My heart weighs a ton. Today is the day, my Beloved, that I arranged an office funeral to say goodbye to you. It is the end of a season for us as a team. We talked about the pain of the year. The loss of connection we experienced during lockdown. Someone says: “I feel that I have lost my fit.” How true. My puzzle seems to have lost so many of its pieces when I lost you.
We sit around the table in the training room. I pass a bag around and instruct them to take a stone out of it. It was a precious exercise I learnt from my forever-friend, Ina. On each stone a negative word is written in red and its opposite positive word is written on the other side in black. The words on my stone is neglect and praise. It is easy for us to take care of what we value: our home, job, family, car and our possessions. Somehow we do not feature on our own list of ‘valued items’ as we tend to neglect ourselves so easily. Our name is not on our own ‘to-do’ or ‘take care of’ list. It is easy to honour and praise others for the role they play and the difference they make. Can we acknowledge, appreciate and praise ourselves? “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24. Without loving ourselves, as we love our neighbour, we will not consider making the effort to do soul-care. I have to matter to me, otherwise I will neglect myself
I realised that I needed to clean out your office for the new person who will be sitting in your chair. I asked everyone to go into your office and take a painting or picture off the wall or a book from your table and bring it to the training room. Wanda, our office coordinator, wrote down André’s life recipe: hope, forgiveness, friendship, laughter, love for his family and others. She described André’s death as a puzzle piece that got lost from the box: the picture is still beautiful but his piece is missing.
The team made the following remarks about you, my Love:
I say goodbye to André as a scholar. Having read his thesis on the pastoral care of the burn-wound patient, I searched for the imprint of his mentor, Daniel Louw. I only found André and his unique contribution.
There was a tranquillity and peace when you were in his presence. He listened to you with a depth I had not experienced before. In spite of his own struggles, he always reached out to others with a pastoral heart of compassion.
I could not understand why everybody made such a fuss about his thesis until I read it and grasped the standard of excellence of André as a scholar. I thought, ‘I want to become a part of this man’s team.’ He was a brilliant teacher who could teach the whole spectrum of people: from volunteers to academics.
He was such a humble man who treated everybody with dignity. He would listen to the office cleaner with the same respect and sincerity as he would when he was listening to a person with a title.
My Beloved, I am so aware of how often you neglected your self-care in pursuit of your passion, which was the pastoral care and well-being of others. The promise of James 1:12 is now true for you. Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. In finding my fit, I need to take care of my soul. In one of the books about grief that I read, I came upon this statement: “This is a thing many people outside your grief cannot understand: that you have not simply lost one person, at one point in time. You have lost their presence in every aspect of your life. Your future has changed as well as your ‘now’.” Megan Devine
“The moments we think are the end of the story turn out not to be the end, but a new beginning.” Paul David Tripp. My God, would You be the One who fills the gap in my puzzle. As I reshuffle the pieces of my life-puzzle after André’s death, help me to find a new beginning in the end of our story together.