Dancing for My Daughter
The month of February is important to me. It is a time for me to reflect, and for me, it symbolizes the importance of living life to the fullest, even after the thing that gave you life has passed on.
I celebrate my birthday on February 2, and 17 years ago, my daughter Nomthunzi passed away on February 27. This year, I spent part of my special February in California, where I was surrounded by love and hope. It felt good. It felt right.
My visit to Los Angeles was an eye-opener. Traveling from my home in South Africa took more than 24 hours. I came to California to attend the Dance Marathon at UCLA, an annual event where more than 1,000 students come together to raise much-needed awareness and support for pediatric AIDS initiatives.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But when I arrived at the university, I was overwhelmed by the students’ spirit of giving. Every year, these dedicated students organize a Dance Marathon for those less fortunate when they could spend their time and energy on other things.
As I looked at the young people, I realized for the first time that Nomthunzi would have been 17 years old this year. She could have been any of the first-year students. It broke my heart.
I watched the students – determined to dance for more than 26 hours without sleeping or sitting – and I shed a tear.
The importance of this trip was to encourage the students to not give up, to keep fundraising, and to join the Foundation in the fight to save mothers, children, and babies.
I love music, and I was impressed with the students’ song choices as I tried to dance. But I felt intimidated because while I thought that it was cool to show my moves, something kept whispering in my ears, saying, “You are old. You are now 40 years old.”
When it came time for me to speak, I felt the immense love from the crowd. They listened to me, some nodding and some crying, and I finally relaxed. At the end of my speech, I told the students about Nomthunzi; that she would be their age, and if she was alive she would have been right there with them. I then asked the DJ to play a special song – “Dancing Queen” by ABBA – and together, we all danced, with joy and in tribute to all the children that have passed, and in celebration of the children that we going to be born HIV-negative because of the support of these generous students.
What an experience of unselfishness, heroism, and dedication by our youth. I salute them and encourage them to continue being our advocates and heroes!
Florence Ngobeni-Allen is a Foundation Ambassador. She lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.