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

What I Did (part 2)

Last Thursday (10/12/2015) I had to do the singularly most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I had to bear witness to my Mother’s passing…her death. Tomorrow I face the next toughest thing…attending her funeral. These are the words I hope to say about her there.

 

Johnny Clegg wrote a song that I think best encapsulates, in a few words, my mother: it is called: 

 The Great Heart

 

The world is full of strange behaviour

Every man has to be his own saviour

I know I can make it on my own if I try

But I’m searching for a great heart to stand me by

Underneath the African sky, a great heart to stand me by

 

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart to hold and keep me by

I’m searching for the spirit of the great heart under African skies

Sometimes I feel that you really know me

Sometimes there’s so much you can show me

 

There’s a highway of stars across the heavens

There’s a whispering song of the wind in the grass

There’s the rolling thunder across the Savanna

A hope and a dream at the edge of the sky

 

And your life is a story like the wind

Your life is a story like the wind

 

My mother was a person who loved and cared too much if that is possible. I believe this is because she had the greatest of hearts. My mother cared and loved more than anybody I know. She had the greatest of hearts, and she had to. Life was rarely kind to her. She had terrible things happen to her but she always kept going and she was always hopeful. She was immensely strong like that. She was a fighter. Testament to that is her 15 year battle with a chronic disease. 15 years!

She was also the most spiritual person I know. She rarely went to church. She believed that you did not need some building or set time to worship because God was always with you. God and my mother had a very personal and special relationship and I believe He is getting a real earful from her now that she is with Him.

I will always remember the times when she was at her happiest though:

At 21 Dawson Road with her boys; Dave and I, and a house full of people; family, children and animals

And then later in her life when she was with her girls on the Bluff, with Kelly and Kiara.

My mother raised three families, and at Dawson Road, virtually an entire neighbourhood. Despite the tragedy of the early death of the love of her life, my father, that house was always full of joy. So those are the memories I will keep in my heart.

I would like to share just one of many with you. When we were children, on Fridays, after a long week of work she would still rush home, cook up a batch of burgers and popcorn and load her car (generally a Volksie Beatle) with us and the neighbourhood children, and off we would go to the local drive-in. On the Fridays that the weather was bad or nothing exciting was showing we would turn our lounge and dining-room into a movie theatre, projecting the movie onto a sheet stretched across one wall. The children would be on pillows and blankets in the front with the adults on chairs at the back with my mother the projector-operator. The house was always packed with children. They all adored her.

I am sure that you all have some special memory of my Mom too. Those are mine.

In conclusion, I want you to know that I think my mom, despite all her suffering, left this world happy. In the end she died surrounded by her 3 children knowing she was loved. She drifted off to sleep with tears in her eyes and did not awake again.

Go and get some well-deserved rest, mom, and I will see you again when it’s my time.

Thank you for everything and say “hi” to Dad..

I love you.

And thank you all for being here to mourn the passing of this great heart, my Mom.

dance4

 

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