In 2011 one of my friends died after a long chronic illness, and an assault which exacerbated it all. She had sarcoidosis and some other illness which specialists could not figure out, and later also tuberculosis (picked up from a little street kid who slept on her bed when she took in 12 street children after the shelter where she helped to care for them was shut down). Her organs gave in gradually. The autopsy showed that there was extensive necrosis for some time before she actually died, leading the coroner to question the actual date of her death. She died in great pain. A month before that, knowing full well that she was dying, we were still making jokes about death.

Mary been rejected by her parents when she was born, but they raised her older sister and younger brother. Mary grew up in the home of a woman she thought was a foster auntie but who turned out to be her grandmother. To make a long story short, her parents didn’t like her, but she died in their home anyway. She was rejected also by the church where we’d been an active members. I’d left some time before her, but she stayed on—or tried to. The church people said that she wasn’t making enough of a sacrifice, that she should try harder to come to church. But she couldn’t, she was too sick, she was in too much pain, and the church people wouldn’t visit her at home. Once, some people came who were in the process of leaving the church too, and she had cousins who supported her very kindly in the weeks before she died, with a bit of help from Hospice.

There were many days that she had to stand in queues when she could barely stand, waiting for her turn at the SASSA office. She also got her disability grant at last not long before she died.

Mary was very, very fat due to her illness. Even when she ate very little, her body stored the food instead of converting much of it to energy. And you know how people talk about fat people. Anyway, as you can imagine, her coffin was bigger than normal, and the men—relatives—who had to lower it into the grave underestimated the task and started slipping into the grave while screaming in whispers. Some of us started giggling, because everything in that moment was supposed to be dead quiet, and the sky was appropriately sombre, and there was a drizzle. It was the highlight of the day for me, it was the moment that gave me closure. My friend was not a malicious person at all, even toward the people to whom she might justifiably have felt wrath. She was devout, prayerful and wished for the best for everyone. I felt a sense of relief and satisfaction at the teasing revenge that her enormous heavy body was having in that moment on the people who never loved her with the depth she deserved, who wouldn’t fully help her in her life, and who treated her badly for taking up space in the world.