Posts Tagged "death"

Goodbye Little Brother…

Posted by on May 3, 2024 in Writings

Goodbye Little Brother…

Today, 3 weeks ago, I received the news that my stepbrother, Henrico, had passed away. He had been battling with addiction and illness for a number of years – and when I received this news, there was relief and there was sadness. Death is so final. Henrico, or Rico as we called him,  came into my life, through my stepfather Hendrik, the father of my two younger sisters, Gypsy and Jasmin. We had always been a family of girls – my mother Carol, my sister Kate and I, with our father playing a long distance and more peripheral role. Rico had been born before my mother entered into a relationship with his father. Rico was small and he was mischievous, a very boisterous bundle of energy in what had heretofore been a very feminine household with 4 daughters. He moved between his mother’s home and ours – neither space was very stable for him I believe. I do remember him jumping onto my bed in the early hours to wake me (he was about 3 or 4 and I was a grumpy teen – this was a ritual I did not enjoy although I do look at it with fondness now). A memory that warmed my heart was the day he jumped into my lap, hugged me tightly and asked me to be his godmother… Rico was in the car that killed my mother, his father and our sister Gypsy. He spent the next couple of weeks in a coma at Tygerberg Hospital, muttering and calling their names. He was unconscious but he knew… By the time he awoke, the funeral had passed and he was left shocked and confused. The rest of us had grieved these deaths together and he was left to process this all on his own. With a broken leg. That accident was earth shattering and when I look back 17 years, I see how this heart breaking event scattered those of us affected by the wind. 17 years later, I am helping to carry Rico’s coffin to his grave. It is small and it is light. The church ladies are clapping and singing. We each take turns to cover his coffin with sand and, once covered, we celebrate his life by decorating his grave with an abundance of flowers. Goodbye Little Brother… We love you Goodbye Little Brother… We thank you I am grateful. 17 years ago, the accident shattered my family.  17 years later, it feels like Henrico’s death and funeral brought some healing as we all gathered again to say goodbye. I am relieved. Henrico was suffering. His body is free of that turmoil now. I wish him peace. I am sad. Death is so...

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Birth and Death

Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Writings

Birth and Death

Birth and Death. Two words we do not like to see together. To put them together makes us feel uncomfortable. Birth is about life. The beginning and emergence of a new existence. It is about newness. The beginning. What do we associate with birth? Love. Light. Joy. Life. A new beginning. Who wants to think about death at a time of birth? Death is about illness and sadness and loss. It does not evoke beauty and joy. It is something we try to avoid. Death is so final. It is something we do not wish to associate with birth. But in my experience, birth and death seem infinitely intertwined. The feelings the two evoke are so similar. One brings intense sadness and a sense of loss, and the other brings intense joy, but both have the same underlying feeling of being wide open and vulnerable and confused. Both need nurturing and safety. Both bring on a sense of being in an altered state, a state of being in touch with something greater and more infinite than ourselves. Both bring things into perspective, make clear what is important, valuable, precious to us. Both make life incredibly tangible and real. This week it will be eight years since my mother, my sister, and my stepfather were all killed in a car accident. When I lost so many members of my family, the feelings that came up, were so very similar to the times when I had given birth. The intense pain, the vulnerability and the incredible lightness and insight into the life process. And the feeling of being on the threshold of something… My friend Caitlyn visited me some time after the accident, and while I lay curled up on my sofa feeling sad, she folded laundry and brought me soup. Some time later, she told me that she had been at a loss as to what to do in that situation. She drew on her experience of attending births and thought that she would do what she would do for someone who had just given birth. I remember how grounding and comforting the familiarity of that simple gesture was. It did not take away the rawness of the pain I was experiencing, but it did provide a safe space for me to experience it in. These days, I spend a lot of time attending births. I wipe sweaty brows with a cool cloth, I breathe with women, I hold them, I move with them. I am there. I am witness to this incredibly vulnerable state, this time that can reach a point where it feels like she is looking death in the face. I am there to create a feeling of safety, to remind them that they are going through this process to bring forth...

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An’ Nooi’s Birth Story

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 in Writings

An’ Nooi’s Birth Story

Before my mother began attending the births of the local women on our farm, a woman in labour would be driven to Ceres Provincial hospital to give birth. This is the story of a birth which took place one year on Christmas Eve. I must warn you that this is not a happy birth story. * It was the night before Christmas and the house was dark. There was a soft tap tap tapping on the window. Chaka the dog jumped up from his designated place at the foot of the bed and growled. Baas (my stepfather and a paranoid sleeper) sat bolt upright and jerked towards the window behind him. There was a candle burning softly on the window sill. Oom (Uncle) Jiems was peering in through the window, his face pressed right against it, his breath, steaming it up. My mother, Carol, with my sleeping sister Gypsy at her breast, lay still. My mother was awake now but she did not stir, not wanting to wake her baby. Baas, irritated, opened the latch and tried to swing open the window but the drunken man outside continued to press his face against the window, looking in; not seeing Baas. Baas quietly motioned for Jiems to move, waving his hand. Jiems noticed him and stumbled from the window, falling over. Poepdronk (literal translation: fart-drunk; meaning: incredibly drunk). Baas pushed the window open and peered through the window at the man sitting drunk in a bed of African marigolds. “Wat issit?” (“What is it?”) Baas hissed. “Baas, Nooi is besig om the kraam. Die baba kom vanaand,” (“Baas, Nooi is in labour. The baby is coming tonight.”) Jiems mumbled.   Jiems looked dizzy and confused, his large bottom lip protruding. This was not the confusion of a first-time father though. This man was well into his fifties and already had three teenage daughters and one grandchild. This was the confusion of someone who was hopelessly and helplessly inebriated. Baas sighed, closed the window and dragged himself out of the comfort of the king-size bed. He pulled on a T-shirt (he always slept in his jeans) and slipped his feet into his mud-caked Dakotas. He fumbled for his cigarettes (Gunston, extra strong ) and lit one, then coughed. He was awake now and wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. He looked at my mother who was watching him, her head propped up on one arm. He could see in her eyes that she was wondering what he was going to do.  Baas coughed and left the room, his cigarette cupped in his left hand, gangster-style. My mother gently lifted Gypsy’s head from her arm and turned my baby sister onto her tummy and covered her well. My mother gave the little girl child’s face a little stroke. Then Carol buttoned up the front of her nightie and got out of bed. She pulled on her brown striped towelling dressing gown. My mother lifted  the candle from the windowsill, yawned and then made her way to the kitchen. The kitchen door was open. Baas was outside talking to Jiems. She could hear their low mumbling. Men’s voices. My mother filled the aluminium kettle with water and lit the gas stove. Then she took three cups from the cupboard and filled each one with two teaspoons of Ricoffy and sugar and milk. Then she stood next to the gas stove and waited for the kettle to begin steaming and rattling.  Baas came back inside, rubbing his hands. Jiems was gone. Jiems was gone. The coffee was not ready yet. Baas walked past my mother and through to...

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