Tag Archive | family

The Grief That Lies Beneath Part 1


“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die…A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1 – 2,4

11 November 2012, a day that I am far from forgetting. It started off like any other Sunday morning, rushed around the house getting ready for church and tried not to be late once again. I was happy and excited about a new outfit that I was wearing; black and white floral knee-length dress, pale blue cardigan teamed with peach and pale blue wedges and matching bag. I remember all too well because I had found the shoes and bag the day before and I was all too excited to wear an outfit so bright and perfectly coordinated to church. For the first time in about ten months I was wearing make up to church. I had decided earlier in the year to stop after I was moved to tears the one day and looked like a hot mess! I don’t know whether it was the new outfit that inspired me to try again, but for some reason I did on that day. I met my mom and aunt in the kitchen as I was walking out and they complimented me on how pretty I looked. I giggled and did a little twirl at my mom’s request before grabbing my bag and heading out the door. I thought of going to say bye to my gran but thought against it because I was scared to wake her up. Well that’s what I told myself but when I thought about it later, I just wanted to avoid getting into any argument about me going to church. I have wished virtually everyday in the past five and a half months that I would have gone in to see her, had I known….

Much of what happened from the time I left home at about 7:30am till the middle of the second service at 11:30 remains a blur. I just remember my one friend saying she hasn’t seen me this happy and relaxed in a long time. I also remember another telling me about how he senses that I am coming into a season of great blessing in my life but just as God starts to shower me with blessings, I step away from underneath the downpour. To this day I have never been able to decipher that message and it doesn’t help that he didn’t want to explain it to me either. For reasons that only made sense afterwards, I was a bit agitated that day and I kept my phone on during church which was out of character. In the middle of the service I felt it vibrate, I reached into my bag for it and I froze when I read my cousin’s BBM message: “Gran is gone.” With as much composure as I could muster, I showed my phone to my friend sitting next to me and started gathering my things and walking out trying not to cause too much disruption. It wasn’t until I was outside waiting for a friend to drive me home that I started crying. I cried all the way home and my heart felt like it was being ripped out of my chest. I was hit by guilt of not being home with her harder than grief that she was gone.

When I made it home I was greeted at the gate by our helper who told me to stop crying, my gran’s not dead they’ve just taken her to the hospital. Somehow I didn’t believe her but I tried my best to stop crying and I went into my room and I called my other cousin to ask him what’s going on and he said no they’ve taken my gran to the hospital with my mom and aunt. I distinctly remember asking if she was alive and him saying yes. I asked which hospital and told him I was on my way to them. I was barely out of the gate when he called me back to tell me to go back home, my gran was gone. A fresh batch of tears flooded my face from nowhere and I didn’t stop crying until my mom, aunt and cousin eventually came home from the hospital, their screams and cries said all I needed to know and confirmed that yes, this was very real, my last surviving grandparent was finally gone.

In the hours that followed I kept crying and searching for clues of what I had missed. I was devastated as I recalled my last conversation with her on Friday night. I had come home from work and walked into the room to find her sitting up on the bed, looking well and in high spirits. I was pleasantly surprised and I said to her: “Wow you look so much better!” and we had a little laugh about it. Little did I know that those would be my last conversation with her! Saturday I was out shopping and hanging out with my friends and when I got home I walked into the room to check on her she was sleeping. I took a nap and by the time I woke up again the rest of my family was sleeping so thought it best not to check up on her lest I woke her up.

I’ve tried to process her death and make sense of why I am consumed with grief, why when I think I am out of the woods then it hits me all over again. It doesn’t make sense because my three grandparents all passed away when I was old enough to understand what was going so she wasn’t the first grandparent I had lost. Death was nothing new to me because just a month before on October 10, my cousin who was just two months older than me passed away after a very short illness. Her death shouldn’t have been a surprise to me because for starters, as so many people were kind enough to point out, she was in her 80s and therefore old and expected to die. Secondly she had been ill for a few months and had been living with us for about three months leading up to her death. As I sit here remembering all the times my heart would jump to my throat if my mother phoned me while I was at work or when I tip toed into her room in the mornings before I went to work or the evenings when I came back, I realise that I had known that her time was near. Why did it hurt so badly then when it finally happened? Why does it still hurt so badly then as if it was a sudden death that no one could have foreseen?

I feel I am long way from recovering and healing from the loss of my gran but I am somewhat consoled when I look back at how far I have come and have made a few discoveries on I have struggled more with this loss than any other loss. Firstly, the grief and regret of not saying good-bye to her and realising that I will never get a chance to do that still has a very firm grip on my heart. Secondly, I am still carrying the burden of words said to and about me leading up to and after her death.

For some reason it is easier for me to believe that I would feel much better had I been home that Sunday and not been at church rather than to accept that I was exactly where I should have been and that my Father who knows me better than I know myself knew that I wasn’t strong enough to see her life end like that. I will always remember my gran as a woman of great strength and courage. My grandfather passed away when I was eight years old and so she spent the last twenty years of her life on her own. Although my mom and aunt helped her out here and there, she always wanted to remain independent and she sewed and sold what she sewed to supplement her pension money and provide for herself. She never wanted to feel like a burden on anyone and was always strong and full of so much wisdom. To me she was a shining example of a Psalm 31 woman. So how could a force like that be gone so easily?

Truth be told looking back she really did put up a fight. From my mother’s accounts and her speech at both the wake and funeral, I came to realise just how much pain my gran had been in in those final months. So maybe I was just never meant to see her in her weakened state so that I always remembered her for the strong woman she was? Maybe God knew I was not strong enough and so shielded me from it all? Was that how my family had justified in their minds them not telling me that they had been up since 3am with my grandmother and that she was in a bad state when I left for church that morning? Is that how they had justified not calling me to tell me what happened and tell me to come home and yet others called? And still, despite all this, my mother was still able to say to me just hours after her death that I should have been at home, I shouldn’t have left that morning and it is those words that have imprisoned for months, unable to find absolution no matter how much I rationalised, prayed or talked about it.

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Life Comes Full Circle


“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.” ~Author Unknown

In life there are no guarantees…You’ll never know unless you try…It’s better to try than live with regret…What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. All clichés that gained their status because people like me needed to be told the same thing over and over again to spur them into making some sort of decision. Despite me knowing that nothing is more uncertain than life itself, I search for guarantees when making a decision. Even though I know that trying your hand at something with the threat of failing is better than never having tried at all, I sit terrified at the thought of venturing outside my comfort zone. All the while forgetting that this too was once a vague dream that I never thought possible. Forgetting that my life has been filled with leaps of faith that not only worked out just fine, but also brought me some of the greatest milestones in my life. Knowing all I know, why then is it so hard to make a decision and stick with it?

Up until now I have never really thought about it feels like and whether you see it ahead of time when your life is coming back full circle. A picture of an athlete running on a track appears in my mind and I wonder, were it for the markings that demarcate the start and finish line would he know when he has completed a full circle? Would he know he has run the distance he is required to run or would he just keep running until he wore himself out? As I sit thinking of my life and routes that lie ahead, I wonder what more needs to be done to make it clear that I need to stop running. My legs are weary, they feel like they will give in at any minute now, I know I have run the best race I could have run, I know up ahead lies the finishing point, besides a physical barricade to stop me from running further what more am I looking for?

This time last year an ongoing debate raged in my mind about whether making the move to Scotland, and leaving behind all that was familiar to me, was the right thing to do. Similar to where I stand right now, my mind was almost made up but the doubt still loomed and everything within me trembled at the thought of the journey that lay ahead. How could I not tremble? Up until last August I did not even own a passport let alone had experience of setting foot on any soil beyond the borders of South Africa. Even though I had applied for a job here and things looked promising, I still found it hard to believe that I was going to end up here. It didn’t help matters much that the process was riddled with problems and I ended up only arriving here in December as opposed to September as originally planned.

A year later, here I sit with yet another battle raging in my mind bearing an uncanny resemblance to “The Battle of 2010”. Similar to last year, I am unsettled in my life and I feel I have lost my bearings. As much as it makes me sad to say this but I really do not feel like I belong here, I belong back in South Africa, among my own people. Which all seems somewhat strange to me because I had the same feeling of not belonging in South Africa a year ago. As much as people would like to lead me to believe that this should all be written off as random ramblings of a schizophrenic mind, I have enough faith in my God-given senses to know better. Do I listen to the part of me that says going back is the right thing to do, it will bring me peace and reunite me with the life I built for twenty-five years? Do I silence these thoughts and listen to the part of me that says I am making the wrong career move, I am giving up a great opportunity and all I am is just being a quitter right now?

While it might be true that I have not accomplished all that I had set out to accomplish by coming here, I feel I have done enough to earn an A for effort! Whilst I have not progressed up the ladder as planned nor have I travelled around Europe, as was my primary non-work goal when I moved here, I still feel it is time for me to go home. It brings me great sadness to know that I did not do these things and it makes me feel like I have let not only myself down, but also my supporters who were standing on the sidelines cheering me on. While at times it feels like I am quitting on this race simply because my legs are cramping and I’m just too tired to attempt taking another step, I know in my heart this is not the case. Why then is my heart riddled with guilt? Why is my heart so sore at the thought of giving this up?

Truth be told, I do not think there is much that I would be giving up by returning home. I would incur a lot of unbudgeted costs yes, but to me the costs to my heart and soul are way higher by staying here. I am a fragment of the woman I used to be, yet two or three sizes heavier. I cannot remember the last time I went to church, an activity which used to be the centre of my life. I walk around numb because after months of suppression my tearducts have staged a protest and refuse to work. I long for the embrace that let’s me know that everything is ok, that I can cry and be vulnerable it’s ok. I have no one who allows me that in that country. I might have more than I did when I was in South Africa but life feels emptier than it has ever been.

I will not lie and say being here is not a fantastic opportunity because it is. If it wasn’t I would not be torn by giving it up. We often hear people say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” In as much as I agree with this, I also think there comes a point when the hardships that you go through only succeed in making you hardened. There also comes a point where you need to stand up and say enough is enough, I refuse to go through this again. Let’s face it, we can only keep growing stronger to a limited point and after that what didn’t kill you will eventually kill you. The human body was never designed to be immortal and I think we tend to forget that at times. Which makes me wonder then; what good will a brilliant CV do for me when I am dead?

Knowing all I know, having rationalised, gone back and forth and held numerous discussions with numerous people on either side of the ocean, why does this whole situation still seem so hard? Why am I filled with so much doubt? Why do I still feel like I’m looking for affirmation that I am not messing up my life even further?

I would be naive if I believed that the decision would be easy from this point on. It would certainly show that I have no understanding for my own character if I thought I would stop doubting myself now that I have processed and laid out my thought process because let’s face it, that is not about to happen. At this point all I can do to silence voices in my head is just pray. Pray that my heart is in line with God’s will for my life and I will not be shamed in His eyes by the path I choose to follow.

Just God and I


Sitting staring at the cursor flickering on the screen, I can’t help but feel a little bit of anxiety over what I am about to do. It’s been over two months since my last blog. As I typed that I could hear the opening lines to a Catholic confession in my head. I must say, I have been living a lot in my own head the past two months all with good reason though. So here’s what you’ve missed while I’ve been away….

I moved to Edinburgh just over six weeks ago, left my family, friends and all that is familiar to me to embark on my greatest adventure yet. I was in London for a week seven weeks ago, that’s where I landed when I came across. I instantly fell in love with the city on  my first day there, not to say I don’t love EDI because I do, I’m just not too sure I’m in love with it…sorry baby, I hope we can still work things out, most importantly I hope you’ll let me stay.

I started my job which has turned out to be not what I expected and I find myself thinking, “Really God, like really? This is why You shipped me all the way  across the  globe?” Then of course I give my ritualistic, Oscar nomination deserving  stomping and screaming performance (in my head, told you I’ve been living in my head). He, not at all moved by the rerun of the show that has been playing since I was four and I’d come home to find my peaceful kingdom usurped my screaming doll-like creature, just glances over His shoulder, chuckling to Himself and then somewhere in the middle of my hissy fit He says to me, “Go ahead kiddo, just remember that it’s just you and Me out here and you’re not going anywhere until we’re done!”

Being alone is something that I thought I was accustomed to and I thought I was cool with and naturally as with most things I smugly think I’m right about, I was wrong! I was reminded how wrong I was on my first solo Christmas. A couple of days later when I spent my first solo New Years I was reminded yet again that I was not built to be alone. Christmas day I spent cowered away in the darkness of my temporary accommodation because I did not want to be the only sad lonely sod in church or any other public space without friends and family. So I watched Christmas movies that I had seen more times than I can remember, slept, cried and in the evening finally decided that a hunger strike was not going to miraculously bring my family all the way from South Africa. New Years Eve was a little better, I dragged myself out my flat(by now I had found my own cozy place) did a little shopping and went to a church service just after 11pm. It was beautiful and moving and I was glad I went. The church I went to is right at the foot of the castle which, I didn’t realise until it started, was the best place you could be to view the Hogmanay fireworks display. Wow! What a beautiful scene it was. As I stood there I felt a quiet reassurance that I was where I was supposed to be. Which I don’t doubt by the way but must He make it so hard?

In all fairness, I must say though that He has provided for me far more that I deserve and I live comfortably and don’t really long for anything. Well except for companionship and to see my family and friends again. Though I moan like I have been exiled here, in truth I will see them in about three months time but it feels like forever. People keep saying to me I will be alright as soon as I make friends. My polite response to those people is it’s hard to make friends, real friends like the type of friends I want to have when almost every social gathering revolves around drinking. I have been invited to more drinks gatherings than I have been my entire life since I have been here. That for me has been the biggest shock to the system….more than the temperature that is yet to venture anywhere higher than 10 degrees celsius. My not so polite response? You move to a country where you don’t know a single soul and then you can come preach to me about making an effort to make friends! What do you want me to do? Get all dressed up and go sit at the nearest pub(I should mention I live within a 30 second walk of three) and ask people there if they would like to make friends with the lonely black girl?

While on the topic, that has been another culture shock point for me…being acutely aware that I am black! I’m the only black person I have seen in the past 24hours. On a good day, I will see one other black person. On a really good day two. It’s always funny how I walk past them and try avoid eye contact because I’m scared I will burst into spontaneous, random conversation.  I must confess however that I did stop to ask one black lady at a bus stop two weeks after I arrived here where she gets products for her hair and where she gets it done because mine was so dry and coarse it actually had static!!! I had spent two weeks looking for even just shampoo for my hair and every time I was in hysteria about my hair my colleagues would say, “But it looks lovely, there’s nothing wrong with it.” My response, in the protective confine of my head of course, was simply, “When your hair looks drier than a desert and you can’t even put a comb through without it looking like you’re shedding hair like a snake shedding skin, then and then only can you tell me there’s nothing wrong with my hair!”

I miss my family, that I can’t stress enough. I miss the craziness, the drama but most of all I miss that annoyed feeling I would get when I was sleeping and I’d be interrupted by my door squeaking open and there one of them would be looking sheepishly at me. Well except for my mother, my mother feels no remorse about waking me up, especially since it’s her house. As I sit watching the flickering cursor yet again, I can feel tears welling up in my eyes because I am painfully aware that I have no one else here. It’s just God and I…