angry that his mother made him miss church one Sunday last fall to help Moses build an addition to their shack for him to sleep in. A week later, drunk and with some friends, Moses was hit by a car while trying to cross the highway. Mtuseni pointed out the spot to me on the way to his settlement.
No job, limited education, alcoholic, killed by a car — all quite common in South Africa. He was only 22, what should be the most vibrant time of a person’s life, full of promise and possibility. But like millions of his peers, Moses lived in a world of stark poverty with scant options to succeed.
My aim in supporting Mtuseni through college is to open up a range of new opportunities for him, and to break the family’s cycle of poverty. I am only one person helping one person. For now, I do what I can. I know I will want to do more, and this is a potent internal voice as I weigh career transitions.
So while the Mdletshe family holds their traditional Zulu ritual this weekend to mark the passing of the eldest child, I will set aside some time myself to reflect on the huge place this family has in my heart. And to remember Moses.