A friend named Tess

I have a friend. 

She has multiple sclerosis. 

Her name is Tess. 

She tagged me in one of those Facebook picture quotes today. Me specifically. Like I was something special. Or had done something special. 


She sees herself as broken. And as an elephant apparently. Cause I am sure as hell the tiny doggo.

The thing is though Tessie… Sometimes, there is no lesson to be learnt.

Because you are the lesson.

The lesson in humility, when asking for help and saying thank you is a gift you give to the people who love you.

In Grace, under so much overwhelming fatigue.

In knowledge, because your prison will never hold you back from your truth.

In laughter, because finding joy in the tiniest places, is an ability not many embrace. 

In strength, because what you carry, would crush me.

In steel, because every day – you get up. No matter. You get up.

In hope, because even on the worst days, I have seen you laugh my Tessie.

I have seen very few of your worst days. But I have seen some. That you manage to find a way back to Light, from those dark places?

I have a friend.

She has multiple sclerosis.

Her name is Tess.

I visit her as close as dammit to every Tuesday.

Not because she has multiple sclerosis.

Not because I have to.

But because I need to. 

She, and her Knight of Shining armor, are as surely my family as any blood I share with anyone.

She is where I look, when my Hope is hidden.

She is my lesson.

The Waiting. For Ron.

I met traumatic death young. 15 to be exact.

On a rather lovely Friday 1 June 1990, I came home from babysitting the neighbours kids at around 00h15. I went into my parents room where they were watching some late night television, said my hellos and goodnight, closed their door and went to my room to prepare for bed / sleep / oblivion. It never came.

We had just moved to CT from JHB. Both of my older siblings had already moved out and moved on. My brother already married. My sister an independent woman.

The screaming started almost immediately. My mother. The worst noise I have ever heard, to this day.

It seemed to last an eternity. I will never forget that sound. Or what I saw when I opened my parents door again. My mother had managed to get my dad off the bed and onto the floor. And, in her own mad way, was desperately … oh so very desperately, trying to get my dad breathing again.

I didn’t even have half a clue what to do. So I did the only thing I could think of. I ran out to the neighbour’s house. I remember being hysterical. I remember being frantic. I don’t really remember words. Or banging on doors. Or making sense. I remember hysteria, and then the neighbour Shawn was there.

I remember screaming. And begging.

I remember Shawn trying and knowing. Deep down. I knew too. It was too catastrophic. Too fast. Too big. My dad’s heart – it just died.

So much screaming. I remember Shawn grabbing my mother and pulling. I remember my sister, Norine, suddenly being there, when she wasn’t before. I remember our house doctor, Dr. Perold arriving. The ambulance. I don’t know how all of that knew to happen. Or why it happened. Or who facilitated it all. It just was.

I remember Norine holding my hand and we got into the ambulance.

My dad was a big man. In stature and personality. I think. I don’t really remember anymore. I remember his laugh was big. It is one of the only things I do remember.

He looked like he was asleep. I hope that is how he looked. It is what I chose anyway.

One minute he was there. And then he was not.

Because his heart broke.

And the world shattered into shards that never really got put back together again.

My dad was just shy of 50.

Now. So very many years later. I have friends whose parents are starting to pass. Their experience not quite the same as mine. To be honest, I get a bit jealous of the time they had together. The relationships and shared memories that time affords people.

On the other hand – I didn’t have to watch my dad get old, or frail, or sick really. My memory of him, from the point of view of a child, is of a strong man struck down in his prime.

Death sucks. The actual act of it. Whether it is drawn out and wasting and traumatic, or quick and nasty and unexpected and traumatic. It is mean and cruel and oh so very human.

The passing on though. The moving through the veil to the God you believe in.

That is Grace. I believe that with every fiber of my utmost being.

It is a moment when your soul, that fundamental part of you that is you, is free again. Young again. Whole again. Loving and beloved.

And that is where you stay. Where you wait. In Light and Peace.

Just out of sight. Just around the corner.

Just for a moment.

Till the time is right.

My dearest Ronnage. Just, just out of sight.

Whole.

Waiting.

Life and loss

They say it gets easier with time. It really doesn’t. You just learn to live with it. You make a little space in your soul for the loss. The missing. The profound ache.

You make a little space in your head for the memories. The sound of them. The smell of them. And you visit it, sometimes.

You fill up the void they leave behind with life and noise and tears and people. But it never moulds completely to the void.

Blommie. Life is too short. I am so very sorry your mommy had to suffer. But she is with her God now. In His hands, healed and whole.

Blommie. Life is too short. Hold onto what is left behind with everything you have.

Make your space. In your head and in your soul. Your mommy will always live there.

I carry you up to my God every day. You and yours.

Your mommy lives on in the spaces left behind.

For Blommie.

Like a ton of bricks.

Like the world ending.

Like the whisper of death in a war.

Like the sound of nails running across chalkboard, never ending.

Like the whisper of desolation across your soul.

I’m sorry, your mother is terminal.

No one can truly know when their time is up. When that moment comes, either fast or slow, and your maker holds His hand out.

No one can truly know what the leaving, leaves behind. What the leaving will mean. What the leaving will take with it.

No one can truly know, how tired the leaving can make you.

To be left behind. Or to watch the moment of leaving coming ever closer.

Your mother is terminal.

Those 4 words. Like death to every hope you had. Every moment of future you thought you dreamed, with another.

Your mother is terminal.

I am so sorry, my blommie. My dear, precious, glorious friend. I wish I could make it hurt less. Make it more bearable. Make it go away.

I wish I could heal. Or say that right words. I wish I could stand by you, and love you just a little bit more. So that my love can balance the leaving. So that it doesn’t hurt so very much.

I am so sorry that your mommy is leaving.

I cannot fathom it. I cannot really even describe it.

I will not show this to you. Not now. Perhaps not ever.

But I wanted to write it. Because I remember the leaving of my father. And how much it bothered me that no one really knew what to say.

I know now, that it didn’t matter what they said. It would never ever be the right thing. It never can be.

Because the leaving is all there is.

It is consuming.

Be strong, my blommie. Be brave. Be consoled, just a little bit.

I love you. You are in my thoughts. You are in my prayers.

You, your family and your mommy.

Her life will not be forgotten.

Her soul will shine bright.

Her memory will stay with you.

Her life will be celebrated.

Her God will welcome her Home.

And she will wait for you. Just out of earshot. Just out of sight. Just around the corner. Just there.

She waits for you.

With Grace.

 

Me

Hello.
You don’t know me. Not yet anyway. I am you, 27 years on.

You turned 40 the other day. It came and it went much like any other day. There was some celebration, there was some sadness. But it passed. Much like any other day.

You worry so much about not fitting in. About not having friends. About what people think of you. About whether your mom and your dad value you. About whether your brother and your sister love you.

Stop worrying. All those nights of tears and fretting get you absolutely nowhere. Not one bit of the energy you expended ever changed anything anyone ever thought of you, did for you or meant to you.

Stop worrying Jessie. You will be ok.

I have to tell you that your dad dies soon. A massive heart attack. Norine comes, and Stephen eventually. And then they leave and it is just you and mom.

In time, you forget what he looked like. You forget what he sounded like. You forget who he was. Because you barely knew him. All that becomes important is whether or not he was or is proud of you. And it doesn’t matter one way or the other. The only person who has to be proud of you, is you. Learn this now. Learn it well. Because you will fight this demon all your life. And it will win. Every time someone doesn’t measure up to the ideals you have set for them. Every time someone leaves. Every time someone disappoints you. Somehow, you manage to turn it into something you did wrong.

Stop. Learn the lesson. Don’t take other people’s shit on as your own. And try to remember your dad as best you can, for as long as you can. Because you will miss who you think he was, who you hoped he was, who you believed him to be every day for the rest of your life.

Over time, your mother develops an unhealthy attachment to you. Your nature, and her nature, clash and crash and nothing good comes of it. It will shape you and affect you in ways that no one will ever understand. Don’t let it. So much of the heartbreak you face, comes from this one simple fact. Your mother, however unintentionally, will mould you into a soul that is very damaged. Stop. Learn the lesson. Don’t let another person’s weakness become your own. But remember always, she did her best. It may not have been good enough for you, but it was her best. Don’t turn away from her. Love her as best you can. Because she is your mom. And one day, she will be all the family you have close to you.

When you get a bit older you are going to fuck up monumentally. You will think your life has ended. You will think you will never recover. You will believe that you are done. Don’t. Stop. It makes you strong in ways that no other person will ever be strong. Although the fear of it will haunt you forever. You will recover. You will get better. You will be okay. I promise. Just keep breathing. One breath at a time. This one moment does not define who you are. You fucked up. You are not a fuck up.

Even older still and you will get sick. Some weird mystery illness that they still argue about. Stop. Don’t let any doctor who you think knows better, tell you who you are. Don’t let them pump you full of the meds that will balloon you to 170kg’s. Don’t let them. Question everything. Make sure it makes sense.

Older still, and you will realise that you are ok alone. But that being alone all the time is hard. It is hard to never have anyone to rely on. It is hard to do everything alone. But you will find a few souls that hang out in the periphery of a life. Always there. They love you. Find them. Keep them close. You will need them.

One day, you will realise that your family is made up of so many animals. People will laugh at you when you call a dog your closest. Don’t care what they say. Every single life in this life, is worth love. Love them completely. Time will come when they will become your reason for waking. Your reason for going home. Your reason to be.

So much doom and gloom. So much to face in a short life.

And I haven’t even really started.

So let me tell you this.

You are beautiful Jessie. You are compassionate and kind and generous and smart and funny. You are loyal and true.

You are beautiful.

I am proud of you.

Every little bit of you.

Every big bit of you.

Every broken bit of you.

Every whole bit of you.

Learn your lesson Jessie. You matter to the only person that matters.

Yourself.

You are exactly who you are meant to be.

And you are awesome.

For all things, there is a time…

This is by far one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible.

At various times in my life I have gone back to it and reflected on the pain, loss, joy, hope that is inherent in it.

Today is one such day. A time for goodbyes. A time to leave. A time of loss. A time of hope. A time for new things and new beginnings.

A time to let go.

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3

 

So I shall let go. Look up. Look to the light. Wipe the tears. And find my new way of being. A new way of strong. A new kind of family. A new place to be me.

I shall look up. And look to the Light.

Because the Light has ever carried me.

The Lesson

This year has been a time of lessons. Hard lessons. Lessons in leaving. Lessons in what it means to be a family. Lessons in loss. Lessons in strength.

And a lesson in anger and mourning and heartbreak, again.

One more down,  one more to go.

As the clock ticks ever onward to another loss, another leaving – my heart breaks all over again. I don’t know how to bear this.

I don’t know how to forgive this. This being the one left behind. This loss of an entirety. This complete responsibility for another.

I don’t know how to be this.

And I don’t think I can ever forgive this.

Not that it matters. Life goes on. Life moves on. Stuck here in this pain, or there, in that joy.

I do not wish this on my worst enemy.

This loss. This profound emptiness. This raw hurt.

This abandonment.

I don’t know how to heal from this.

And I really hope I can forgive this. Not for them. They are gone. Whether I can bear that or not. They are all gone, or going.

For me. Because this hurts more than I can ever tell anyone. Because of who I am. And what they are to me.

Another one down, one more to go.

And then we will see.

Goodbye

Today is hard.

Today is another step closer to gone.

Today is tears.

Today is my mind messing with the bits of me that are strong.

Today is another brick in a wall of finality, between here and there.

Today is a mother and grandmother in a mess and children and grandchildren who can’t yet see value in time spent.

Today is an old and weary soul that misses what she never had.

Tomorrow is telling her that the time has come for leaving.

We will stay behind. Her and I. And then eventually just I.

But it will pass. I have found a few souls that love me. A few that tolerate me. A few that left me. They fill up the space left behind.

And maybe some of them will become family.

Today is about choices. A door always swings both ways.

Today is, for my very own sanity, good luck and goodbye.

Today is so unbelievably  hard.

I hope you never know just how hard.

I hope you never see this kind of loss in the face of someone you love.

I hope you never cry these tears.

Today is hard.

I love you.

All of you.

Good luck.

I hope your new world treats you well.

Goodbye.

The Leaving

For the longest time, part of my psychosis has been never being able to accept that I have value. My belief structure has always revolved around the fact that family have to love. They have to help. The have to accept you. So it doesn’t matter how broken you are. They are there and it is a given.

But what happens when they are not?

What do you do when you are the one left behind?

When you are faced with a place that has no family and the ties of blood?

What do you do when you are the one left holding the buck?

When a parent gets old and frail and ill and you alone must carry that emotional weight? A weight you are ill equipped to carry. Most of the time I cannot even carry my own emotions. Most of the time the fake it fools everyone into thinking I have made it. Sometimes it even fools me.

Last night the very carefully constructed walls that keep me functioning came down for a moment and my nephew and I engaged in a shouting, door slamming, swearing, remote throwing argument. I have never argued with my nephew before. Not to this degree.

He is as lost as I am, in a different way, and last night 7 months of trying too hard, being more than I am, stress and responsibility collided with his pain and anger and Mount Vesuvius was revisited.

For a moment the loss of stability, the loss of love, the loss of someone to talk to, the responsibly that is my nature to take on, the difficulty in living with people, the just plain emptiness of no blood ties shattered me. Shattered my nephew. Luckily we managed to calm the seas, and hopefully there is an understanding now.

What saves my nephew is that he is moving towards a family I no longer have. Towards a life I really do not begrudge him. I want him to be as happy as he can be, in whatever he chooses for himself. As long as it is his choice.

What saves me? Fledgling relationships and Hope. Hope for something better. Hope that it will get better. Hope that when the day comes and I need someone – I won’t stand alone. Hope that when my mom goes – someone will hold my hand.

She is almost permanently ill now, with one bug or another, one flu or the other. She forgets things. She loses things. She cries allot. She lost her family too. And her loss is harder to bear.

Or – in her loss and in her psychosis, am I allowing her to manipulate my feelings once again? Is she truly as ill as she thinks she is? Or is depression and a lifetime of chosen sorrow reality now? A mantle she can no longer take off? One which blurs my vision? My objectivity? My emotions?

I hope … I hope for something better. Whatever it may be. For me, for her, for my family.

But what do you do when all you can do is watch?

Watch the leaving.

All the while, standing still.

Glue

We are not born with a good life or a bad life. We are born with a life. And it is up to us to make it good or bad.

We are not the sum of who we are born to. We are every moment we chose to do good or bad. To help or hinder. To love or hurt.

We are not constrained to the family who share our blood. Sometimes, they leave. Sometimes, they hurt you. Sometimes, they are not anything in your life.

We are not alone. Never truly. Whichever God we believe in watches over us. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

We are not destiny. We are what we make for ourselves. We are what we fill our lives with. The people, the creatures, the environment.

We are as unique or as uniform as we chose to be.

I have a generated family. A family of crazy rat loving, healthy food eating, boot camp addicted, introverted, child rearing, fabulous, stupendous, random people I have met and assimilated.

I have a traditional family. I try very, very hard to be something in this family. Probably because I have always been the black sheep. More probably because I have always thought I am loved and part of it just because they have to.

My traditional family is slowly leaving me. And the fear of being truly alone is just terrifying. The sad part is I am probably already alone.

My generated family – I don’t quite know why they love me. Why they have chosen me.

I just know that to surround yourself with the people who actually want you around – that is a life worth living.

So I thank them.

Every last crazy one of them.

They are what fill the little gaps left in my soul. The little gaps that self-doubt, fear, harsh judgement, self-hatred leave behind. The little gaps that will sink you if you let them.

They are the glue that holds my Self together.

Even if they don’t know it.