If you are into tear-jerkers, then this one is for you! What might sound like a movie script, is an actual heart wrenching true-life story of sadness, patience, perseverance, and a happy ending. A lengthy read but worth every bit. A story of my wife, her family and…… a lost brother.
You see over 31 years ago (Mems), my mother in-law had a helper named Mum Johanna working for her. She had a little baby boy named Patrick Mokwena. Johanna stayed in a tiny room with 3 other ladies and their kids, so Mems, being the soft-hearted person she is, asked Johanna if Patrick could stay with them. All they wanted was to make Johanna’s life a little easier and give Patrick a better life to which Mum Johanna agreed, gave consent, and was really grateful.
My in-laws fell in love with him and Bilal was now the apple of their eyes.
Over time Patrick inherited the name Bilal. Now you can imagine the attention this little guy received being the only black kid living with an Indian family in the heart of Lenasia in the mid 80s. My in-laws fell in love with him and Bilal was now the apple of their eyes. When my wife was born, Bilal was only 2 years old and he was not giving up his sleeping place in my in-laws bed for her … LOL. So she ended up in a cot while he had the warmth of his parents on both sides of him. Bilal played with all the other kids, ate Indian food, went to mosque, celebrated Eid just like every other kid in the family. My in-laws had hopes and dreams of educating Bilal and him one day becoming a Doctor.
When Bilal was just 3 years old, in an ill-fated turn of events, Mum Johanna needed to take him back. Even though she wanted what was best for him, she gave in to family pressure to bring Bilal home to a village called Kopela in the North West. Unfortunately there was no legal adoption for Mems to keep Bilal. Now remember, Bilal was with my mother in-law 24/7, he never EVER left her side. To him that was his mother and he was her son. One day Johanna returned with the Police and it was time for Bilal to leave. Now picture this, Mems crying one side, Bilal holding onto her with all his might and screaming “Mum, please don’t let them take me”, and police pulling him from the other side while the entire neighborhood looked on. Even the other domestic helpers were crying watching this unfold, and before you knew it Bilal was in a police car and off he went never to be seen again…
Now picture this, Mems crying one side, Bilal holding onto her with all his might and screaming “Mum, please don’t let them take me”
This family had been shattered for years. All they had were a few pictures and a clinic card of Bilal as memories of their son and brother. As the years went by and technology advanced, my wife and her siblings continued to search via social networking in the hope of one day finding him, but every long and treacherous attempt ended up with a complete dead end!
In December 2018, over 30 years later, my wife, her siblings, and her dad were sitting and again the topic of Bilal came up. This happened often, because there was no closure. Where is he? What is he doing? Is he still alive?
Her dad told them, “Come on guys. Let’s try one more time to find Bilal. There was something different about this time . . . it was an order, and no one was to stop at anything. And then the ball was set in motion. Using every possible social media avenue, we attempted to contact every single person with the name Patrick/Goitsione Mokwena, hoping we would hit a lucky streak. And indeed, we found plenty…but none of them was Bilal.
We then realised, come hell or high water we are getting in a car and going to Kopela to look for him. We did not know what we were in for, because we had news that Mum Johanna had passed on, and Bilal would not remember us as it was such a long time ago. How would we explain all this to him? But anyway, I decided I was taking my wife and her siblings to Kopela. Ill fate struck once again and just a few days before we were set on our journey, I was involved in a robbery and got shot. I was now hospitalized and all our plans came to a complete halt.
This charming young man was blown away with our story and ever more eager to help us.
The Almighty, however, had better plans for us. It so happens that our current helpers son, Alfred, was with us for a few days as he had just finished exams and was around to take his mum home to Sunnishof in the North West for Christmas. We briefly told Alfred our story and asked if there was any way he could help us. This charming young man was blown away with our story and ever more eager to help us.
Sunnishof was only a little drive away from Kopela and Alfred agreed to undertake this journey himself and see what he could do to help us. We made thousands of flyers with all our information and Bilal’s details and gave Alfred some money for transport and to distribute these flyers in Kopela. We were counting on him as if our lives depended on it.
A few days after Alfred had left, I remember sitting with my wife watching TV when her cell phone rang. It was Alfred on the line . . . low and behold . . . he found Mum Johanna . . . she was ALIVE!!! Alfred is so intelligent that he went to Kopela, enquired who the oldest person in the village was, and went and told her our story. She immediately knew who we were looking for and showed Alfred exactly which house Mum Johanna lived in. Alfred then went to Johanna with the news that his other family is looking for him. She was shocked and delighted and we were immediately in telephone contact with her. However, Bilal was not with her…
Believe me there are no words to describe this day or what mother and son felt.
Astonishingly enough, just a stone’s throw away from Lenasia, Bilal resides in Carltonville. We immediately contacted him. A big built masculine gentle giant known fondly as “The Elephant”, is now an Advanced Life Support Paramedic. The first few days after we found Bilal all we did was exchange emotional phone calls. I mean how do you catch up on 30 years??? And then came the day we had to surprise my mother in-law and bring home her long lost son. Believe me there are no words to describe this day or what mother and son felt.
There is so much more detail that I wish I could add but there just would not be enough space or time.
Everything after that day has only been blessings and family gatherings. We try to do just about everything we can together now and not a long time goes by where we don’t see each other or speak to each other.
The rest is history…
And that is why #ImStaying.
Team Lead & Final Editing for #ImStaying
A lover of words, mentoring, networking, and helping my fellow man to ‘learn to fish’. Driven by a hunger to never stop learning, a passion for adventure and travel, sundowners and laughter with good friends. At the end of the day what brings great delight to my life are my young adult sons.
Quote: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela