I have received multiple invitations to the 80th birthday celebrations of Mr. and Mrs. Mabuse, who were born within a week of one another. Dean Mongezi Guma, who visited the Diocese of North Carolina with a youth group from Botswana awhile back, and I drive over.
A large tent has been raised in the back yard, and a hundred or so people, many of them Anglicans, are seated around tables underneath. A large number of helium-filled balloons dangle, trapped, within the tent.
Dean Guma begins a talk about their lives well lived. (Mrs. Mabuse has just earned a master’s degree, so there are still new things for them to celebrate.)
As the Dean proceeds, a breeze comes wafting through the tent, and the blue and pink balloons see a means to escape. Folk seem determined to give the Dean their attention, but our eyes nevertheless wander as the balloons move, as a group, toward the edge of the tent. This phenomenon energizes the kids, who rush to the edge, waiting for balloon strings to come close enough for them to grab before the balloons find their freedom and drift upward into the blue sky.
Dean Guma carries on.
During a lull in the speech-giving, I find myself in their living room. There are photos of the Mabuses as a young couple, just married, in Johannesburg in 1952. They look so hopeful, as newly-weds are inclined to do. I wonder what they were thinking then, as the apartheid regime, which came to power four years before, was tightening its grip over black South Africans.
How do we sustain hope, as the Mabuses seem to have done for these many years since?
Maybe by remembering.
Mr. Mabuse answers a teasing question. ‘I first kissed her,’ he says definitively, ‘on April 22nd, 1952. Around 8:00 p.m. We were near the Coronation Hospital,’ where she was training as a nurse.