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.

Sometimes

Everyone gets sad sometimes. When we think about the things we have lost. The things that have lost us.

But mostly I think we get sad when we focus too intently on the things that we never had.

Today is a one of those days, for someone I know. Someone laid low and immobile by life, and by circumstance.

A day of reflecting on the whoever’s that left, the whoever’s that stayed, and the whoever’s that never were.

Perhaps a day spent reflecting on the things that we just, quite simply, can never get right. No matter how hard our brain tries.

A day of ache’s and a pain that is constant. Powerless to stop. Right now anyway.

A day wondering about the losses we still feel so very keenly. And the injustices. And forgiveness.

A day of feeling wholeheartedly sorry for ourselves. Just because we do. It is length of time that becomes an actual problem.

Pain is not less because another suffers more.

Pain is pain.

Sadness is sadness.

Sometimes the weight of unshed tears is heavy. Unbearable. Like concrete.

Except think on this, for one moment.

A quote from my current favourite author –

“…there are more flavors of pain than coffee. There’s the little empty pain of leaving something behind – graduating, taking the next step forward, walking out of something familiar and safe into the unknown. There’s the big, whirling pain of life upending all of your plans and expectations. There’s the sharp little pains of failure, and the more obscure aches of successes that didn’t give you what you thought they would. There are the vicious, stabbing pains of hopes being torn up. The sweet little pains of finding others, giving them your love, and taking joy in their life they grow and learn. There’s the steady pain of empathy that you shrug off so you can stand beside a wounded friend and help them bear their burdens.

And if you’re very, very lucky, there are a very few blazing hot little pains you feel when you realized that you are standing in a moment of utter perfection, an instant of triumph, or happiness, or mirth which at the same time cannot possibly last – and yet will remain with you for life.

Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living. Only the dead don’t feel it.

Pain is a part of life. Sometimes it’s a big part, and sometimes it isn’t, but either way, it’s a part of the big puzzle, the deep music, the great game. Pain does two things: It teaches you, tells you that you’re alive. Then it passes away and leaves you changed. It leaves you wiser, sometimes. Sometimes it leaves you stronger. Either way, pain leaves its mark, and everything important that will ever happen to you in life is going to involve it in one degree or another.”

This pain, right now and in your face, is fleeting. This sadness. This sorrow and difficulty.

Soon  – Grace will return to it’s full light. To shine on the things that we do right. On the souls that occupy our heart. That should occupy our heart. The ones that have earned places.

On the gains, instead of the losses.

Hang on. Just for one moment more. Wait for Grace. It is always there, it never really leaves, I promise. It is just hidden, by ourselves sometimes. So wait till you see it again.

For the clouds in your head to clear a bit.

Hang on.

Quote is from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

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.

 

I will wait.

I am not quite sure why, but today I thought about death. About suddenly passing on, with no goodbyes. No final curtains. No warning.

I thought about what would be left. What is still unsaid. What will maybe never be said. I wondered if people would say good things about me? Or if it would barely register?

I thought about the things I love. And the things that love me.

The things that I carry. And the things that carry me.

And I thought I would write this. So that it is forever. It is not meant to be a eulogy. Maybe one day. But not right at this moment.

To anyone that reads this. To whoever needs this. To whoever.

Please take care of the things I love. The places and people that have been important. Love the creatures that have kept me warm. The beings that comfort and give me life.

Please care for the things I leave behind. The little things, that matter to no one but me. The shared moments that form over a lifetime.

Please be kind to yourself. In the going about of your life. I have been so hard on who I am, that sometimes I have forgotten to be who I am. Never make that mistake.

Please believe that you are stronger than you thought. No one survives this world with their perfection intact. That does not make you any less perfect.

Please believe that someone, somewhere, loves you. Here or not. Aware or not. Alive or not. Someone, something loves you. Gives you Grace. Hopes for your Grace.

Please remember to breathe. And enjoy the things that really matter. For too long, I missed the little things. The fluffy things. The hopeful things. The pure joy of the breath. Don’t let a moment pass without finding a joy in those little things. In the breath of life. The breath of a friend. The breath of hope.

I have always loved you.

If you ever doubted it, I miss you.

If you ever thought you needed it, I forgive you.

I hope you forgive me.

Please believe that I wait. We all do. When that time comes.

I will wait. For all the things that I love. And all the things that I have ever loved.

I will wait.

The Small Things

Sjoe, I have been gone a while.
Thing happened. Reality shifted. Time passed.
And here we are.
Life has this really annoying and occasionally cool habit of throwing stuff back in your face. At your lowest, or your highest, or somewhere in between. A little memory. A little song. A little blog.
A little bit of God.
I forget sometimes how far I have come. How hard this road was to travel. Sometimes I traveled it alone. Sometimes with family. Sometimes with friends. I have written before about being the Black Sheep. About being the Fat Chick.
Reality is – we are who we are in the moment. As kind or vicious, as generous or selfish, as alive or dead, as happy or sad. All we have is a moment. Because the next moment may be a life ender. Or a reality shifter.
In a moment, a Blessed moment, I walked into a gym with a little bit of hope. And I met a lovely lady who runs a gym, a lady of passion and laughter.
In a moment, an Inspired moment, I faced a lifetime of fears around what I look like. Around inherent sporting ability. And I thought screw it. I joined a gym.
In a moment, a Divine moment, I remembered that even though it is hard. I really do like exercising. I am crap at it. But that doesn’t change the Joy.
I have written before about finding Joy in the small things.
Sometimes the small things are the ache that comes from 18 flights of stairs.
The laughter that comes with trying to skip.
The giggle that accompanies a burpee done in the style of a deranged alien.
Sometimes the small things are driving on a farm road at 5 in the morning. In the mist.

Just you and your God.

Sometimes the small things are realising that you came from here….

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And you have gotten here so far…..

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With a whole world still to go…..

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I saw Faith today.

Once upon a while ago, I am certain I saw Grace.

And today, I saw Faith.

I get into Town really early in the mornings, in part to miss the madness that is rush hour traffic in Cape Town but also so that I can do my daily exercise. I walk various routes around our beautiful city and due to the very nature of the time, I get to see allot of the homeless.

Mostly still asleep. Some just barely awake and perhaps wondering why they bothered. Some, like a rather well-known figure along Adderley Street, having a bath in the fountain.

My city could be any city. Homelessness is not unique to Africa. It is not unique to this city. It is everywhere. And it is heartbreaking.

As is the nature of humanity, we desensitize. After a while, you don’t notice the sadness or loss or pain or fear anymore. You don’t hear the voices. Worst of all, you don’t see the person anymore. They are just one more thing in a landscape of things.

That being said – I love my country. I love this place I live. Not because I have to. But because it is me, and I am it. So I try to keep my heart and my mind and my soul open to the beauty. To the hope. To the joy. But also to the faults. To the corrupt. To the bits that are broken. No one thing is ever perfect. And, as with so very many things, sometimes the bits that matter the most are the bits that can’t be seen.

Today was a good walk. I missioned along a route I don’t usually take. Past the taxi’s and the vendors.

Past the station and the folks slowly making their way to work.

Past the doormen and street sweepers.

To the most amazing sight I have seen in a while. Another one of those moments when time stops a bit. Reality becomes thick and amplified and loud.

Many of the homeless get a meal from one of the many shelters or soup kitchens around town. It is usually a styrofoam bowl of maize and a jam sarmie. I have even on occasion seen them munching happily on a bowl of rice.

Today was a happy walk. Singing under my breath to Katy Perry’s Dark Horse. Happily smiling and appreciating the weather. Greeting the folk that crossed my path.

Only to walk past an obviously homeless man with the most magnificent grey and silver beard.

Saying his Grace before tucking into his breakfast.

We may lose our way. We may lose our family, our joy, our jobs. We may lose ourselves.

Never lose your Faith.

Because where there is Faith, there is Hope. And Hope is where God lives. Hope for something better. Hope for peace. Hope for love. Hope for another meal.

Hope for that silver bearded homeless man who still found space in his Soul for Faith.

He will never know how much he Blessed me. I will most likely never see him again. But he showed more Faith and Hope in one moment than many people have in their entire lives.

Sometimes the bits that matter the most really are the bits that can’t be seen.

It is not what you own in this life.

It is how you conduct yourself in this life.

That man, that homeless soul.

He was Beautiful.

He was Gods perfect creation.

The joy of the dance

I got to thinking the other day about the music of our lives. How some songs stick with us through the years and remind us of better, or worse, times.

How the music of our parents reminds us of a war maybe, or a hardship, we did not personally live through.

How the music of our peers reminds us of a person, or a place long forgotten.

How the music that reaches down into our very substance and speaks to us can truly defines us. It is not necessarily good music, or well written. Or even popular. It is a chance meeting sometimes, lyrical beauty and depth hiding in the places you least expect to find them.

It is the songs of our innocence Pink Toothbrush by Max Bygraves. Of the times when dance and imagination and bravery and joy and solitude were the things that made us whole. When drama and performing were an option Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. Where Jeremiah was a Bullfrog by Three Dog Night was the best thing you ever heard, innocent and silly.

It is the songs of loss Amazing Grace by Celtic Woman sung at the funeral of a father you never really knew. And the song your mother used to heal herself We will meet again by Vera Lynn.

It is the songs of growing up where The Locomotion by Kyle Minogue was on everyone’s lips and we weren’t ashamed of it. Where the difference between a singing and speaking voice was endlessly debated Never gonna give you up by Rick Astley.

It is trying to find a place that accepts you, and liking what you think will find peace, and learning to love it for what it is –

Satan bites the dust by Carmen

The Champion by Carmen

It is the beginning of the formulation of your own musical identity –

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Bed Of Roses by Bon Jovi

Losing My Religion by REM

Maria by Blondie

Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve

Take On Me by a-ha

Johnny Come Home by Fine Young Cannibals

“Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance

The list is too long to put here…

It is to this day the memory of some of the most beautiful music you remember hearing. The kind that they rarely make anymore –

The Rose by Bette Midler

Power Of Love by Jennifer Rush

It is falling in love with the songs that tell a story –

The River by Garth Brooks

The Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks

The songs you love because you have to –

Jessie by Joshua Kadison

It is my God song –

Nothing Is Written by Mumford and Sons

And it is the song you identify most with –

I Lived by OneRepublic

There will be more. Songs that remind me of people, places, times and events. Some will be joyous, some traumatic and some sad.

Songs of love, loss, joy, triumph.

The songs that resonate with my soul.

I saw Grace today.

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I have learnt to Mission when I am walking through Town. Head down, don’t look around, don’t look like a tourist.

The faces I pass very much a blur. Then again they are meant to be. I try my utmost to miss the long desperate stares of the homeless, the destitute, the beggars and the hopeless. This is not something I do with any kind of conscious thought. It is just the reality involved with moving around a city or town in the age and time we live.

Many of them with an out of control drug problem. Most of them with some serious mental illness issues. Too few of them completely harmless.

Today I passed a homeless soul early in the cold sunlight, wrapped in a blanket rocking back and forth.

I didn’t really register him. Or her. I don’t know. I Missioned.

Today I passed a vaguely homeless looking man, older, face lined.

Today, for some reason, I Missioned and then I stopped and turned around.

I registered the pipe, the satchel, the old but clean clothing. I realized that the older man was probably one of the many low income workers making their way to work. Or perhaps he was one of those folk that travel to Town and pass their day watching and walking before heading home.

Today, I saw something that profoundly touched me on a level that I don’t quite understand. Or perhaps I do. It reminded me of what it is to be Human.

It was the oddest thing that I have seen in so long that for a moment sound faded away into nothing and time slowed just a little.

Reaching out and in, this clearly poor but gentle gentleman laid his hand on the shoulder of the all too faceless beggar.

Said a few words.

Reached into his satchel and offered an orange.

And sat next to him.

I don’t think I have ever seen more of God than at that moment. When a stranger touched that filthy, forgotten, helpless, cold soul. When he touched the untouchable. When he reached out to someone I don’t even register on most days.

When all the compassion of one Soul reached out to another, and didn’t see filth, dirt, madness. He saw a Soul worthy of his time. His love.

Compassion, Love, Humanity, Empathy – it is all free. But so many of us find them an expense we are not willing to shoulder.

In reality, all we have in this world is the gift of human contact, sometimes in the midst of desperation.

I know I saw the gift of Grace today – in the face of a stranger.

It is perhaps the most important thing we come into this world with.

And I hope it is what I take out with me.

I think I saw God today.