TYNE VALLEY – How does one write an obituary for a person like Dr. Joyce Madigane?
The effort seems almost pointless.
Only so many stories can be told.
Only so many accolades can be listed.
Only so much love can be conveyed in words.
A page can only hold so much of a life, one reporter once wrote “reads like an award-winning movie script, full of heartbreak and triumph.”
But every movie, no matter how good, comes to end.
Dr. Madigane passed away Thursday night, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlotttetown, after a short battle with cancer. She was 72.
She is predeceased by her husband Seaton Sidney Matimba-Majola and by her daughter Nontuthuzelo Yvonne Matimba-Majola.
Her passing has left a hole in the hearts of those who loved her.
People like Darlene Bernard.
The former Lennox Island First Nation band chief has considered Madigane to be a surrogate mother for nearly all of her adult life.
“I couldn’t love that woman more than if she had given birth to me,” said Bernard on Friday.
Madigane practised medicine in the Tyne Valley area for nearly 40 years. Whole generations of Islanders have grown up around her.
“A lot of the people in the community will say they felt like she was their mother, their grandmother – a lot of the kids called her Nana,” said Bernard.
“When you try to find a word to describe that woman the one that comes to my mind is ‘mother.’ And everything that that stands for.”
Condolences poured in Friday from across the political spectrum and everyday Islanders took to social media to tell each other how much she meant to them.
Even before her passing, Madigane greatly appreciated the outpouring of support from her community, said Bernard, and would surely be touched by all the kind words now being heaped upon her.
She said Madigane’s son, Jongile Majola, is now in the process of making arrangements, and informing her far-flung family about her passing.
There are a lot of people to inform - her life has spanned three continents.
She was born in 1941 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
It was a troubled time in that part of the world. Racial segregation was in full-swing.
But it wasn't until she moved to South Africa in 1956 to attend boarding school that she really saw the nasty nature of apartheid policies.
"When I moved to South Africa, that's when apartheid hit hard," she said. "Apartheid made you very angry," said Madigane in an interview published in 2013.
However, she found a way to make South Africa her home. She went to school there, stayed afterwards and married a South African man.
But after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, in which 69 peaceful protesters were killed, she knew it was time to leave.
She moved home to Zimbabwe for a short time but quickly moved to England to attend medical school.
She accepted a job in Tyne Valley in 1974 and settled herself into the community.
She came to be regarded as one of the most highly respected physicians on P.E.I. and a feisty defender of rural health care, never afraid to tell people in power what was on her mind.
Her quiet strength came to define her, and endear her to the people she served.
For her efforts, she was made a member of the Order of P.E.I. and in 2010 was named one of the top 25 immigrants in Canada. She was named Lennox Island Elder of the Year and had a Queen’s Jubilee medal.
Lynden Ellis worked with Madigane on the Friends of the Stewart Memorial Hospital committee for many years.
He said the loss of her strength will be felt immediately and profoundly.
“It’s going to be one of the biggest losses this community has ever faced,” said Ellis.
“We’ll have nobody to fight for us now.”
At the Tyne Valley Health Centre clinic that Madigane had to leave so suddenly in January to start chemo, the mood was somber on Friday, said Paul Young, primary care network manager for the area.
“Dr. Madigane was such a beacon within Tyne Valley and really a piece of the heart and soul of health care. They’re certainly feeling that loss for sure,” said Young.
Ashley Wilson of Mount Pleasant was certainly one of those people.
She is one of many in Prince County who owe a life to Madigane.
She credits the doctor’s quick thinking with saving her daughter Jazmyn’s life only nine months ago, when the baby was about six weeks old.
“What she did … there’s no way we could ever repay her. She’s definitely my daughter’s guardian angel,” said Wilson.
Funeral services for Madigane will be announced at a later date.
Memorial donations can be made to the Stewart Memorial Healthcare Auxiliary, Canadian Cancer Society or to a charity of your choice.