Childless woman dies aged 109

By Nina Steele 

Childless elderly womanI wrote about this lady just over two years ago. My mother informed me of her passing some days ago. She has lived in the same neighbourhood as my mother for decades. Although we are not related, we’ve always referred to her as ‘aunty’ as is customary in Africa, when addressing older women. In the end, my mother said, she was ready and waiting to die. She was grateful for having lived this long, but was ready to leave these shores, as her body no longer allowed her the independence of her younger years.

She was one of those tough women that everyone in the neighbourhood knew not to mess with. That character trait she shares with my mother, which inevitably led to their friendship. Because of the respect she commanded, her childlessness was hardly ever mentioned, even in a culture known for putting motherhood above everything else.

That she didn’t have children didn’t make any difference to her life in old age. As is often the case in Africa for people with some money, she had a relative around to help. In her particular case, it was her niece. So long as you have the means in Africa, there will always be people willing to come and live with you. They are often from the village and moving to the city is a once in a lifetime opportunity none of them can afford to miss.

That she lived this long has become the stuff of legend. Now adults in the neighbourhood, particularly the older ones, are keen to know what her secret was. That she had the money to live well, was of course a factor. Not much was known about her family history on her father side. She was mixed race. Her father was French, from the time when the Ivory Coast was still a French colony.

When I heard of her passing, all the memories from my childhood came flooding in. She was a great part of it. Her husband had died years before I was born, and she chose not to remarry. She was one of those people who always exuded confidence. Losing her husband so early on in her life didn’t seem to have impacted too negatively on her. If it did, she didn’t show it. All those who knew her, will always remember her for her positive impact on the community, both as a former nurse, and as a good neighbour.

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