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The story of this childless woman is another reminder that a life well lived has nothing to do with procreation

By Nina Steele 

Childless elderly womanIn my weekly phone call to my mother, we often reminisce about the past. I left the Ivory Coast almost 20 years ago, and many of the people of my mother’s generation whom I knew growing up, have now passed away. Of the ones still alive is a woman who happens to be from an older generation. She is now well over a 100 years old and worked as a nurse until her retirement. Even though we are not related, as his the custom in Africa, I have always referred to her as aunty. As expected for someone her age, she needs round the clock care, and thankfully, her niece who has lived with her for many years, is providing that care. As a nurse, she was a pillar of the community. Not only that, to me as a child, she always stood out because she is mixed race. A permanent reminder of the country’s past as a former French colony.

She had been a widow well before I was born and chose never to remarry. She never had any children either. Funny how, even though childlessness is a major issue in Africa, no one ever made a big deal of the fact that she had no children. I suppose, the fact that she was middle class helped. But above all, I believe that her no nonsense approach to life, always gave the impression of a woman in control.

My mother always speaks of her with great admiration. In spite of the fact that she lost her husband very early on in her life, she never allowed it to derail the course of her life. For, as far back as I can remember, she was always positive about life. Naturally, as a child growing up, I didn’t understand the significance of this. Now as an adult, I can see how much of a role model she was and still is.

As is customary for many middle class people in cities, she made sure that she was never alone. Of course being middle class in Africa is totally different to being middle class in the West. Even so, the fact that she planned for her future well in advance is now paying off. One thing I still remember is how well she treated the people who lived with her, included her niece. Now in her hours of need, that kindness is being repaid.

Her story shows once again that our life is what we make of it. She had the choice to either make herself into a victim or accept her path, and choosing the latter option has allowed her to live a fulfilled and exemplary life.

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