Death and the love left behind

I am no stranger to loss, I am well acquainted with death and the gaping hole it leaves. I know all too well what the faceplant feels like when death suddenly pulls the rug out under your feet. The fall is almost slow motion and the impact lingers, pain resonating through you as you try to wrap your thoughts around what just happened. Not to mention the hole that suddenly opens underneath you as you try to collect your bearings… the big, black hole that swallows you as you try to claw your way back to the surface. But you sink and sink and sink… it becomes darker and darker, more and more alone…

Death – the one definite thing we can all be sure of in life, yet it is the one thing that catches us the most off-guard… when we least expect it… 

The loss of a loved one – spouse/family member/friend/ yes, even animal, can be an unbearable pain to face, a suffocating pain that leaves you surrounded by people yet feeling so very, very alone – asking why. Screaming to the heavens with pulsating soul as the face cracks a smile and whispers – “I am fine”

“I am fine” … I have learned that these three words are empty shells covering a bleeding being, sheltering it from the expectations of the world to be just that – fine. It’s been months, you should be getting over it by now, right? 

Really? Should you? Says who? 

I always say the heart is a living organ with a will of its own, the heart chooses when it is ready to “let go”, accept, “move on” … but does it really? 

For many of us life is divided into chapters – before death and after death. Before I lost you and after I lost you. This is how we define the “Major” events in our lives. Which basically just comes back to the longing for the person you lost… doesn’t it? 

With important events we tend to wish that person was there, a bride wishes her father could have walked her down the aisle, a mother takes it hard on what would have been her sons 21st birthday. A man/woman finds specific times of the year difficult to deal with – anniversaries, Christmas, birthdays… big things, important things, and the little things we usually just take for granted, the things we only realize are important once they are no longer there. 

“I am fine” / “I am doing okay” because that is what the world expects of me…

In reality “me time” has turned into a torture session, moments of thinking back, crying, screaming, moments of anger. Being alone has never been so’ lonely… so’ empty… so’ quiet. And the word “me” has an entirely new meaning, a new identity if you will. 

The me (before losing you) was different, stronger, happier, more … complete. The me (after losing you) is angrier, lost, emptier – like half of me is lost, ripped out. This me is alone, feels alone… hates the alone-ness I am surrounded with. 

No – I have never lost a spouse to death, I am grateful that my amazing better half is still well and breathing. But I have lost friends, I have lost family, I have lost father(s). And with each there is that defining divide. Before you and after you… with every… single… one… 

I cannot imagine the pain of losing a spouse, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child! But I know both are things that would completely shatter me! 

I see what those around me have to go through, a friend who lost her sister, a wife who lost her husband, a father who lost his daughter – the heartache, the pain, the “I am fine” replies to messages. Their lives as they knew it crashed and fell apart, but the world kept turning… life went on around them, without even as much as a pause in which they could just fall apart and really mourn the loved ones they lost. The sun kept rising and setting and the days kept drifting by… 

Shouldn’t the world have come to a standstill, even just for a second or two? 

But it didn’t, it never does… the world kept turning as they tried to collect the shattered pieces from off the floor. 

Death – in some way we spend our entire lives preparing for it, we prepare for growing old, we prepare so that should we die – our kids are taken care of, our spouses are financially stable. We prepare for the day when we are no longer there… but we cannot truly prepare for the devastation we leave our loved ones behind in. 

We can only try to love them in such a way that they are strong enough to keep going without us… that our love will carry them through, long after we are no longer there…

For love is the only thing that outlives us on this earth, it is the only thing that remains long after we are gone. A life that was loved is a life that was lived and a heart that is broken is a heart that was loved. 

Let us leave a legacy of love, let our loved ones be sad because the love we leave behind is irreplaceable, with them always, and strong enough to remind them of us, pushing them forward – reminding them not to give up. 

 

“I may be gone my darling, but my love will light the way in the darkness, guiding your feet on the pathway – always” 

 

 

 

The reminder – me, myself and (m)I sanity

I have always been one to sit back in my corner and watch it all unfold before me – watching and listening – quietly puttingpuzzles together while not saying a word and smiling as people think I can be fooled. Often seen as the quiet, shy, serious introvert who antisocially keeps to herself and doesn’t mingle. Sure, this has its disadvantages however I have always preferred it this way. You tend to avoid the drama… yes, yes, I know – some of you Love the drama… not me though, I prefer the drama stay very far away. I see drama and I run a hundred miles an hour the other way.

Or, well, I used to…

There – that’s where it all went wrong – “I used to” – meaning I slipped up, meaning I opened up too much, I raised my opinion too often… got too comfortable. 

A few months ago, someone asked me how my fiancé is able to live with me since he is such an extrovert and I am so very quiet. And I thought to myself, I am not that quiet at all, this woman just doesn’t know me. And I said to her “if you knew me you would understand”. But this had me thinking eventually… maybe I do keep to myself too much. At work I sat at my table, did my work, minded my own business and kept my fellow employees at arm’s length. 

It’s safer that way – I have always been this way, work is work, play is play. 

In my personal life I am less so, however I do struggle to “make new friends”, I am the type of person who will spend time you four, five, six times, watching you closely, summing you up, listening to what you DON’T say. However, once I let my guard down and you become my friend, I tend to jump in knee deep. Once my friend, always my friend – as the saying goes. 

Anyway, back to the story – this lady got me thinking, and I decided that maybe I should try a little harder and not box myself up so much. Be just a tiny bit more involved. Make an effort at work, chat a little more, share personal experiences, talk about my family. Not be so standoffish with strangers. Be less “shy”. And I tried, I really did… 

But soon I found I knew a little too much about things I would have preferred not knowing about. New acquaintances shared things with me that made me a little (uh-hum) uncomfortable. And of course, the drama saw this as an open invitation and even upon doing as I’m told and trying to avoid the mess, I was still drawn right smack into the middle of it… without any real idea why. 

So, there I was face flat on the tiles, lip split open and my mind blown asking myself “have you learned nothing in your 30 years of life?” So, I picked myself up, wiped the dust from my shoes, cleaned the blood off my lip and decided that that will be it. Back to reality… back to my corner to protect my own sanity. 

Now perhaps some of you may understand, but unfortunately many do not and took my sudden quietness as a sign of bitterness, anger and disapproval. This really wasn’t the case. I just simply needed to regroup and get back to me, back to how I prefer to do things. Once my friend, always my friend – remember? But I needed to draw a line for myself, a “safe zone”, away from the drama and the mess, away from over friendly strangers sharing overly personal things, away from personal vendettas that had nothing to do with me. And solidly withdrawn from the middle of it all. 

Work is work, play is play… I have a hand full of important people in my life, and yes sometimes the work and play barrier crosses, but even so, work cannot become personal. It has always been a rule of mine. This doesn’t mean that the hand full of important people don’t matter, even when you disagree and even when there is friction – if you’re important to me, you remain important. 

Yet here I am, in my corner, keeping to myself and subsequently being excluded. I feel like I am supposed to take offence, however I really, honestly don’t mind it, in fact I much rather prefer it this way. 

Friends remain friends, colleagues remain colleagues and acquaintances treat me accordingly. 

Much better for my peace of mind, much better for my sanity! 

 

Of following in footsteps and sunset art

I remember when I was little I would walk behind you on the beach, eagerly jumping to place my own footprint inside of yours – thinking I was literally following in your footsteps. I remember the smell of the salty air, the feeling of it slightly sticking to my skin. I felt so free then – I was so young, so unaware of what adulthood would have in store for me. I lost my heart there, dropped it somewhere in the sand where the waves washed over it and gently buried it underneath their broad, white shoulders.

I miss it, I miss waking up to jumping dolphins, crashing waves and the song of seagulls. I miss running on white sand with the cold water splashing up against my legs… there aren’t many places that make me feel like this… so free, so – close to God.

Lately I find myself thinking back with an aching heart, I look at my 4-month-old and I wish with all my heart that he could grow up experiencing what I experienced back then. I would give anything for him to grow up so close to nature, so free to experience it to his little heart’s content. To spend time with him explaining the tides like you once explained them to me.

The closest I can get to that, is to take him to the bush every chance we get. To share with him the sun rising through the camelthorn trees and painting the sky bright orange as it sets. To show him the birds and get excited when we come across the majestic giraffes with their long necks and big gentle eyes. How I hope he sees the beauty like I do. How I hope it opens his heart like it opens mine. How I hope he sees the wonder of each living being, in its own beautiful right.

I can’t wait to be able to share these things with him, like you once shared them with me. I can’t wait to take him camping and to be able to capture the moments through my lens, his reactions, his facial expressions… when he sees it all for the first time. I can’t wait to see if he will love it as much as we do! Campfires dancing to the song of the night in the bush…

How I wish you could have met him, how I wish he could have the chance to jump behind you on the beach, trying to place his feet in the footprints you leave behind. He would have loved you, and I know you would have loved him. 

He is still so small, but there is such a gentleness to him… such a softness. He is so friendly, and his eyes are so kind. I pray that God will guide us, so we can protect those parts of him, nurture it, so it remains and deepens as he grows. He is such a blessing to us, such a precious little soul.

I never thought I could love someone so deeply, I fell in love with his dad and I thought – this is it – I will never love someone else like this again! And then there he was, and I found myself falling in love all over again, a different kind of love, but a love just as deep and just as strong.

You once told me that every person needs a break from the rush of life, a place where the soul can recuperate, and the heart can rest. You showed me what that meant… as we spent time staring at the vast ocean in front of us. I pray I can do the same for our little Liam, I may not be able to sit with him on white beaches, but I can share with him the African Sun, the heart of the bushveld, and the magic of its wildlife.

For there is where you feel closest to God, there is where you see Him in all His majesty – there is where you experience His heartbeat – in the midst of His creatures, in the midst of the magic of His creation…

I will hold my son and I will think of you… and I will remember with a grateful heart. 

 

Winters Dans

Helder oggend son – 

Rooi en oranje deurtrek die wolke

Soos n roes geverfde canvas…

Die seisoenne draai. 

Warm somers dae gee in 

Tot die koel winters windjie

Wat effens begin opkruip teen my rug…

Soos n lig wat die donker terug stoot

Tot in die krake in die muur

Die koue dra saam met dit n hoop –

N opwinding wat niemand

behalwe ons voel borrel nie. 

Ek en jy

Ek voel jou wals in my – 

Ek voel jou foxtrot teen die nate van my ribbekas

Ritmies, met my hartklop as pas – aanwysing. 

 

Ons is een 

Ek en jy

Maar saam met die draai van die seisoen

Kom die wete

Die wete dat ek en jy nie veel langer

Een sal wees nie. 

Ons is besig om die wenpaal te bereik. 

 

Daar le n handjie vol weke voor.

N handjie vol weke waarin ek jou

Nog soos n storm in my binneste sal voel woed

Voel dans en spring…

N handjie vol weke wat ek en jy

Een liggaam sal deel

Jy in my – maar ek net soveel in jou. 

 

In die weke wat kom sal die koue toeneem, 

Net soos jy jou laaste gewig aansit

Hoe kouer dit word hoe groter word jy. 

My mooi kind, my winters-kind

Prins van my hart.

Een van die dae verruil jy my hitte vir die koue

Wat die laaste van die winters maande inhou

Maar jy  

Jy bring die sonskyn saam met jou.

 

17/05/2018

 

16 Weeks

It has been a whole 16 weeks since my son was born… yes, 16 weeks of the greatest – but scariest – adventure I have ever been on. It has been a time filled with seas of emotion, storms brewing inside of me and waterfalls crashing down my cheeks – waters fuelled by feeling both overwhelmed and overwhelming joy. A time where I had to simply set myself free of every reservation I have ever had regarding a human body that did not belong to me. 

I often look at the little body I cradle in my arms and marvel at how quickly he has grown, how quickly his tiny hands have learned to start grasping, how his little mouth now spontaneously shoots into the most beautiful smile. How his eyes have learned to focus and how sweetly they look intomine as we share a moment while he drinks from his bottle. 

My beautiful boy, with his natural mohawk of ever reddening hair, and the bluest of skies in his eyes. 

He barged in and forced me to overcome so much of myself… so many fears I have been forced to face since I first realized he was growing inside me. His arrival was the most exciting, most terrifying day of my life. But seeing him for the very first time, with his perfect little hands and long little toes – it is a feeling I struggle to explain… yet the journey since that day has been filled with that feeling over and over. Every time he does something new, it’s like I see him for the first time all over again. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the thought that this little boy, this friendly, beautiful little boy was born from my own body. 

And here we are – sixteen weeks later – and I find myself falling in love with him more and more each day. 

But even so – I have had moments filled with utter frustration – with myself, and with him… not knowing what it is he wants, or how to stop his crying. I have had moments where I wanted to lay him down and just walk away for a minute just to gather my head. Moments where I bit into my lip because for heaven’s sake I just couldn’t figure it out! Moments where I felt so hopeless and helpless – knowing that his tummy hurt because he had trouble with winds, knowing the only way to help him was to massage them out – which also hurt… so I sat there massaging the tummy of my screaming baby… wanting to lose my mind, wanting nothing more than to just hold him and kiss it better – if only that would work. I have had moments where I felt like a failure, a bad mom, a mom failing in the very thing she is supposed to know how to do – be a mom. 

And then when the crying stops and those big blue eyes look at me and that little body snuggles into mine, I can’t help but think “WOW!!” and all frustration and anger at myself just slips away, I am left there with nothing but an overwhelming sense of love and peace. 

My precious gift, my dream come true – my answered prayer… how did God think me worthy of him? What could I possibly have done right to deserve him?

This adventure is only starting – there is so much already that I am so scared I will forget. Memories to cherish, memories to giggle about… cry about… 

Adventures should be penned down, moments captured, memories collected…

And every day should be lived in the here and now, to enjoy it fully and not miss out on possible memories we could forever hold dear. 

And so – our greatest adventure has just begun 

 

To My Unborn Son

(I wrote this letter when I was 6 months pregnant, Liam has since been born. He is sweet and friendly, and such a busy body at almost 4 months old. Time flies by too quickly, how I wish he would stay so little for just a little longer)

To my unborn son, 

There are a lot of things I want you to know in this life, things you must always remember. In some way I think perhaps it is because I grew up in a very unforgiving world and I want you to be ready and strong and protected, whatever this life may have in store. 

First of all I want you to know that your Dad and I waited a long time for you. We prayed for you even when we thought you would never come… but you did, when we least expected it. You were not an accident or a mistake, you were wished for, begged for from above. You are an answered prayer… never ever forget that! Never ever forget that you are a miracle to us. We loved you the very moment we realised you were there, when you were only the size of a small little raisin, and our love for you grows and grows every single day.

I want you to know that it doesn’t matter what you look like… you may have my stubborn red hair, your dad’s long, big build. You may have freckles, you may not. At the end of the day people are people, they always try to find something “different” in others. You may be ridiculed in school, you may be treated different because redheads sometimes are… or you may be the coolest kid in school because you are like your dad and can talk to just about anyone who crosses your path, instead of being an introvert like me. Either way I want you to remember your worth is not measured equal to what others think of you. They may not see your worth, but it is important that you know and never forget. 

Life is filled with mountains to climb and battles to face, but you do not always have to fight to win. Stand up for what you believe in, don’t compromise on your morals for anything. Stand firm on what you believe is right and wrong and be slow to anger. Don’t throw that first punch, but be able to protect yourself when you need to. Sometimes talking it down and walking away is a greater victory than bruising another to prove a point. 

Love is the greatest thing this life has to offer. Never underestimate it. There will come a time in this life where you will want to be your own person, when you will want your dad and me to back off and let you be. We may find this a little difficult to do sometimes, because it is in our nature to want to protect you and make sure you are okay… but we will try our best to give you your space. Don’t hate us when we slip to close to you sometimes. You won’t live with us forever, and the time with you is a precious gift we prayed for, for a very long time. Allow your dad the father and son time now and then, he has dreamed of spending time with you long before you were born. As your mom, I may want to hug you now and then, for the first 9 months of your existence you and I were one. You are the only one who knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside. You may want to roll your eyes and whisper under your breath but please give me a hug now and then anyway. 

There will come a time when girls will become important to you. You probably won’t want to talk to me about it but your dad will be a great go-to-guy. You may choose not to talk to either of us, and that’s okay. All I want you to remember is that every girl is different. you may fall in love once, you may fall in love many times… you may get hurt and you may hurt her… but always remember your worth, and always see the worth of every girl or woman you meet. Never use the words “I Love you” to manipulate her. Show her kindness, open the door for her, hold her hand and respect her always. Never talk to your friends of what you two do in your time alone. No woman likes to feel embarrassed by the person she loves and trusts the most. When you bump heads and argue (as all relationships go) fight the urge to vent to your friends and put her in a bad light, they will start seeing her differently and the respect they have for her may dwindle. Always remember that there is a difference between sleeping with someone and sleeping with someone you love. The two should always go hand in hand. You don’t have to share the most sacred part of yourself with anyone to prove you are a man. One day when you are grown you will understand that it is the connection of love that matters, not the number of girls you’ve been with. The respect for each other and respect for yourselves, the trust – those things matter the most. 

There will surely come a time when you feel disappointed in your dad and me. We won’t disappoint you on purpose, but we too are only human and we make mistakes. I can promise you one thing though, we will fight our hands to the bone for you. We will do anything we can to ensure you have a better life than we did. You will never have to wonder your worth, you will never go to sleep with an empty tummy, you will never have to feel alone and that no one loves you, you will never have to feel betrayed or rejected by us. And when you are all grown up and you make mistakes, if you fall and have to start building yourself up again you will not have to be afraid to come home. Our doors will always be open to you, you can always turn to us and talk to us no matter what. We will always be there when you need us. 

Always follow your dreams. Do what makes you happy, embrace your talents and make everything you do, your own. Poor yourself into your passions. Find time to be quiet with yourself and let your heart flow into what you do, allow yourself to feel the burn of the fire in your soul. It is important to feed your being by doing what you love to do. It releases stress and sets you free from the world even if it is just for a short time. Whether it is living yourself into the music you listen to or building things with your hands – like your dad, or making music or painting like me – whatever you choose, whatever you love doing, do it with all your heart. It will never be time wasted to spend time on you.

And when you reach one dream, set another… but never let the success change who you are as a person. I know it will take hard work and you will have reason to be proud of yourself. Nothing in life is ever free, but even so – Always treat the janitor and the CEO with the same respect and acknowledgement, kindness takes away from no one. Always be kind and have patience with older folks, one day you too will be old. 

This life can be an amazing journey, my son. See the beauty in it always. Watch the sun set around a camp fire with good friends as often as you can. Enjoy the sun on your face and appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature, and in the quiet moments close your eyes and listen to the birds, feel the wind’s gentle caress – it is here that you will feel closest to your Creator. Your dad and I both find great peace and rest in the wilderness. Always remember that every life has worth, be it dog, mouse, buck or rabbit… it should never be taken lightly. 

I know this is a lot to take in, and maybe you don’t understand it all right now – but one day you will. Until then we will cherish these first few years where our world revolves around you and yours around us, the cuddles, the games, all the firsts that are bound to happen. We will cherish holding your hand, having you fall asleep in our arms and when you ask for us because in that moment that is all you want. 

Forgive us when we feel tired, unsure of ourselves, when you cry and we don’t understand right away what it is you need. This is a first time journey for us too and we are bound to make mistakes along the way. 

We love you Liam, we are so excited to meet you and watch you grow into the man you will become. You are our greatest gift and most precious blessing. 

Our miracle…

 

 

Of Little feet and butterfly kicks

I have always wanted kids. After trying over the last few years and not being able to conceive I noticed a change in myself…

suddenly my friends would announce their pregnancies and I would force a smile and congratulate them, all the while feeling the pang of wanting what they had – the jealousy… one could even say the bitterness, would creep in and I would be uneasy, unsure of how to approach the situation. Pulling into myself and crying in my fiancé’s arms as the question “why?” rolled over my lips.

“Why?”

“I’m sorry” the doctor said as I sat in front of her that day – two years ago. That day shattered my heart in such a way that I thought it would never be able to heal.

But God has a way of doing things, and with time acceptance came and with acceptance I was able to move forward despite the dream I knew I had to let go of. Though the pang never really disappeared, it became easier to share in the excitement and joy of those around me, and soon it wasn’t something I thought about all the time.

Only after I reached this point did I truly have a moment of honesty with myself… and a new question crept over my lips – “would I really have been able to be a good mom?” sometimes life has a way of bruising you and letting you know certain things are just not meant to be, and I realized that if it was God’s will and if He thought I was ready – He would grant me my biggest wish. If however that never happened, I knew He would have His reasons for that too. And that was the moment I truly made peace with the idea of living my life with the man I love and our 5 dogs, who we treated like our kids anyway.

It was a hot day in November, I was standing in front of the stove stirring the pot with a strange hollow, nauseous feeling in my stomach. I measured the spices with my fingertips as I added them to the food in front of me. Hoping beyond hope that I was not adding too much of anything that would make this dish, well… inedible. I simply could not get myself to taste it. I felt sick to my stomach just by the idea of putting it in my mouth. As Rudie came home I asked him to taste it and add whatever he thought it needed, puzzle he looked at me after putting the teaspoon in his mouth. “Did you not taste your food? It is so salty” and the dam just broke and tears started streaming down my face.

As I sat in the hot bath, trying desperately to stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks I had a moment where I looked at my face in the mirror and said “Lord, what is wrong with me? Why am I reacting this way? Am I really this tired and drained that something as simple as this can push me over the edge?” – “No” the answer found its own way out of my mouth… and my heart started racing…

It is now 14 weeks later and as I lay in bed every night I can’t help but place my hands on my ever extending belly as the flutter of little feet push from inside me.

Many tears have been shed since that night in the bath tub… many happy, overwhelmed tears, tears of disbelief, tears of insecurity and tears of relief… but mostly tears of absolute joy…

I didn’t mind whether the growing peanut in my belly would turn out to be a boy or girl, all I wanted was a healthy little baby. But then 7 weeks ago, the day arrived where we would finally know which of the two names we have chosen would be the one our baby would carry with him or her forever. It was only then that panic set in – “I don’t know if I can be a mom to a little girl, Lord. I don’t know if I am ready. I won’t know how to be a mom to a little girl”

Now – some of you may not understand this “irrational” fear. But to me it was something very real. Boys are tougher in a way, there would be less situations where certain things would need explaining as the baby gets older and Dad would be able to help with those kinds of things if we had a boy. “What if I can’t do it?”

As I sat in that chair that morning, the Doctor eagerly trying to get our little miracle to turn and allow us visibility of the very body part we were there to see, my heart beat in my throat. “Whatever happens Lord, I need your help!” and I suddenly remembered the verse that so lovingly reminds us that God will never give us more than we can handle.

“It’s a boy” the doctor said. “Are you sure?” before I could stop myself the question was hanging in the air between us. “I am 120% sure you are having a little boy”

Through the past 6 months of pregnancy I have been constantly reminded that God always knows best. He knows our hearts, our fears, and our insecurities. He knows what we need, when we need it. And He knows that even though we pray for something for a very long time, we may not be 100% ready to have it yet.

In three months we will finally meet our baby boy. His Daddy has so many dreams of adventures he will share with his son. Me? Well… God has granted my deepest desire, my biggest wish – someone I can play in the mud with, race cars with, build sandcastles with, and get dirty with. Yes, he won’t be little forever but he has an amazing Daddy who will stand ready when the time comes for having talks about certain parts of life.

So, thank you Lord for blessing me with the greatest gift I could ever have asked for… and for not throwing me into the deep end while doing so. For knowing me so well.

A long time ago someone told me – “JM, You will be a great mom to a little boy…” and I smiled as I looked at the little boy I was carrying in my arms that day. And I thought of how wonderful it would be to hold my own son like that one day.

Now, “one day” is in reach… and soon we will hold our Liam in our arms…

How blessed am I, Lord. For you entrusted me with the greatest gift… You chose me to be a mother to my son.