Loss

It’s been a year since I lost my mother and 4 since I lost my little furry buddy, Champers, and to be honest, the loss still weighs heavy upon me. Time, they say, heals all but heal is probably not the right word. I think it is more that one learns to deal with the loss. You suck it up and carry on because that is what life does, it continues. You get dragged along regardless. What is really bothering me at the moment is the suffering my mother endured, especially in the last years of her life. I am so sad for her. Those final months at her side, watching her die, really haunt me.

607_349030341860556_2079854711_n

 

Above: my mom (on far left) with her brother and his wife. 17, I think?

Now you should know that I am a firm believer in the idea that to live is to suffer. God does not want you to be happy, He/She wants you to be strong! Through adversity we grow and become stronger and better for that suffering. That is if we can find meaning in the suffering. Nietzsche said, “he who has a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW”. And I guess in a way this relates to my last post and the “So what?” question. You are alive, so what? Make it count, do something with it that is meaningful. For my mom that was her children, her family and her animals. For me it is about making a difference: animal rights and feminist rights, and of course, making art that makes a difference also. In this way you find meaning in life. Unfortunately our societies have become very much about consumerism and being consumers. Got to have the new iPhone, got to live in the right neighbourhood, go to the right school. Squeeze out more children; spoil them so that they can also become consumers. Buy huge, petrol-guzzling vehicles and tell yourself it is for safety reasons and never mind what we are doing to the environment. Connect on social media and present yourself as a commodity there too, and bitch and whine but do nothing really. For too many people that is their meaning of life and the world as it is today is the result of that. For too many the idea of being a good provider (consumer) is the meaning of life. No! Go do something meaningful! Make a difference!

Below: My Champers.

img-20120428-00356

 

So I guess I like Viktor Frankl’s notion of meaningful grief through the contemplation of one’s beloved. Frankl was a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War where his entire family (apart from one sister) including his wife, were killed. This was how he survived he says; contemplation of one’s beloved. Suffering somehow allows for transcendence when it finds meaning. Existence or experience moves beyond the normal or physical level. Think Mandela or Mother Teresa or even Marina Abramovic. Similarly contemplation of your lost loved ones as well as imagined conversation can lift you up to a spiritual level and help you make sense of the loss. Inside you they will endure. I like that thought. In my contemplative state my mother remains that youthful, exuberant, warm nurturer who loved to have a house full of children, her own and the entire neighbourhood’s. In my contemplation Champers dozes, pressed up alongside me as I read, purring contentedly.

Below: Me lighting candles in preparation of my 40RTY (2016) performance.

api-26

Mom

Just recently one of my posts revolved around the Smith’s and their music, so it is sadly ironic that I find one of their songs stuck in my head, playing on an endless loop. It has been there since Monday (19th October) when I went to visit my mother in icu. It won’t surprise you then to hear that she is in a coma hence that song lodging itself in my traumatized psyche.

“I know – it’s really serious,” the song goes. “There were times when I could have ‘murdered’ her but, you know, I would hate anything to happen to her. NO, I DON’T WANT TO SEE HER. Do you really think she’ll pull through? … WOULD YOU PLEASE LET ME SEE HER! Do you really think she’ll pull through? Let me whisper my last goodbyes. I know – IT’S SERIOUS”.

It is a terrible thing to see her connected to all these machines and containers, all driving her frail little body. I dont quite know what to do. It is hard to imagine my life without her in it because she has been the one constant in it. As a child I shared an incredibly close bond with her, this as a result of my father dying when I was 5 or 6. Told by the adults that I was the “man of the house” now, I took on that role of looking after my mother and providing her companionship as best I could. We had our problems when I completed my military service and the damage that returned with me. There were also issues with the two men she married late in life of whom I disapproved but I always prayed for her happiness and always, always loved her…love her. My mother had a tough life and way more than her fair share of bad things happened to her: being dumped in a children’s home by her mother, having the love of her life die at a young age leaving her alone with 2 small children, a further 2 bad marriages and then the kicker, contracting a chronic illness, emphysema. My heart breaks when I think about it because she deserved better. She truly is one of the most amazing, caring, loving people you could wish to meet.

She rarely stepped foot in a church as an adult but was an extremely spiritual person. She taught me that you do not have to have a building to worship and pray, and you do not need a person to be your intermediary with your Creator. She had a very personal relationship with God and when she leaves this world I can just imagine her giving Him/Her a real earful. He/She will have a lot of explaining to do to my mother about how He/She could let such terrible things happen to her. My mom is a perfect example of bad things happening to good people. Why does that happen when there are so many people who really, really deserve the worst?

I love you, Mom. Please don’t leave us just yet. Come back. I know it is selfish and you are tired and deserve some rest but I need you. Even if it is just for a little while longer.

Below: My mother is on the left with the glasses seated next her brother, Frank, and his wife, Thelma.

607_349030341860556_2079854711_n

RIP: Denley Truebody

On Friday (13th of all days) a dear friend of mine passed away. As everything seems to be done these days, I received the news via electronic media: blackberry messaging, cell text and Facebook. To some extent this allows us to keep life: actual, real, messy, unpleasant LIFE at a manageable, containable, constrainable distance! But at what a price! As I sat in my apartment on Friday evening after receiving the news, I was disturbed by the feeling of numbed detachment that cloaked me! Where were the tears, the sense of loss, all in days passed that where shared in hugging, holding and comforting each other? I could almost sense people all over the world that knew Denley filled with this same almost-detached melancholy and dull ache, all separated by this impersonal place we have created! We should have called each other, raced to each other’s houses or in true Truebods spirit, met at a local pub and shared memories and drinks and tears.

Denley was certainly one of those people: the warm, hands-on,boisterous, in-your-face, loving, giving person who you instantly liked, adored, loved! She was so full of life you could not help but be carried along with her by her sheer force of will and the power of her spirit! I went to a live show at the Barnyard Theatre on Sunday afternoon and as fate would have it it was Icons of the 80’s. If there was ever an icon of the 80’s it was Denley Truebody! This may puzzle those who did not studying teaching at Edgewood College of Education in the mid- to late Eighties. But those who did will certainly agree with me. As I watched these talented artist recreate the 80’s for the audience at the theatre I was transported back to our student days and the College dances in the hall of our student union or the College parties in Mels (the student caffeteria) or Impeys (the local dive in nearby Pinetown). Truebods filled my memories; cigarette in one hand, drink in the other, eyes twinkling, mischievous grin on her face and laugh bubbling up and out from the depths of her belly!

Man, she loved Edgewood and her fellow students and I would not be surprised to hear that she was the same at any school that she taught at! Antiquated phrases like salt of the earth and heart of gold and life of the party spring to mind, but o, they are sooo applicable to her. Denley was anything but superficial though. She saw you and loved you for that person, whoever or whatever you were: jock, nerd, goth, trendy, Christian, boozehound, whatever. I remember her once saying to me: “Andy, you put on this act, like this tough, hardcore, doesn’t give-a-fuck guy but you have the soul of a poet and I see you crying inside”. This was when I had the terrible, breakup with PJ, my great College love, she was there when nobody else was. She supported me when I went through that dumb-ass, youthful, instinctive impulse, that attempt to drink myself stupid to numb the pain and to lash out at everybody. When most people gave up on me she stuck by me and understood and still loved me and

Living large!

Living large!

saw me through a really tough time in my life. For someone to look at you and see your pain and want to help ease it, that’s a special person, someone who gives a damn and does something about it! We should all be like that, like our Denley!

The last time I saw her was at my birthday party some 17 years ago, and she had not changed, and I was glad for it!! We hooked up again, as people do these days, on Facebook and it was how I heard of her illness. I wish I had told her how special she was to me and how much she meant to me and what fond, fond memories I had of her but to be completely honest I never for a moment thought she would not beat this! I thought she would be around forever and that I would still see her one day and we would reminisce about old times. Yesterday at the theatre listening to those old 80’s songs I did just that: I reminisced with my dear friend and said goodbye.

For those who did not know her take this with you then: don’t put off telling those special to you what they mean to you and don’t let the last thing you say to them be something trite or hurtful. Treat each moment with them as if it is your last. Your relationship with them and your life will be that much better for it! And for goodness sake, lets get out from behind these electronic walls we’ve created! We think they keep us in touch but they don’t! Invite an old friend to have coffee with you, have a party and invite someone you have not seen in years or just pick up the phone and say “Hi”!

Rest in peace, Dens. I will miss you.