My mom’s final gift to me

It sounds strange to say but we always thought my dad would pass away before my mom. He was in a horrible accident  when I was in standard 6 and the aftermath of that has been with him ever since. In fact, the doctors had said if he hadn’t lived such a healthy lifestyle – no smoking, no excessive drinking – he wouldn’t have gotten through all the surgeries way back then.

He did. But recently his age has caught up with him and earlier this year, when he had a health scare, I was convinced he wouldn’t be around very much longer. So much so that I was talking to my brothers about where my  mom would stay once widowed, whether we should build on at our house so she could move in or start looking at retirement villages.

But my dad got better and my mom and the universe had different plans. My mom died end of July this year, leaving my dad on his own. I’ve been saying to anyone who cares to listen that it would have ‘been easier’ if my dad had died first. Only in that my mom would have been able ‘to carry on’, albeit with difficulty, she is more social, has a bigger circle of friends and keeps herself busy with loads of little hobbies. My dad, not so much.

He’s always been quite anti-social. More so now. He’s never suffered fools gladly and certainly suffers them even less. My mom was his link to the outside world because all he really needed was the comfort of his own home and the love of my mom. They have been together for 47 years and in that time have spent very little time apart.

And now he’s alone. Straight after my mom died he stayed with my younger brother and his wife. They’re also in the south of Joburg, which is closer to my dad’s house (is it feels wrong to say ‘mom and dad’s house but it also feels just as wrong to refer it to as ‘his house’) and the hospital, where he goes for dialysis twice a week. Where my mom died.

I’ve been going to their house often to pack my mom’s things away and have invited him out with us a few times. He’s agreed once. But other than that he’s turned down my offers. I get it. It’s a long drive from Bassonia to Fourways, he doesn’t like leaving his doggie alone and at the moment I think he just wants to be in his own space.

It’s been hard seeing him like this. Losing my mom, his wife, has left him a broken man and he’s literally aged 20 years. On Monday I didn’t see him. It’s dialysis day. But I popped through on Tuesday and my heart just sank. Without him having to say a word I could see he had moved back home and was staying alone. I cleaned up where I could, washing dishes, cleaning the bathrooms. I made his bed, making sure I left my mom’s side untouched. As I moved through the rooms I could hear him quietly sobbing from the lounge. He does this a lot.

Later that evening I called to see how he was and said I would pop through the following day. My dad would always say traveling from my house to them was unnecessary. That it’s too far. That the traffic is horrible. Even when my mom was in hospital he would put me off going too often. But this time when I said I’d see him the next day he simply said ‘ok’.

I arrived in the morning and made my way inside, put my bag down and walked towards the rooms to start cleaning, but my dad said “just sit a bit”. And I did. We sat like that for ages. Occasionally talking, occasionally not. Him doing his soduku, me reading a book of my mom’s I had found. We’d chat about something arbitrary and then sit quietly again. He asked me about work. And about the kids. He asked about something else. Every now and then his eyes would well up with tears and I would fight back mine. But for the first time in forever my dad and I just spent time in each other’s company, my mom not there to buffer our interaction.

And then it hit me. My mom’s last gift to me was time with my dad. We have never been very close. His very being doesn’t allow for that. Few people get my dad, including me. I’m just too sensitive around his rather brash ways. But I suddenly understood that where it would have been ‘easier’ to have my mom around as a bereaved wife, my relationship with my dad would have been as distant as it has always been.

My mom, in her wisdom, knew I didn’t need time with her on her own. But this time with my dad has been precious. Time I wouldn’t have had with him. Time I wouldn’t have given him.

I miss my mom. With every part of me. I miss her from the time I open my eyes to when I put my head on my pillow at night. But I am so grateful for this, her final gift to me. A gift I didn’t even know I wanted.


*the post above is the kind of story I’m looking for you to send me. Nothing hugely personal, but rather those ‘a ha’ moments; witnessing a miracle, big or small, or getting an understanding that brings you peace. The little project has been inspired by my mom and I really want to do this, so please email your stories through to me***

My little project 

I’ve been inspired to do a little project and how people respond is going to determine whether my little project is successful or not. 
I would like you or someone you know to email me any true life situations and stories that you’ve experienced and how you’ve come out on the other side, whether you feel like you’ve been through hell, met the devil, and made it back again: how you clawed your way back from the brink of despair and are now a living, and loving testament to miracles, big and small. 
Heck even if it’s a story of absolute heartbreak I’d love to hear how you got through it.
Please pass onto as many people as you know who might have a story to share. Depending on the response I’ll keep you updated with what the plans are going forward
Please send emails to with subject – my story 

You can remain anonymous if you like and it doesn’t have to be local. Let’s go global 

True or false…teeth

There’s a little something that my mum would probably kill me for sharing with you, but she also loved my habit of over sharing information, so here goes.

I’m doing the decor for a stand at a big trade show tomorrow and the theme is that of an old fashion bakery so I popped out to my favourite salvage store to see if I’d able to find a few things. That’s today.

Rewind to the day my mum had her surgery. Actually, we need to rewind even further back. I can’t remember if it was while she was pregnant with me or my older brother, but due to a calcium deficiency my mom lost all her teeth, and ended up the proud owner of dentures. For a long time I was petrified of her dentures. Remember that tv show with the rabbit? I think it was Oscar and his nemesis was Knersis. That show gave my mom’s teeth a life and personality of their own, and I often imagined her hanging her teeth up at the end of the day.

The day she was going in for her op, her teeth were in a glass on the table next to her bed (please forgive me mom for sharing this) and she was so pissed off with the nurse who had put them there. I joked with my mom and said that I was just about to take a big glug of water but thankfully I saw her teeth. She asked me to move them to a less conspicuous place, which i did. But before I left I reminded her where I had put them and I also told the sister on duty.

After she died I was packing her things up I found sets of false teeth everywhere. In jewelry boxes, in knitting baskets, in old shoe boxes, everywhere. In fact, there were so many dentures in so many places I actually mentioned it to Mark plus another friend or two.

Fast forward to today. So at the second-hand shop and salvage yard I was looking for bits and pieces to put together a look for an old fashioned bakery. I was looking at things eye level; old mixers, baking trays, etc and then I bent down to look at the old jars and containers, and in one was a pair of…you guessed it. Teeth. I did take a closer look and they weren’t the real ones, I don’t think. They looked more like the hillbilly ones you buy at dress up or party stores, but there in amongst baking items and other trinkets were dentures.

I miss my mom so badly, and contrary to how I thought it would be, I miss her more today than a week or a month ago. It’s more definite now, if you know what I mean. The reality has sent it. She’s not coming back but I think, and I hope, in her own way, she’s leaving me little signs, letting me know she’s close by and looking after me.

I see stupid people…

And even though their intentions are good, they sometimes can say and do the stupidest things. 

Let me start off by saying I get it. Not everyone is comfortable around grief and not everybody knows what to say or do around someone who’s grieving. I get it. So even though the title is a little jusgemental, this is more of a guide of what appropriate responses would be if you happen to bump into someone who’s recently lost a loved one. And I use the word ‘bump’ on purpose. 

It seems a lot of people think sadness or death is contagious and instead of carrying on a friendship like normal they just disappear. And that’s why I use the word ‘bump’. People you considered good friends, or at least close acquaintances, suddenly stay away. No phone calls, no spontaneous visits, no messages. Nothing. Let me put your mind at ease. You will not catch my grief. 

On the other side of the spectrum are the friends you still see, as you normally would, but they don’t ask how you are. Not once. It’s like they’re thinking ‘if we don’t mention it it means it hasn’t actually happened.’ These are friends who know your mom or dad, who would ordinarily ask how they’re doing, but now…nothing. It’s as though the person I loved the most in the entire world, the reason for me being, just never existed. I promise you can ask me how I’m doing. Besides been acceptable it’s also just good manners.

In case you’re getting bored, I beg of you that you just read this next point. And then you can:




All of the above 

You know the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say then say nothing”? Well the same applies here but it’s more a case of “if you don’t have anything intelligent / kind / empathetic to say then say nothing.” I know this sounds awful and is possibly the reasons you stay away or don’t ask how we are but here’s a tip. You know how when you ask your partner if your bum looks fat in a pair pants, or if he thinks the cute little blonde standing next to him is prettier than you, he instinctively says “no, of course not!” That’s a learned response. A very clever one. One that has probably saved many a relationship and a life. If he were to elaborate he’d probably dig his own grave, so ” no, of course not!” is where he should stop. Same with someone who’s lost a loved one. 

If you don’t feel equipped to say ‘all the right things’ then just say “I am so sorry” and leave it at that. That’s the smart thing to do. If you’re uncomfortable with the concept of death and dying do not feel you need to elaborate with things like:

Well they were old so at least they lived a good life (if a parent has passed away)

At least they didn’t suffer (if anyone has passed away)

The upside is you can have another one (if you’ve lost a child)

You’re young enough to find someone else (if a spouse or partner has died)

Shame man, you’ll feel better soon

It was God’s will (if anyone had died)

They’re in a better place (if anyone has died)

These are often standard responses but in case nobody has told you, let me be the one. They are stupid responses. They leave the grieving person feeling worse than before. 

On Friday I went to have my haircut, and the woman cutting my hair asked me why I look so tired. She also asked why I had eczema on my head. I answered that I wasn’t sleeping well and that the eczema was probably from stress. She asked why I was stressed. “The usual stuff I suppose. It’s almost the end of of the year. It’s been a long one and my mom recently passed away!”

Granted she’s from the Ukraine so her English isn’t great, so I can forgive her slightly, but she then went on to say:

Ah, the old age? (I’m assuming from the way I look she thought my mom was ancient)

No, not really. She wasn’t that old. It was sudden and we weren’t expecting it. 

Ah, an accident? 

No. She passed away in hospital

Ah at least she died in a hopsital. With people around her. It would have been horrible if she was on her own!
Before I stabbed her with her own scissors I asked her if we could change the subject and chat about something a little more upbeat. Which we did.

My best moments since my mom died have been: 

Friends messaging me with a beautiful quote or just to say they’re thinking of me 

Friends who didn’t know my mom but acknowledge her and my pain. And openly talk about it 

Talking to friends who have a lost a parent because they just get it. They understand the desperate void left

Friends who meet me for a cup of coffee and we sit and talk crap for an hour or so and don’t visibly cringe if I mention a moment that happened to include my mom

 Hopefully this will be of use to you. If not, delete it and move on. At your own peril.

small MEDIUM large

It’s been one month, five days and about six hours since my mom left us. It’s been one month, five days and about six hours of wishing I had done things very differently. From paying more attention to her face, her voice, her touch, her smell. I am so scared I forget those things about her, the things that mattered. The things that made my mom, my mom.

Since she’s been gone I’ve been in touch with one clairvoyant and one medium. And I laugh when I tell people that she’s probably wondering why I can’t leave her to actually rest in peace for a little while.

I keep imagining my mom, puffing up a cloud, about to polish her halo or play the harp, and then a loud voice calls for her. No, not God’s. That would be ridiculous. A voice over the loudspeaker, saying ‘Sally. Sally Westraat!’ It’s your daughter, Melinda! Says she got something urgent to ask!’ And then I picture my mom, in a bit of a huff, walking over to the meeting room, where all the clairvoyants and mediums are waiting to connect the dead with the living. And then I picture her saying “Listen in future you don’t need to call me. Pretend I’m in the room and say yes to ‘is she happy?’, say ‘yes, she knew you loved her’ and tell her ‘of course you were her favourite child!’ Say no to ‘is she in any pain?’, no to ‘is she angry with me?’ and a definite no to ‘can she see my husband and I having sex?’

And I smile a little. My mom had a wicked sense of humor and I can just imagine her doing this, as she skips hook-ups with the living because she’s telling fellow spirits (yet again) how she just doesn’t understand why there were so few people at her memorial service.

But you know what the problem with clairvoyants and mediums is; they’re simply the messenger. It’s not like in the movie ‘Ghost’ where the dead take over a person’s body, and they speak, in their voice, to you. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. There are moments where I can remember her voice or a typical ‘Sally’ mannerism. There are times when I giggle knowing how she would react or respond to a situation. I remembe, when she was in hospital, leaving her bedside, stroking her hair off her forehead, kissing her and she looked at me, smiled and said “I’m not scared anymore.” Those were the last words I heard because when I called during visiting hours, to quickly say hello, her throat was too sore to talk. But they said, she says she’ll see you on the weekend, at home. But she never went home. And I never got another chance to breathe her in, to hear her speak.

My dad still uses my mom’s phone. I think for incoming calls. So occasionally the battery is flat and I call her number over and over again to hear her voice. The other night I called and it rang for a little bit. I cut the call after a while but a short time later my phone rang, and the caller ID read: Mom. As stupid as it sounds my heart froze. Mom? Why’s my mom calling? I thought she was…oh yes, she is.

It’s been one month five days and almost 8 hours. It feels like a lifetime ago you messaged me or called. It seems like yesterday I got the phone call telling me you were dead. And no matter how many more mediums I speak to or see, they’re not my mom. They never will be.

Dead Mom Syndrome

I was saying to someone the other day that I wish grief was similar to a broken arm, leg or some other illness. There is a process, almost a plan, when it comes to healing. 

A broken arm for example, you know you’re going to need a cast, maybe pins, depending on the extent of the break, 6-8  weeks of healing and the cast comes off. You might need physio or some other kind of after care. But you know the plan.

A chronic illness has a treatment plan. A recovering alcohol or drug addict has a plan. And besides the plans they have support. There are nurses and doctors and surgeons and specialists. There are  sponsors and groups. There is a plan with people around you. 

Having someone to you close die is a little different. As much as there is a grief process, which includes shock, sadness, anger, guilt, panic as you move into the next phase you establish new friendships, new strengths, new patterns and finally loss adjustment. That’s great in theory. And makes so much sense when you’re a psychologist, therapist or studen of psych 101.

Living that loss is completely different. I haven’t been given a workable plan. I haven’t been told that it’ll hurt for about 6 months, we can then look at one after care and in a year you’ll be completely fine. Down the line there might be an ache or dull throbbing but you will recover. 

I wake up in the mornings with an immediate sense of ‘not thereness’. The day drags, but in a blur, and I forget where I’ve put things, what I’ve done or said. Last week I forgot a whole lot of Emma and Ben’s extra activities. I’ve wanted them to be away from me for a bit, away from an overwhelming sadness that hangs heavy over the house but then I forget to take them to arranged play date.

My moods are erratic, my mood swings extreme. Catch me during a good  moment and you wouldn’t think there’s anything wrong. Get me at a bad time and  it’s tears and ‘bubble-snot’ and more tears. One minute I’m screeching with delight as I chase Emma and Ben around the garden and the next I’m screeching and wailing as I try and run away from myself. 

The stages of grieving includes making new friendships, establishing new relationships. Tell me how I establish a new mom-daughter relationship. Explain to me how I make a new friend with a relationship anywhere close to what my mom and I had. How do I find a ‘new normal’ when my only sense of normality is no longer here. 

Recovering addicts know what triggers to avoid. People with a manageable illness know what foods or activities to avoid. How do I avoid remembering my mom? How do I avoid triggers that are laughter and fun, moments of absolute love? 

No one told me there would be flashbacks. Remembering her smile or a funny saying intertwined with her lying lifeless half covered with a sheet. No one told me I’d quickly grab the phone to call her and just as quickly I remember she’s not here and that ‘not thereness’ feeling takes hold again. No one told me, that unlike when you’re recovering in a hospital ward or at home, there would be very few telephone calls or messages. No one told me hardly anyone will just pop in to see how you’re doing. Even when I was in the lunatic asylum I had visitors. It seems being around someone that’s insane is better than being around someone who’s sad. It’s better being around bad. Even prisoners get visitors.  

The death of a loved one is also the death of relationships. People you considered friends slowly disappear. Their awkwardness around sadness stops them getting in touch. They avoid you in shops and prefer to be in a hurry rather than stop for a minute to ask how you’re doing. New relationships made will never be the same as the old.  Because I’m no longer the old me.

The theoretical healing stages of grief includes isolation and loneliness but it comes after 10 other phases in the graph. It doesn’t. It starts the very moment you hear the words ‘your mom’s dead’ and it stays with you every step of the way. And, to be honest, I don’t think the loneliness ever  goes away. 

A rather crude definition of ‘lonely’ or ‘loneliness’ is:

sadness from being apart from other people: causing sad feelings that come from being apart from other people.

Since my mom left I’ve been sad and I think a part of me always will be, because I’m apart from my mom, my go-to person. 

A part of me has died. I’m no longer whole. I am apart. 

Diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend!

So lesson #3 for me is that when someone you love passes you quickly discover (or rediscover) what’s valuable and what’s not. 

I’ve been searching my mom and dad’s house top to bottom, in every cupboard and drawer. I’ve turned contents in cabinets and chests upside down, knowing that what I desperately need to find is somewhere. I just don’t know where.

It’s not her jewelry. I know where that is. My dad has my mom’s wedding ring, diamond earrings and other valuable bits in a safe. The ‘costume’ jewelry is in various cases and boxes. And the most precious items, for me, have been inexpensive pieces, but priceless for me, now, in terms of sentimentality. There’s a ring with her initial, a ring with my granny’s initial and surprisingly, a ring my mom must have had made for my dad when I was born, because it’s a signet ring with a star sign, Taurus, and I’m the only Taurean in the family. That I know of. 

My mom had one or two death benefits that will pay out but my brother is handling that and I think whatever money there is, goes to my dad. 

But yesterday I found what I’ve been searching for. Something more valuable than all the gold, silver, diamonds and money in the whole wide ‘university’ (as Ben says)! 

I found the box of photos I’ve been desperately looking for. And photo albums. And I sat and went through each and every one. I took a few for me, and left the rest for my dad and brothers, in case there are any they want.

I laughed at our outfits, and ridiculous poses. I wondered at times who the heck had taken the pics, because there were a lot with heads chopped off, and even more of…nothing! Just a blurred square of nothingness. The cameras in those days, unless they were super professional, didn’t have the best zooms, and there were loads of photos that looked like they were of nothing until you really really really got up close and then you’d realise the little speck looking back at the camera was in fact a person. I cried, because there was my mom, right in front me, but not there. And the feeling of ‘not thereness’ was overwhelming. 

But I found some that I will treasure for as long as I’m around. They’ll go up on the wall and I’ll look at them everyday and be reminded that in life, it’s not the things money can buy that bring you the most happiness. It’s the people you love and who love you back! 

No valuables, none, will bring my mom back, but those ‘worthless’ bits of paper are priceless. They give me a little piece of her everyday…

*mp* No resting in peace for my 

Just a reminder, the*mp* means it’s a mom post, which means it’s about my mom who’s no longer with us. Let me rephrase that, she is with us, just on another frequency. In other words, what I’m saying is, if you don’t want to read about death or dying then you’ll want to stop round about here…

I’ve mentioned previously that my mom died from cardiac and respiratory failure, after an operation to remove what we thought was a goiter. But it turns out it wasn’t that. My mom had one of the most rare, most deadly cancers. She had anaplastic carcinoma of the thyroid. Googling it you’ll read things like:

Anaplastic tumors are the least common (only 1% of all thyroid cancer cases) and most deadly of all thyroid cancers. This cancer has a very low cure rate with the very best treatments. Most patients with anaplastic thyroid cancer do not live 1 year from the day they are diagnosed.

The surgeons reckon it was so advanced they wouldn’t have been able to guarantee that my mom would live for more than six months. And as much as I’m angry and sad that she passed on, I’m also glad she didn’t suffer what would have invariably been a painful and slow death, which would have included a tracheostomy. 

Because I believe (as kooky as it may seem to some) in the spirit world I have been in touch with two people, to ‘speak’ to my mom. The most recent one did a channeling, and whether you’re ‘into’ it or not, yesterday’s session brought me a huge amount of healing, to a point where as much as I feel the sadness of my mom not physically being here with me, I also feel some happiness knowing that I have the best guardian angel anyone could ask for (thanks for pointing that out to me Linda!)

I’ve been beating myself up, and have been pissed off with anyone and everyone for not telling me enough to know I should have spent more time with her. That I should have been with my mom when she died, but like Linda (once again wisely) pointed out, my mom was so selfless she wouldn’t have let herself go if we were with her. She would have held on just so she didn’t ‘let us down’ or inconvenience us in any way.  

***As an aside Linda isn’t the psychic but rather a very dear family friend, who, with her two sisters, have been my greatest support.***

What put my mind at ease and lifted my spirits a little was the psychic saying the soul knows when it’s going to leave and so my mom and I had had our ‘goodbye’. It wasn’t necessary for me to have been with her at the end. I was with her when it mattered. 

In amongst the tears, I had to giggle when she relayed that my mom apologizes for the paperwork I’ve had to go through. If you’ve spoken to me in the last few weeks it’s probably one of the things I’ve moaned about the most. My mom had water and light bills from 1994! I kid you not. And it hasn’t been a case of just dumping it all, because in between 1994 bills and statements there have been more current documents. So I’ve had to sit, painstakingly going through each and every one of the folders. And I’m not done yet!

There were some things said that left me a little worried and sad, but with a sense of understanding. And I know that the human spirit can survive the most insurmountable of situations. I feel like I’ve been give a chance to ready myself for what’s still to come. 

Like so many other fortune tellers, psychics and clairvoyants (and kooks if you must) she sees me writing a book, and down the line I’m sitting signing copies. I’m hoping I find out sooner rather than later what my story is so I can eventually tell the bloody thing.

I really feel like I should be letting my mom ‘settle in’ without me bugging her every other day, but for me right now it’s the confirmations I need to bring me some kind of inner peace. And it seems to be working.

Allow me to share this little bit of wisdom with you. As cliched as it is, if you’re lucky enough to have both your mom and dad with you, or just one of them, cherish them. Cherish the time you have with them. Soak up their ‘silly’ stories, let them repeat themselves over and over again if necessary. Pop in just because. Phone them. Whatsapp them. Skype them. Let their treasured memories become yours because before you know it they’re no longer a 20 minute drive or telephone call away. And what was will never be again xxx

*mp* “A eugoogoolizer…one who speaks at funerals…”

I had to ‘eugoogoolize’ at my mom’s memorial service and the only reason I’m putting this down here is so that I never ever lose it. I’ve already deleted (by accident) the document off my laptop and this morning I hit frantic panic levels when I thought I had lost the hard copy.

So, this is more for me than you, but please feel free to read it…


Sally Louise Westraat

17 April 1945 – until the end of time

“Of all the things I imagined I’d be doing today, none included me speaking at my mom’s memorial service. The last few days have been the darkest I have ever known, but also some of the best, because I’ve read and reread tributes to and about my mom, and I realize how very lucky I was to have someone like her in my corner.

I’ve been trying to hang onto every memory, every moment with Sally Louise. You have no idea how she hated me calling her that. I’ve tried to remember instances where her love was especially strong, her loyalty fierce and fearless. And I can’t think of one, because every moment with my mom, unknown to me until now, was exceptional.

Last week my world came crumbling down around me. My heart literally broke into a million pieces and the one person who would have made me feel better wasn’t there. Hearing ‘you mom’s dead’ is different to any other words you’ll ever hear. Those three tiny words are too bug to fit into your ears. No three words, no matter how quietly whispered, will ever be as loud. And the silence after will never be as deafening. In order for you to try and make sense of it all, you allow those three words, ‘your mom’s dead’, words that meant nothing a minute, an hour or day before, to swirl around in your head and as you try and make sense of them you realize they will never fit inside your brain. Those three small words split you down the middle, breaking you and your heart in two, and no amount of words will ever put you back together again.

In amongst the heartache and the absolute longing, I stand in front of you, proud to be called my mother’s daughter. I had no idea of the extent of my mom’s generosity and compassion. I never stood in awe of her love and care for others because she made it look effortless. She made me think the way she was is quite simply the way everyone is.

My mom was love. She protected and cared. My mom’s love never failed. My mom thought it would be nice to be important but more than that, she knew it was important to be nice.

There is a beautiful story, sent to me by a friend, which begins outside a “small snug house” where four children live with their beloved grandmother. Not wanting to scare the young ones, Death, who has come for the old lady, has left his scythe by the door. Immediately, in this small and enormously thoughtful gesture, we are introduced to Death’s unexpected tenderness.

Inside, he sits down at the kitchen table, where only the youngest of the kids, little Leah, dares look straight at him. To stall the inevitable, the children devise a plan — believing that Death only works at night, they decide to keep refilling his coffee cup until dawn comes, at which point he would have to leave without their grandmother. Again we are struck by the ordinariness of Death, for what can be more ordinary — and life-loving, even — than to enjoy a cup of coffee at the kitchen table?

But Death eventually curls his bony hand over the cup to signal that the time has come. Leah reaches her own tiny hand, taking his in hers, and beseeches him not to take their darling grandmother. Why, she insists, does grandma have to die?

Death is once more overcome with kindness and compassion for the children, so he decides to answer Leah’s question with a story, hoping it would help them understand why dying is natural and necessary.

He tells them of two brothers named Sorrow and Grief, who lived in a somber valley and went about their days “slowly and heavily” because they never looked up, because “they never saw through the shadows on the tops of the hills.” Beyond those shadows, Death tells the kids, lived two sisters, Joy and Delight.

Death tells the kids:

It is the same with life and death… What would life be worth if there were no death? Who would enjoy the sun if it never rained? Who would yearn for the day if there were no night?

Something difficult and beautiful has sunk in. When death finally gets up from the table to head upstairs, the youngest boy is moved to stop him — but his older brother puts a rueful hand on his shoulder and gently discourages him. Moments later, the children heard the upstairs window open. Then, in a voice somewhere between a cry and a whisper, Death said, “Fly, Soul. Fly, fly away.”

The curtains were blowing in the gentle morning breeze. Looking at the children, Death said quietly, “Cry, Heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life.”

Then he was gone.

Ever after, whenever the children opened a window, they would think of their grandmother.  And when the breeze caressed their faces, they could feel her touch.

From my mom to us all:

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.


Mom, you always loved Winnie the Pooh and I think he said it best

How lucky I am to have [had] something that makes saying goodbye so hard



*mp* lesson #2

The other day my Facebook status was:

I keep asking myself what I should be learning from this experience. There is no way something as raw and as painful as this doesn’t leave us a little wiser with a new life lesson

What I’ve learnt in the last few days is humility and empathy – not everything is about me and I need to understand that everyone affected is grieving differently. I must let my ego move aside and approach things without a chip on my shoulder. No one (in my family) is out to offend or upset me, we’re all just doing our best to survive and trying to get through this, somehow

With my mom very suddenly dying on me, my world has fallen down around me and my heart lies shattered. There are days, no minutes or hours, where I feel ok. And then out of nowhere I’ll remember her face after she had died. There is no way to describe the colour or the icy touch. 

I can’t explain the wanting to see her and the scary idea of seeing a dead body. And then seeing the body and suddenly knowing that the person is no longer there. The body lying there, half covered with a sheet, is literally a shell. 

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling fine.  I wasn’t too fragile and I sat doing some work. As the day carried on I started feeling worse and worse. By 6pm all I could do to not kill someone or myself, was go for a walk. On my own. No cellphone. Nothing. I just needed to walk. But then I wanted to speak to someone. Anyone. I wanted someone to ask me if I was ok, and be fine with me screaming or whispering “ I’m not fine!”

Which brings me to lesson #2. Since my mom left I have been on my own. Alone. Except for three days. The day of her memorial. The day a friend popped by with flowers. Her mom died a few years back and her dad’s very sick at the moment, so she’s been there, done that and almost knew what I needed. And then on Sunday I met up with three sisters, girls I had known from my childhood. Forgive me for not knowing exact ages, but one is 50ish, the other I would say is in her 40s and the youngest, in her 30s. The youngest is my mom’s godchild. Over all these years they’ve stayed in touch with my parents, mostly my mom. 

They’ve lost their mom and dad in a short space of time, and at the service, when people were sitting sipping tea, I sat with them and remembered life in Hammond Road. And we laughed. And laughed. We wept over stories about our parents and the stupid things we had gotten up to. We howled at our moms’ mannerisms and our dads’ standard responses. I even saw my dad laughing, which for that day (or ever) is a very rare sight.

We created a whatsapp group and have met up once since. They’ve kept me sane. You’ll notice a few things when a tragedy happens. I’ve noticed that I’m not close to my sisters in law at all. I’ve also realized I’m not close to my brothers either. Not once have we sat as a family and laughed or cried. My mom was that invisible thread that kept us together and now, well now we’re not held together by anything. 

Back to lesson #2. People are scared of death. Not Death as in the proper noun. That’s a given. But people aren’t comfortable being around someone who has lost a special person. And I say this without judgement. Because I am, was, possibly still am, one of those people. 

As a rule I don’t attend funerals. I’m scared Death (the proper noun) sees me and thinks “oooooooh that one looks good. I think I’ll come for her next!” And I’m uncomfortable around sadness. I don’t know whether I should say something, say nothing, put my arms around them, cry, pretend nothing’s happened and talk about the weather. 

A friend of mine summed it up perfectly in a whatsapp:

Contrary to popular belief, misery does like company. I would love to see a friend, have a coffee and a chat. And have that person be ok with whatever emotions wash over me. To not be awkward with my grief. To not sqirm around in their chair as if their g-string’s caught up their ass. 

I want someone to not take offense when I say I don’t feel like meeting up but at the same time not thinking “oh fukkit! Now what?” when I say I’d like to. My mom died. I haven’t. 

So the lesson I’ve learned is to not hide away from Death or death. To not be scared to spend time with somebody who’s lost someone. Once again it’s about the ego, isn’t it? It’s about putting my feelings, my discomfort, aside for an hour or two and being an ear, a shoulder, a friend, a whatever-they-need-me-to-be. It’s about reaching out at a time I feel like it’s the last thing somebody needs or wants…