In this video, Mpoki Grace Gumede shares her touching story of connecting to what makes her come alive and always remaining open to love, even in the face of disappointments and painful loss. She reminds us that life is a gift, urging us to “Live in the moment. Live for today. You are getting a present right now, open it up and just live it.”

Learn more about Green Renaissance through our Grateful Changemaker feature.*

Questions for Reflection

How has your own experience of loss transformed you?

What makes you come alive?

We invite you to share your reflections below the video transcript that follows.

Video Transcript

You know, people think I’m crazy. Who wakes up every day at five o’clock and just do the same thing from Monday to Sunday, who does that?

I comfort myself and say, ‘I’m unique.’ Not crazy though…extraordinary! There we go, that is the word. If I don’t exercise, I think, yeah, one of the things husband will physically do is serve me with divorce papers, because generally they have told me that, you know, if I don’t do my exercise, then (laughs), it is not nice.

When I’m sad, I have to run. When I’m frustrated about something, I just have to exercise. That gives me that comfort. I take back my peace and I become generally happy.

Things that get me excited, it’s the ability to do something that I know is challenging. When people say ‘no, you won’t be able,’ I actually want to do it. It makes me feel I’m a human being. I’m alive. It gets my adrenaline pumping. And I think I like that feeling, feeling alive. You feel like you have conquered something within yourself. Something inside me that says, ‘Grace, you can do it.’

My mom always says that I don’t give up. People have disappointed me in my life so many times, but I will never give up on love. I will do it over and over again because I feel like maybe at a certain time I did it, the person was not ready. I will never give up on, you know, being affectionate, empathetic to other human beings, because I think that is our sense of being human. It comes from there to be able to have emotion and also to show emotions to other human beings.

So my grandmother passed away in 2016. And her name was Grace, I’m named after her. She passed on before she could even see my kids. She got sick like Monday and then Friday, she passes away. You know, I feel… she knew I had a child but she never saw my kids. So it’s almost like in African culture, some sort of blessing. I… maybe I wanted her to touch them. I don’t know.

Loss is one of the things that I don’t deal best with. It’s something that is painful and it shatters my heart. I don’t wish it even upon my worst enemy.

I wish I could have done a lot of things for her to, to, kinda show appreciation. Little things. You know, we used to buy her things, but I think those things… it’s material things. That is why I wanted to spend time with her.

My journey of climbing mountains only happened after her passing. And I think it was me looking for a sign for her to say, ‘It’s okay.’ Maybe that is why I go to the mountain so much. You climb a mountain, you know, there is that spiritual connection that you get when you’re on top of the mountain. Whatever that you are going through in that moment seems to fade away. Those things just disappear. And it’s just you on top of the mountain and you look out and then you just see the horizon.

I think right now she’s looking at me and she’s saying that, you know what, ‘well done.’ And, and she is happy of the woman I have become. And I’m thankful for everything that she has taught me.

So my wish for my kids… I want them to know that they must not feel like they have to be accountable to me. I don’t want them to live their life thinking that they have to please me.

They must not live their life saying that, ‘I want to make mom happy.’ I want them to live like I want to make me happy, because your parents will be happy as long as you are happy. I don’t want to impose my dreams onto them. I don’t want to impose what I feel I failed at at life onto them. I want them to be themselves. Whatever that they have, they feel like is their talent, is what they’re born with, is their gift. I want them to share it with the world.

I’m grateful for being alive. Being able to be with my family, being able to go out and climb mountains. I’m grateful for that. Live in the moment. Live for today. You are getting a present right now, open it up and just live it. That is what I believe.

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey visit Green Renaissance.

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About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Green Renaissance, works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.

Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.

By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think.