The reference number, 691/03/2000, is the label given to the tragedy that changed my life on March 20, 2000. It’s a number I’ll never be able to erase. It is the day I was shot and paralysed.
About 18 years ago, I never imagined that my life would have turned out the way it did. I was only three years old at that time and hadn’t even had a proper taste of life yet. At 21, it still fascinates me to know that I can recall so many events that occurred in my life at the age of three.
I remember a man standing before me with something odd in his hands. My mom waking up, pulling me with great force. Her terrified eyes staring into mine. I remember battling to keep my eyes open as my body felt numb. I recall blacking out a couple of times. Each time I woke up, I would find myself in a different place.
I was in the ambulance, unable to move anything except my eyes. My two older brothers stared down at me, terrified. I found myself in a hospital, then in another ambulance going to another hospital. It was beyond confusing. From the moment I saw that man, I knew deep down that something very bad had happened. I knew that mom and dad were gone.
I was hurting, sad, among strangers. I soon learned what happened. My father was the man I saw. He had shot me and killed himself and my mother. I remember crying, not because of what had happened, but because I just wanted to go home. I wanted to play outside and fall asleep in the arms of my mother.
Today, I have grown to become a strong and wise young woman, but those events have had a great impact on my life. Life after my tragedy had been and still is my greatest challenge. My brothers and I had been blessed and we will be forever grateful for my mother’s parents who adopted us as their own.
However, the truth is that nothing and no one can ever replace my biological parents or the wonderful life my family once had. It’s hard having to accept that a part of your body will no longer function. Yet, my life is not what happened to me. It’s about today, what I’ve learned in the process and how I survived.
It’s about what I`m going to do about it. My past and my journey have moulded me into a more fragile, humble and giving person. I believe that every person is unique in their own way. There is a reason for everything and we should not judge. Instead we need to help each other by listening.
I probably have every right to live rebelliously, grieve and be mad. I’m a wheelchair user and it’s not easy knowing I’ve become labelled in so many ways – adopted child, patient, disabled and case number 691/03/2000. Yet, it’s okay. I get to show others how I have used my brokenness to create beauty instead.
Today, I can actually say that I feel blessed. It is the small things in life that truly make me happy. It is my goal to motivate people to live right. Live by reminding ourselves that we need one another. We need to live knowing that even though there may be dark days, the sun will rise again for all of us.
To live by believing that, just maybe, we could be the sunrise in someone else’s life. I plan on doing everything I can to the best of my ability to make a difference in the lives of others who need support.
To help change a life only two things are needed: a heart to give and a mind to try and understand the need of others.
Maché Smith is a 21-year old resident of Kraaifontein, Cape Town. She is a paraplegic as a result of a shooting tragedy that occurred in 2000. She matriculated n 2014 from Jan Kriel School where she was head girl. She is an ambassador for the Woman’s Achievement Network for Disability (WAND) and has been a motivational speaker for 10 years. Her goal is to break barriers within the disability sector, especially in media and fashion, and to be an example to other people facing difficulties in life.