The weather today, depicts my mood. We moved to this beautiful part of our country, Underberg/Himeville, Kwa-Zulu Natal, on the 13th of January this year. It was supposed to be the start of our new lives. We came here with so much hope. Although it has been almost a month since we arrived, we have experienced so much loss on a personal level since then.
My husband and I, both drove a car down on the day of the 13th January. He drove my daughter’s van – a story behind that, but for another time – and I drove his truck. In the back of the truck, I also transported our six pets, three dogs and three cats. There’s a story around them too, but in short, after our children started leaving home, they didn’t take their pets with them, so instead of the load getting lighter, we acquired four extra ‘responsibilities’ as I initially had a cat, and my husband, a dog. Anyway, they are our ‘family’ so they had to come with us. To say the journey was eventful and stressful, is an understatement. Both hubby and I pulled loaded trailers behind us. About an hour before the turn off, to the road that leads to our new home town, one of the trailer tyres blew on the trailer I was towing. I was very surprised at how calmly I navigated that dilemma. I managed to maintain control of both the car and the trailer and I called hubby, who was ahead of me at the time. He managed to take a turn-off and come back via a bit of a detour, to at least be with me, although he couldn’t assist. A very kind gentleman, stopped to help us. He changed the tyre in no time, and we were on our way again.
However, earlier on the journey, my mother-in-law called me to share the sad news that my brother-in-law had passed away after a long battle with Covid-19. She also shared that my sister-in-law, who up until the Monday prior, had been managing her illness at home, was now hospitalised and ventilated due to her extremely low saturation. My mother-in-law had been taking care of both of them, and therefore also needed to be tested. At this time, she told me she had tested that morning, but was still awaiting results. Although she is healthy and strong, she is older and we were concerned for both her and my father-in-law, who has multiple co-morbidities. This was such a shock and all the way in the car, stressing about the pets in the back, worrying about the rain which at times, came down so heavily, and thinking about where and how we were going to stay for the night, I couldn’t tap into the peace we originally felt at coming to this beautiful place.
Arriving at the house, it was beginning to rain. Our movers had also arrived, which was such a blessing. All the worries about where we would stay, disappeared and we went into full work-mode, checking items off the list and working with the movers to at least get all the boxes and furniture into the house. At some point, the rain became incessant and we literally had to stop with the move and patiently wait for some sort of respite. I couldn’t even make a cup of coffee to offer the movers. Everything was packed away. Our lovely estate agent, who had sold our home to us, and sorted out the temporary rental, brought over a meal for us so we could have something to eat. Apparently, all the restaurants and take-away places, closed at 8pm and once the movers had left, it was well after that time. Amidst our grief, we felt a flicker of hope as someone who essentially didn’t even know us, reached out with neighbourly love.
That first week in our new, but temporary abode, was a mix of excitement, joy, peace, contentment, pain, loss and grief. My emotions were all over the place. We had arrived late in the afternoon on Wednesday, and on the subsequent Friday, the 15th January, my husband was awakened with a call from our business partner’s brother, from Mozambique. He had called to let us know that my husband’s business partner, long-time friend and ‘brother’, Lourenco, had also succumbed to Covid-19. This call shook us to the core. We are now so much further from Mozambique, away from the business, filled with concerns for Lourenco’s family and the business, but too far away to be of any real help. It was that day too, that our president decided to announce closure of the borders to neighbouring countries. Even if we were able to go to Mozambique, it was now impossible to do so. It was now out of our hands. This proved to be a blessing in some small way, as we had no idea how this would impact our lives. All we could do was now really put our shoulders to the wheel and get stuff done here. Our plan was to start our project in earnest from the coming Monday, the 18th January.
Still reeling from the news of Lourenco’s death, on Saturday morning, we awoke to a message from my sister-in-law’s daughter, our niece, to say that the doctor was going to try to extubate her later that day. They had tried on Thursday, but she became anxious and her saturation plummeted, so they were going to give it another try. We were all becoming excited and hopeful that Lindi would recover. She would be the one in a thousand, that would be able to make it after being ventilated due to Covid-19. She was the one who had us all rooting for her. She was our miracle.
And then came the news of her passing. All the loss, all the deaths, all the pain came flooding over me. It was as if I’d been thumped in the chest by a massive force. I was finding it difficult to breathe. My mind was racing, grasping at glimmers of light amidst the darkness. How could this be? She was only in her forties. Her daughter is still so young. She had the closest relationship out of all the siblings with my in-laws. They lived next door to each other. How were we, as a family, going to move on from this? I still have pockets of grief in my days. I don’t think it ever fully goes away. Grief is like that. It creeps up on you unexpectedly. It doesn’t come gently, but in rushing waves. My heart is still aching, but I make a conscious choice, when this happens, to remember her laughter, the light she carried with her, her optimism, her joy. She really was always a beacon in our family. She was so accepting, so loving and so inclusive. She and her daughter, Chane, had the most beautiful relationship. At times, I find myself thinking how Chane will cope without her Mom, and then I remember who her Mom was. Lindi was strong, and she passed that strength on to her daughter. She was loving, she was kind, she was gentle, she was forgiving and she was caring. When you have a mother who has these pure qualities, you can’t help it. They will rub off on you. I know Chane will be okay. I know her heart is broken, but she is strong, she is kind and she is loving. I long to hold her in a tight hug, but that isn’t possible now. I long to embrace my mother-in-law, who’s heart is broken in pieces. I long for close contact with them. For now, I need to find contentment with the long-distance calls and messages. But we will embrace. We will be able to hug one day again.
My mother-in-law did indeed test positive for Covid-19. The family was on high alert, and we all sent so much love and prayers her way. She has come though it without passing it on to my father-in-law. They are both now in good health. I am filled with gratitude.
Fast-forward to today. My husband has built up a small team of men who are working with him on the house renovation. They are a dynamic, hard-working group of men. Today, I answered the gate for Sizwe, one of those men. He was in quite a state. One thing about living here, is that the local population don’t necessarily speak English, and if they do, they don’t speak it well, so there’s often broken communication. But today, his words were very clear where he told me his baby had died. I could see his pain written on his face. I could feel his trauma. There was no denying what he was trying to explain to me. He couldn’t explain exactly in a way I could understand, what had happened to her. I also managed to find out from him that his baby was 18 years old. And then it hit me! Death really is too real in our lives currently. We are facing it head-on. There is no escaping how awful this all is. I do not know what she died of. I have no idea of she was ill or if she was in an accident. I don’t know if it was Covid. But I do know he’s in pain. I do know he needed compassion and understanding. He came to the house to apologise for not being at work. Apologise! Because he does not have a phone, and could not make the call to inform us. The gravity of his situation overwhelmed me. How does he cope with this loss? He asked for an advance on his wages to be able to pay for the funeral. The amount was so little. How is he able to bury his daughter with that amount of money? I know my husband will never expect him to pay the money back. It’s not about that. It’s about how little he needs. I am shocked and I am also grateful that it will not cost him too much. But I was struck by the huge discrepancies between our lives.
So today, my heart feels heavy. Heavy with the amount of loss so many of us are dealing with at this time. The world is grieving. We are holding our breath together. We are waiting for change, but we know in South Africa, we are not likely to see change this year. Our herd immunity will not come from the vaccine. It will come from those who have contracted Covid-19 and have survived. We can only trust that it will be enough. The world is not a very safe place to be right now. What can we do? How can we be of assistance? How can we make a difference? It’s difficult to breathe. We need to take collective breaths. We need to breathe in health and grace and peace right now. We need to give compassion. We can all do with more of that.