Tribute to Ma Dora

We are  here to day to celebrate Her Amazing  life and Her Passing




As you celebrate this special birthday

Let the golden memories be the crown upon your head;

Wear with pride and honour, the cloak of life

Embroidered with your story,

Trials and tribulations,

Joys and sorrows, love, laughter and tears,

All interwoven in a blaze of colour;

On your feet the softest slippers

Adorned with the precious jewels of experience;

Smile at treasured memories,

Laugh at all those wonderful days,

Celebrate your unique life and bright spirit,

Let your eyes fall upon the loved one’s round you,

And see the joy in their faces,

As they share this special occasion with you.

©Helena Abrahams


I’ve never met the Queen of England or any other royalty, but I’ve been truly honoured to have met the Queen of Cape Town, my mother in law. She’s truly special, loving, sweet natured and incredibly kind. Her strong faith in God has brought her on a long journey through two world wars and the cruel regime of apartheid.

She is totally compos mentis, probably more so than the rest of us put together. If you want to know someone’s birthday or anniversary, ask Ma. She is the google of mothers, of grandmothers, of great-grandmothers. Sadly, her sight and hearing have failed her, but our weekly phone calls to her elicit a barrage of questions as she asks about all our family by name and tells us to send her love. She is an incomparable lady.

Born in Cape Town, South Africa on February 9, 1915, five months before World War 1 began. Her husband Vernon was conscripted during the 2nd World War 1939-1945. Under British rule the Cape only became a republic in 1961.


treasured memories

I first met my mother in law, Ma, in 1989, by which time Richard and I had been married for nine years and had three lovely children. She welcomed me into the family so lovingly, a love that has grown throughout the years. During our stay in Cape Town, I was blessed to spend more time with her.

Once a week we would drive to Heideveld and pick up Aunt Lala, one of Ma’s childhood friends. We then drove out to Mitchells Plain on the Cape Flats where Ma lived with her sister Aunt Baby and my sister in law Eileen. Mitchells Plain is approximately 32 km from the city, a 1970s development created to provide housing for people forcibly removed from their homes under the Group Areas Act.

Sitting around the table listening to these three grand ladies sharing memories of their time in District Six was so joyous, interspersed with lots of laughter. They brought District Six alive for me, adding to the stories my husband had also told me.


105If a picture could be painted to depict all that you are,

It would show a lovely lady in all her true beauty

of body, mind and soul,

With love and laughter in her eyes,

A gentle and compassionate heart,

A wonderful smile and a wise face,

Sharing with the world

A depth of understanding and a strong spirit;

A serene soul, listening and reaching out with a calm presence

that surrounds all;

This picture is painted

with loving words from the heart,

It’s a reflection of the original,

The masterpiece you are!

©Helena Abrahams



Ma was born and bred in District Six which was a cosmopolitan inner-city community, an area that flourished after the freeing of slaves in the 1830’s. It has a rich history, a sad history. Comprising of artisans, former slaves, traders and immigrants including Malays brought by the Dutch East India Company, people of different faiths and creeds and ethnic backgrounds lived peacefully side by side.

It was a colourful pulsating community, like a well-loved beautifully woven tapestry, faded and worn in places. A tapestry that told the story of past and present. A tapestry that would be cruelly decimated by the forced removals of its residents. The Group Areas Act declared it a whites only area in February 1966 and the forced removals began in 1968. Can you imagine what it’s like to be evicted from your home because you’re not the right skin colour?


A mother is that special person in your life

Who gives all of her love, her heart, herself, unerringly;

Her time is spent in caring for her children,

Working to create a home for them,

To be everything to them,

Parent, friend, carer, counsellor;

At times it can be difficult and that is when

we need each other as a family,

Support each other,

Understand each other,

Weep and laugh together,

Reach out and ease the load

in whatever small way we can;

There are times when a mother’s pockets are empty,

But her heart is always full with love for you,

Her thoughts are with you constantly;

When she corrects you, or appears to be in your way,

It is because she cares

And has travelled the path of life;

She does not want to live your life for you,

She just wants to ease your journey;

A mother can teach you all that she knows with wisdom,

Treasure her words and hold her in your heart

as she holds you.

©Helena Abrahams



Ma is not only beautiful in form and spirit; her generosity is beyond compare. Living in what would be considered a deprived area, it’s quite common for people to knock at the door begging for food. So many times, I witnessed how she and Aunt Baby handed out food or other necessities.

Bearing in mind that their pension was approximately the equivalent of 65 euros a month (now approximately 135 euro), without any of the European social benefits per se, this was a great kindness on their part. One particular day an emaciated man of indeterminate age knocked at the door asking for food. Ma made him a cheese sandwich and handed it to him on a plate, apologising that there was no meat left.

To treat someone with kindness is a gift. To treat someone with such respect and honour is humanity in its purest form. It brought tears to my eyes. One could not leave Ma’s house without her providing a gift of food, even if it was a bag of sugar or teabags.

Trying to persuade her that it was unnecessary was no good. Aunt Baby, her sister, told me that they always bought extra tins or packaged food to give to those in need. Their friend Aunt Lala, a lady I also loved dearly, apologised one day as she had no cake or food to give me. She produced a small chiffon scarf and gave it to our young daughter who to this day treasures it. No Gucci scarf can match its beauty.




When you are little a grandmother is an extension

of your family,

The extra love and attention that completes one’s world;

When you grow older – at times she seems old fashioned

in her ways and in her thinking,

And her advice seems endless;

With maturity you see her through new eyes,

Not just a grandmother,

But a woman in her own right,

Whose qualities and strengths are admirable;

You look at her in awe,

Amazed at her survival of moments in history,

Her ability to love and hold so many,

Her ability to add up so quickly in her head,

Her ability to live the life she has and create a wonderful family;

Her memories are your past and the stepping-stones

that created your future;

Treasure her.

©Helena Abrahams

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  1. Wow!!! This is absolutely beautiful!!! She was truly an awesome woman.

  2. One of the best send off tributes I have ever read. The comments are like words written on a gold leaf. I could not stop reading and just wanted more.I really enjoyed the blog
    Helena Abrahams

    • Thank you Precious for the beautiful description. Richard told me very wonderful stories and the special bond you had with his parents.

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