Funerals are meant to be a time of remembrance, of love and togetherness. But all I can feel around me is hate.
The pastor’s voice seemed far away as I looked around the cemetery at people mourning for my sister. Two distinct groups. People from her past, pretending that they still know my sister. People from her present, being told to act like they don’t know her.
Growing up we were close. All the other boys at school fought with their sisters, but not me. We both liked going on adventures, we liked reading books, we looked after the animals together, shared all our chores and told each other everything. I never saw her as my little sister, she was my best friend.
As we got older, our interests changed, but not our relationship. We helped each other study, we’d look after our elderly parents together, and we’d definitely have to approve of any boyfriends or girlfriends in our lives. She was smart and kind, so men were interested in her - but she never really took them seriously. At the time, it was lucky for me, because I never had to worry about her falling for some good-for-nothing.
Years passed and my sister stayed single. I met a lovely girl and was planning to propose. Of course, the first person I told was my sister. I jokingly said to her that she needed to find a date for the wedding, otherwise people would start talking behind her back, saying that something was wrong with her. She looked me in the eye and without pause said, “I have a date, her name is Sisanda.”
I laughed out loud, leaning back with my hands behind my head, “you can’t bring a work friend to my wedding. I’m not here giving out free dinners! I’ll make some calls and set up a few dates for you. Maybe soon I’ll have a new brother.”
She didn’t laugh. She didn’t shake her head and brush off my comment like she normally does, telling me to mind my own business. She just sighed.
“Sisanda isn’t my friend, she’s my girlfriend.”
That’s how my sister told me that she was a lesbian. She’d changed. Everything had changed.
It wasn’t just the fact that my sister was dating a woman, it’s also that she lied to us all those years. At first, the community tried to change her. Tried to heal her. But when she refused, they pushed her away. Then I pushed her away. For years she tried to be a part of our lives, but eventually she gave up and left.
What I didn’t realise was that she was still the same wonderful, kind, amazing woman that she’d always been. In the 13 years that I’ve mourned for my sister, she lived a happy life. She finished her studies, she got a good job, bought a home, and made a life with Sisanda. And now I can never make it right – I wasted 13 years, and a speeding truck took our future away from us.
The pastor mentioned my name, bringing me back to reality.
It was my turn to speak. I looked around the crowd. Our family stood at the front, crying for a woman who had died 13 years ago; while those who love her today – her community, her friends, her wife, were forced to stand at the back of the cemetary.
I reached into my pocket for the prayer I was going to recite, but it wasn’t enough.
“Would everyone in the back please come and join me here upfront.” My family looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. My mother gasped and my father’s back stiffened.
“My sister taught the love of friendship we were young, and now, seeing Sisanda and the rest of you here today, has shown me what true love is too.”