Farewell my rock, my love

Radio personality Xolani Gwala, a year after finding out he had advanced colon cancer. / Moeletsi Mabe
Radio personality Xolani Gwala, a year after finding out he had advanced colon cancer. / Moeletsi Mabe

Let me start by thanking all our friends, family and the greater South African public for the outpouring of love over the last few days.

It has been extraordinary and each story you have shared will help keep Xolani alive in our hearts and memories.

I met this charming giant of a man with a disarming baritone five years ago when we were introduced by one of my best friends, the late Duma Mndebele. Xolani became my best friend.

I had known him as a smooth, yet stern TV and radio host. Up close, he was smooth, gentle and loving. He showed me the kind of love that dreams are made of.

I rested in his arms knowing that for the first time I had found my soulmate. He was inspiring, both in public and even more so in private.

He brought moral clarity to everything he did and his purpose was pure - to help those among us who needed it the most. We planned fun outings, mostly to KZN and he introduced me to much cooler music than I thought I knew.

His favourite song on those long, meandering drives in the mountains and hills of Impendle to his homestead was Say Now by Zonke.

We had two truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest times and truest partnership. Xolani gave me the exclusive experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved - and I will carry that with me, always.

Most importantly, he gave me the most amazing children in the world.

Xolani was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he assured me that it would be OK.

When I wasn't sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way - and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Xolani is still here with us in spirit.

Xolani and I did not get nearly enough time together. In our second year of love and bliss, cancer disrupted and rocked our world to its core.

Like an unwelcome guest, an unexpected thief in the night and a cold-hearted robber, it rattled our love nest.

It was on September 4 2017, just four months after he returned home with a medal from the London Marathon, when doctors confirmed that my XG had stage 4 colon cancer.

His cancer journey usurped all our dreams and hopes. Dreams to walk down the aisle with XG, dreams to build and raise a beautiful family, dreams to conquer together.

The cancer diagnosis was sudden and unexpected, but he reassured me that he was gearing up for a fight. "It's going to be a very difficult fight, and a long fight, but I'm ready for a fight," he told me.

Xolani endured so much in battling the illness that eventually claimed his life. His cancer was aggressive, evil and brutal, and Xolani waged the biggest fight of his life underpinned with bravery, courage and the most powerful might and will to conquer and live.

This battle fuelled his stubbornness, determination and strengthened his resolve, stiffened his backbone and awakened the warrior in him.

He demonstrated deep resilience as he remained a kind and loving human being right until the very end. He taught us all what quiet grace is and what heroism really looks like.

As heartbroken as I am today, I am equally grateful. Even in the last weeks of completely unexpected hell - the darkest and saddest moments of my life - I know how lucky I have been.

If someone had told me that Xolani would be taken from us all in just less than five years, I would still have fallen in love with him. I am grateful for every moment we had. Things will never be the same but the world is better for the years my beloved Xolani lived.

The one and only interview that I know was his wish was Xolani Gwala interviewing Peggy-Sue Khumalo, the new CEO of Standard Bank Wealth SA.

Knowing the consummate professional he was, there would have been no mercy.

To my beloved Xolani, I wish you peace and comfort after such a courageous battle with cancer. Your legacy as a talk radio and current affairs legend is forever cemented in the history of our country, continent and the world.

To honour and preserve your legacy we will launch the Xolani Gwala Foundation with a focus on cancer awareness, access to testing for early detection and funding for treatment. We will also pursue funding for young aspiring broadcasters and journalists.

Hamba kahle. Lala ngoxolo Daddy, sthandwa sam, Gwala, Mphephethwa. Rest in eternal love and peace.

Our children are our messengers to the future and that message is hope.

With undying love. Peggy-Sue and your angel girls.

Khumalo was paying tribute to her husband at a memorial service at Our Lady of Lourdes Rivonia Catholic Church on Wednesday.

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