Fitting farewell for woman whose life was a triumph

I attended a funeral over the long weekend and for some reason I think that the struggle against people's misconceptions, myths and the perpetuation of unfair discrimination against those of us who live with HIV is far from over.

Needless to say this friend had died, after a long illness, of HIV-Aids related complications.

For the past eight years I have been her guiding light, counsel and mentor.

In return her own torture, suffering and untold pain became a peculiar source of strength and inspiration for me.

She was brave, witty and endured a constant amount of unprovoked abuse, exploitation and discrimination at the brutal hands of her own family.

Even under extreme circumstances, when she had been booted out of her family home, she was still able to soldier on, often with her last ounce of courage.

At the time of her permanent departure from this world, as we know it, she was running her own successful business, she was an exceptional mother to her children and she became a forgiving and good-hearted woman.

The habitual brutality of members of her family followed her deep into her grave, so to speak.

First and foremost, she wanted members of her support group to speak openly about the source of her death.

She desperately wanted her funeral to serve as an eye-opener - particularly for her children.

It was not to be.

Her wish was denied by members of her family for reasons that are eternally engraved with selfishness, greed and ignorance.

Her dignified funeral inadvertently became an unauthorised sideshow of HIV-Aids activism.

Her colleagues from the support group became unruly as they exchanged insults with her family.

I obviously do not condone such misbehaviour, but I was also silently spurring them on because almost the whole community knew that she lived openly with HIV - and she cared and provided for those who were less privileged than she.

But God works in miraculous ways, and for the doubting Thomases, He revealed His power through the honourable pastor who was appointed to handle the funeral procession.

The good pastor was absolutely reckless with the truth.

He shocked everyone by disclosing in his opening remarks that he is living with HIV himself.

He then went on to give testimony about how my late friend had offered him guidance, love and treatment and also how she had generously imparted her knowledge to him.

For every gospel truth the pastor uttered, there was a resounding ovation, almost in defiance of and out of revenge for what my friend's family put her through.

The whole congregation majestically rose, they infectiously sang and clapped, and they turned the service into a truthful and fitting farewell to a queen like her.

I am proud of the community of Jabulani in Soweto. Now I know that her death was not in vain.

More importantly, I sincerely hope all the people who were present and everyone who is challenged by the same reality might learn a thing or two about acceptance, the truth and, most of all, about the value of true humanity.