Today a mother buried a child. Sitting in the rows behind her In the church, I watch her; Straight back. Head covered. Blank face. Dignified sadness that she carries.
As person after person Speak words of comfort, I wonder if it reaches her Or If the umbrella of grief is so Overwhelmingly broad, That nothing can penetrate it.
Today a mother said goodbye To her child; An unnatural and unreal occurrence. The small precious box on display Holding everything that she holds dear. And as I sit behind her, Head bowed, Hair undone And tear-stained face I cry the tearsthat this mother No longer can.
When I was nine months old my father was brutally murdered by an Apartheid assassin by the name of Eugene De Kock, by the time I was nine, a book had been published titled Into the Heart of DarknessbyJacques Pauw. Every time a we would have guests my mom would ask me to go get this book.
I knew two things about this book; one was that the man who killed my father was on the cover and the other was that a picture of my dad was in the book. Out of pure curiosity on yet another day my mom had sent me to get a copy of the book and rushing me out of the room, I decided to eavesdrop on what page she told our guests to turn to. I quickly ran to scribble it down and awaited my opportunity to be home alone so I could take a look.
My opportunity came a lot faster than I anticipated. As my mom reversed out of the yard, I quickly ran to the closet where the book stayed, grabbed it and sat at the edge of my mom’s bed, my feet dangling off the edge. Excitedly I turned to the page number and what I saw sent shivers down my spine and brought fearful tears to my eyes. On that dreadful page my young eyes were met with a picture of my dad’s charred body clutching a steering wheel with his eyes protruding.
I quickly shut the book, threw it at the back of the cupboard and ran to my bedroom to silentlysob, knowing I would never be able to tell my mother what I had saw. In the years that followed with that image etched in my mind, I became increasingly serious and depressed. By the time I was sixteen, I had been admitted to hospital and the doctor said that my body was killing me and if I didn’t change what I was doing, I was going to die.
That moment was the first time I painfully came to learn that our emotions impact our physiology and whoever or whatever controls your emotions, controls your life. As I slowly undertook the healing journey and fighting back to reclaim my life, I encountered versions of myself that had long been hidden by my trauma.
By the time I was twenty-four, I felt content and as though I had outlived my diagnoses and therefore in the front seat of my life. Until I arrived home one day and my mom said she had received a call from the National Prosecuting Authorities about whether we would like to see Eugene.
My heart sank as the pictures I had gathered over the years flooded back, yet I immediately said yes. knowing that if I didn’t I would regret it for the rest of my life. As the days passed and the rest of my family went back and forth about who would come along with me, I reflected on how many years of my life I had given away to Eugene and he had no idea I even existed and how often we tend to do that. Thinking that the anger we carry inflicts harm on another when in reality, resentment corrodes the vessel that carries it.
CONFRONTING MY PAIN
The day arrived and we headed to Kgosi Mampura Prison where Eugene had been imprisoned. After a short briefing and everyone being situated, Eugene joined us and by some design, I happened to be seated the closest to him, separated only by the priest who was to lead the dialogue. After we were individually introduced, my mom took the lead and asked “Eugene, I want to know what happened to my husband”
Surprisingly forthcoming, he told us in great detail that my father had been identified as a potential troublemaker and radical who was incredibly skilled and brave, along with three other gentleman. Eugene’s team set in an informant into my dad’s camp to create a “false mission” which was simple, since my dad was the most skilled driver, he would transport three men into Nelspruit and go back home. However, as my dad approached the Nelspruit bridge, Eugene and his team started firing at the vehicle.
When Eugene realised from his watch post at the top of the bridge that the car wasn’t stopping, he ran down the bridge and emptied out his magazine cartridge on my dad. When he still saw signs of life, he doused them in fuel and set them alight. As the conversation continued with more questions being asked and answered by Eugene, we got to final remarks.
My family individually stated their forgiveness, until it got to me and I said “Eugene, I want to say I forgive you but before I do, I need to know one thing” He looked at me and said “Anything, what’s that?” I said “Do you forgive yourself?” For the first time during our encounter, he became uneasy and looked around the room, avoiding eye contact with me. When he looked back, he wiped the side of his eye and said “anytime a family walks in here that’s one thing I hope they never ask. When you have done the things I have done, how do you forgive yourself? ”
In that moment I broke down and started sobbing, what surprised me is I wasn’t crying for myself but rather for this human being sitting across from me. When the meeting was dismissed I got up first and walked to Eugene and asked “would you mind if I gave you a hug?”, he looked at me slightly confused, stood up and embraced me and said “I am so sorry for what I have done and your father would have been so proud of the woman you have become”
We went our separate ways and he later received parole.
The lessons I learnt from my encounter was forgiveness does not condone or allow one to forget, it simply removes the emotional attachment we hold towards and incident person or thing. When we refuse to forgive, we go into a cycle of re-traumatisation, whereby the initial incident occurred however every time we relive it in our minds, it happens again and again and again, giving it power over our lives. However, when we forgive we allow ourselves to claim back our stories.
We can say this thing happened to me but it is not who I am. Each and everyone of us deserve to be in control of our narrative, if you are still standing and breathing, it simply means that incident that was supposed to break you only served to build you and you have the power to move on with more strength than you had before. Healing may not be easy but trust me when I say it is so worth it
Earlier today: It’s Saturday afternoon, the house is quiet, the wind is howling outside, keeping the sun company. It seems like a good time to reflect on the last year.
I’m braiding my hair and thinking about this time of year. Last year (2020) we lost our mother. It was a Friday and she died in a car on her way to the clinic, my then boyfriend (now husband) right next to her. A shift happened then and a shift is happening now. My husband, sick with Covid-19 and myself, also sick but I haven’t tested for Covid-19 at the time of this post but we’re treating the situation as if I am sick with Covid too. Though I feel strong enough to clean the house and make sure we have something to eat, I still don’t really feel like myself.
All these health issues have done a very good job of distracting me from what day it is. The day my mother died. I’m not feeling incredibly sad or melancholic when I think about it; I feel a sense of peace, maybe even gratitude, that we as a family have been able to make it through the last 12 months in one piece and then some. We had an addition to the family with my niece, we had a wedding and we had the birth of our company. Those are quite huge life milestones. It just goes to show that life really does go on after the death of a loved one, at least if you let it.
Still in the quiet of the house, I wonder to myself, why is it that these shifts or life-changing events seemed to have happened around the same time for the past 2 years and I can’t help but wonder will something else happen next year around this time? I also don’t really want to question why these things are happening and happening in the way they are and around the time they are. I understand that no one truly knows the inner workings of time so I simply want to breath and say, “Thank you Lord” .
Something that has really stood out for me during this time of isolation over the past several days, is the kindness of people; everyone we care about checking in on us and bringing us food. That especially has reminded me of the week when my mother died; everyone brought us food and groceries so that we didn’t still have to worry about that. I’m really grateful to all the people who have come through for us during this time.
With that said, I’d like to share 12 things I’ve learned in the last 12 months since my mother died.
It’s okay not to feel in control.
You can cry whenever and wherever you need to.
Change will always come, don’t fight it.
Nothing ever goes the way we expect or plan, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared.
It’s okay to feel the ‘bad’ feelings; fear, sadness, anger, frustration ect.
You won’t always succeed at everything you take on and that’s okay.
You are allowed to want to be alone.
Grief throws you into an unending spiral of self-confrontation.
Cooking or baking is therapeutic.
Love is all there is. It will get you through your darkest nights and brightest days.
Don’t waste the time you have. You won’t get a refund.
I was looking at myself in the mirror the other day and I didn’t like what I saw. I felt miserable because my clothes didn’t fit right and I realised that I had gained weight. The truth of the matter is, I haven’t been taking care of myself lately; I haven’t been eating properly and I haven’t been giving myself well-deserved self-care.
Growing up, I know we are told not to focus too much on our outer appearance. We are taught that “it’s what inside that counts” I teach my kids the same thing but I’m learning a very important lesson now as an adult that we sometimes forget that it’s what we put inside our bodies that affect our outer appearance. I don’t want to look in the mirror and not like what I see.
I’ve been going through the motions; work, home life, kids and school, working on being a good wife and mother ,and all my other responsibilities but in all of that I’ve neglected myself. I find myself eating more than usual, drinking ample amounts of coffee ,and reaching for chocolate or cake for no reason other than comfort. Feeling sick, nauseous ,and weak has become the norm and my headaches are relentless. The worst part is, I am always and I mean always, tired.
I think the last time I had a proper self-care day was three months ago for our wedding and that wasn’t something I did for myself. Other people did it for me.
Self-care should be something we prioritise often. It should be a part of our lifestyle.
Self care can come in many different ways:
Getting your hair and nails done
Going shopping and buying yourself something that you’ve wanted for some time
Taking a break from work
Going on a short holiday away from your usual surroundings
Taking a break from social media
Spending time by yourself
Spending time in prayer or meditation
All these things can help bring you back toward yourself. We can’t take care of others if we’re not taking care of ourselves. You can’t give from an empty cup.
You’re scraping from the bottom of the barrel and giving yourself and your loved ones, your work ,and your business less than what they deserve. Less than what you deserve.
It’s okay to step back and reflect on your life. You can say no to another project or event. It’s okay to put yourself first. Sometimes, it’s required.
When I was standing before the mirror the other day, I looked around me and the house was a mess. I felt completely overwhelmed by everything that I burst into tears. It was tears of exhaustion. I hardly have the energy to take care of myself let alone the house but somehow I still find myself cleaning and cooking but I’m doing it from an empty cup. I’m scraping from the bottom of the barrel.
Reflecting on all of this has felt like a very honest conversation I’ve had to have with myself about how I’m treating myself and my body, my mind ,and spirit. I want to experience holistic healthand the truth is, the mind, body ,and spirit are all connected. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life. My family and career and all my responsibilities keep my life full and exciting. I see the growth in all the areas of my life, the problem is, I can’t seem to keep up with it.
If I don’t take care of the one, all the others will be out of sync. My family, career ,and business cannot thrive if I am not at my best.
MAKING THE EFFORT
As I said before, self-care has to become a part of my life. It is a daily habit that has to belearned through repetition. I now have to learn to take care of my body and my overall health. I understand now that self-care is simply doing things that will improve my mental state, everything else will flow from there. Below is a great list of how topractice self-care.
Little one, From the womb whence you came, Only to be discarded on the side of the road. Oh, baby! Wrapped in plastic, Near the stench of a filthy rubbish bin. Accompanied not by warm hands and inviting smiles, Instead, you’re surrounded by Rotten food and hungry wolves.
Oh, baby! Your cries drown out the screams As she forces you out, Two months premature. She doesn’t want to remember the day that you were created in a night of heated passion. Your sweet face and soft skin Make her skin crawl.
Oh, baby! She blames you for the loss of his love And punishes you, Gets rid of you, Like yesterday’s trash. A one night stand, Mistaken for a love of a lifetime, Resulting in 9 months of responsibility. A lifetime responsibility.
Oh, baby! Your little body; hands and feet, Blue in the cold night, Unaware of the love that awaits you From a barren mother who craves you Who wishes for you, Prays for you. Your sweet scent, Your ten fingers and Ten toes. Oh, sweetheart Covered in blood, The only tie to your previous life, Is the cord that binds itself around your tiny Neck.
Oh, baby! Please hold on! Someone is coming. Oh, baby! You are wanted and needed. You are a source of joy and laughter. Your precious life is a gift from the heavens. Oh, baby! Please hold on! That yellowed grass patch might be your beginning But It is certainly not your end.
This will be my first Mother’s Day without my mom. In her honour, I’d like to share only 10 of the many lessons I learnt from her.
1. Always ask questions and never accept anything at face value.
My mother always asked questions. When she didn’t understand something, you would have to explain it to her until she understood. She didn’t just accept any old answer and she would dig and dig until it made sense. I remember several occasions when we would be in the bank and she would struggle with one of the bank tellers to explain something to her until she could understand it well enough. It wasn’t always pleasant.
2. Always cook enough food. You never know who will knock at your door.
My mother had this thing about always making sure there was bread in the house. When I asked her about it once, she said you never know who will be coming to your door with an empty stomach or she would say, if someone hungry comes to your door, at least you can give them bread. She loved cooking for her family and she always made more than enough. She loved it when we enjoyed her food (which we always did) and she loved the fellowship it created.
3. Always feed your family before you eat.
Food was my mother’s love language and she always made sure we dished up first before she did. Something else I fondly remember about her was that there was always food left and she would first ask if we wanted it before she ate.
4. Make sure there’s desert on Sundays.
My mom had a sweet tooth all her life and she loved fresh cream cake. It was her philosophy that there had to be cake or some kind of desert on a Sunday after lunch. There would be times when she would sadly say, “I can’t believe there is no cake today” . She would always have some sort of candy or chocolate in her handbag and her grandchildren loved that. She was a fantastic grandmother.
5. Know how to count your money.
My mother was good with math and she always had to make sure she knew exactly where her money was going. Every cent of it. She would use old school calculators and write everything down. She religiously made grocery lists every time she went to the shop and she would do several sums until her books balanced.
6. Keep records of everything.
This was very important to her. My mom wrote everything down. She was always afraid she might forget something. She left behind a big black suitcase with tons of documents in it. Her purse was always full of slips and papers with notes. She would even write down things my kids would say to her during the day so that she can tell it to me when I got off work.
7. Don’t be a push-over.
My mother was not a push-over. She never let anyone walk all over her and on several occasions she would tell me the same. She always told me to stand up for myself and never let people take advantage of me.
8. Always be kind.
My mom was a kind woman. She was always generous, whether with money, food or her time. She would listen to people as they spoke and she always offered advice.
9. Dance at every possible opportunity that you get.
There is this one memory that I’m sure my siblings and I share. It was on a Sunday and we came home from church. When we walked past one of the windows, we saw our mother in the kitchen cooking and dancing while she did. She looked so happy and free and she was in her element. We all just stood there, watching her through the window, dancing. That is one memory I’ll never forget.
10. Don’t sleep in and always make your bed.
The first thing my mother always did when she woke up was make her bed. Before she passed, she was teaching my daughter how to make the bed. I’ll be honest, I’m not as diligent as my mother was with making my bed.
There are many other lessons I learnt from my mother. Lessons she didn’t always know she was teaching me and lessons I didn’t always want to learn at the time.
I often think of the days that I use to perch on your lap And grab you around your neck And kiss your aging cheeks.
I often wonder if I will ever be able to do that again. The chasm between us seems to have become so relentless That I often wonder if we’ll ever be able to cross it.
Mother, ma as I know you, I sometimes think back to when we use to be Best friends, I was the envy of my siblings As you always had my back. Now I look back and see the strays of memories We have left behind.
I see you, you’re getting older. You have a limp And the 60 years that our Father has granted you Is starting to show.
I remember watching you sit At the window in our small flat Writing down random numbers; Maybe it was the dates of the births of all your children, Even the ones you never saw growing up. Or maybe how many times your heart was broken. Or was it the number of times you cried?
Now you don’t count anymore, You just stare ahead, waiting for the End of each day. Maybe the dates and numbers and opportunities That you never had have all lost their meaning.
You turned into a sad and helpless creature Right before my eyes It made me feel sad and helpless for Not knowing how to reach out.
Dear mother, My arrogance and pride has prevented me From coming to you and telling you That I miss your bear-like embrace. It has put a wall up in the Middle of our home As we pass one another During the day Like strangers at night.
We hardly say a word to another And when we do, its Laced with irritations and criticism.
Mother, I am sorry For being too big for my shoes and Forgetting that you too Are leaving shoes that no one Will ever be able to fill.
We are all in different seasons of our lives. It might not be the season you want to be in but right now, it is your season.
It’s the one you need.
Winter doesn’t shy away after the warm months have gone when it’s her turn to wrap us in a cold cocoon.
Autumn doesn’t become sad when the leaves turn from green to yellow to brown.
Spring patiently waits her turn to release her cherry blossoms after months of being in hiding.
This is your time to grow, to plant seeds for the next season.
To sow and to harvest.
You cannot skip it or avoid it.
You can’t get to the next season without getting through your current season.
There is a time for everything.
You cannot watch others bloom when it is their time and be upset because the same thing is not happening to you at that very moment.
Nothing in nature works that way; no flower keeps watch over another flower.
It simply blooms.
When its time has come, its petals fall to the ground and it does so with grace and elegance.
Its petals do not force their way back onto the stem.
Bloom when it is your time.
A flower grows where it is planted, where it is born, between weeds or between concrete.
It makes its surroundings beautiful.
Make your surroundings beautiful.
You have a purpose now, right where you are. No matter the season.
Whether your current season is five days, ten weeks, or 15 years, you need to submit and commit yourself to it.
If you believe God placed you here, know that it was with a purpose in mind.
Everything happens for a reason.
The hard part is being patient.
Kimberly is a writer, blogger and poet. She is married to musician Jared Fray and they live in Johannesburg, South Africa with their two children. Kimberly has had several of her poems published in poetry journals and also works as a news producer.