Dr Miles Munroe said: “The value of life is not in its duration, but in its donation. You are not important because of how long you live. You are important because of how effective you live.” One of your students called me with the news that she achieved 90% for an assignment in her narrative studies. The two of you dreamt together about developing training material to uplift community leaders. She says of you: André’s motivation and how he approached things left a permanent imprint on my life. I am so glad he was my teacher.
Indeed, my Beloved, the value of your life can be measured in the effectivity of its donation and impact on others.
As a family we all seem to be in a season of transition and relocation. Githa and Simon are moving to Pretoria in three weeks and Danica and Sean are considering moving to a more spacious place. I felt uncomfortable not knowing where I will live from January onwards. I found comfort in the knowledge that God knew my address. Acts 17:26 “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Being a woman of action, I embrace the idea of being sent as a spy to my own promised land at the sea, as Moses sent out spies to explore Canaan.
Booking accommodation is a pain. I still prefer to talk to a person and not send messages on the internet. I ask my friend Marilize for a contact number of someone with self-catering accommodation and end up finding a resting place for my feet with Linzi and Nico.
The first place I went to view in my search for a new home leaves me horrified. The neighbours can see into the main bedroom from their double storey house next door. The garden is a postage stamp and the rental fee would murder my monthly income. That night I am so angry at you, my Beloved, for putting me in such a predicament of forced choices. How could YOU, of all people, make such a choice? How could you alienate yourself so completely from the values according to which you lived? I have to remind myself that suicide is not a rational decision. That we are frail human beings and that despair was often your portion. How desolate the darkness of your soul must have been in that moment when you reached your limit? Once again I choose to forgive you. I find a place the next day. A little doll’s house that can be my sanctuary for my new season. That night I start thinking about which furniture will fit into my new smaller space. It dawns on me that it is time for our children to receive their earthly inheritance in furniture. We spoke about it in broad terms, my Beloved, but now the decisions are my neck-spasm-reality. Sleep has eloped for the night. I drive home the next day. It makes no sense to stay for the last day of my booking. I am counting my toes and arriving at the same total every time. At home I can start with the next task at hand: the inventory for the moving company. I spend the afternoon sending the children photos of each item, allocating their portion, and asking for a choice here and there. This is what people do when they go to live in an old-age home, my Beloved. I always believed in the adage of travelling light. I now understand that my desire was mostly for less emotional baggage. I am not yet ready to let go of half of my earthly goods. And yes, I know I cannot pack a Venter trailer and take my things along to heaven. For that I have no desire. But now, when I am only 61 years young? This was not part of the plan. This is so unfair, my Beloved.
The yellowwood chest was painted green and stood on the stoep of our farm house. It was a convenient storage space and I loved standing next to my mother when she opened the lid from its hook. It was a space of adventure – something I was not allowed to open on my own. My mum later had the paint stripped to reveal the beauty of the wood. When my mother moved into the old-age home and we moved into our first parish, it became part of my inheritance. For 33 years that chest lived in my daily space. There is the book shelve with glass doors. As a child I spent many afternoons sitting cross-legged in front of it. I would look for a book and start reading one, being carried away into another world until my mother called on me to do a chore. In my childhood home there was a coffee table with four side tables that fitted neatly underneath. When my parents received visitors on a Sunday afternoon, I could carry these side tables and put it next to a chair for the guest to put their tea cup on while my mother was serving cake. My new doll’s house does not have an entrance hall. In the tiny corridor there will not be space for the baking chest that has always been in our foyer. It is now the platform for our family portraits and my grandmother’s precious blue Delft plate.
I am not a sentimental woman. Over the years I had to man up and be strong to cope with the impact of your chronic depression. As a social worker I know that we all need survival mechanisms. Denial is such a mechanism that helps us to carry on regardless and shelve things for now, so we can keep our energy available for what else is important at this moment. Denial is a place where we store a loss, until we are ready to safely deal with it. I have no storage space for the luxury of denial today. I sit down and weep until I have no tears left. It is the end of an era. Life, as I knew it, has ended with your death. You will not be a part of my future, my Beloved. You will not know the joy of walking down the street in the morning at Yzerfontein to buy your newspaper from the small café. We will not have coffee together on this new stoep that looks out on the veld and eat the amazing Portuguese milk tarts from the bakery around the corner. I will do that on my own. It is the end of our era together. I find a copy of an old will dated 2005. We attached a letter to it that says: Beloved Danica and Githa, our wish is that you will know that the love we shared as a family in our relationship with God and each other, is your most important inheritance.
I choose once again, my Beloved, not to remember you by your last deed, but to remember you by how you donated your being to be present in the suffering of others.
Henry Nouwen said: “Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.” We will live forward from the foundation and memories of our time together. We are prisoners of hope living in the safe fortress of our God’s presence in the pain of our grief. An era in our family’s life has ended. A new chapter is beginning.