Being Single, Thinking Double – A Death In The Family

StoneNineteen Eighty Four began with such promise. My mother was well, my army days were over, it was summer and all was good in the world, for a while that is. I was job hunting, had been for a couple of interviews, the most promising was with Old Mutual as a Broker Consultant.

On the 14th of February we all went out for dinner to celebrate my mom’s birthday and if my memory serves me correctly we went to Squires Loft in Blackheath. A few days later, out of the blue, the doctor called; there was some concern about her blood test results, they needed to see her again. A few days later she was back in hospital!

Something went wrong; I still don’t know what it was. Was it incorrect results or incorrect treatment but suddenly a woman who was as healthy as could be was fighting for her life. I asked my father years later what had happened and his answer was “Those were early days and chemotherapy was not an exact science, you should know one thing, no one tried to hurt her and everyone did their best”. I left it at that.

We were all at the General Hospital in Johannesburg on the afternoon of the 14th of March 1984, we had decided to all spend the night there and Ian and Ada went home to fetch blankets and pillows. I was sitting in the waiting rooms when the doctor called and said “I think you need to come in right now”. I walked into the room to find her in such distress, she was struggling to breath, I could see the pain and fear in her eyes, she could not speak. I took her hand and said “it’s ok mom, you can go, we will all be ok” her breathing slowed, she closed her eyes and she was gone.

I shouted for the doctor, I wanted him to do something, to save her, to bring in the cart with the paddles… anything! He examined her, covered her head and wished me long life! Seven thirty five, fourteenth of March, nineteen eighty four and things would never, could never be the same again.

Ian and Ada arrived, family and friends arrived, and we headed home and began to plan for a funeral and an uncertain future.

She was buried the next morning and at the funeral my brother said something to me that has stayed with me since that day. He said “Your parent is dead, mine is still alive”. Clearly he did not hold my mother in the same high regard that I did! But that is his story and perhaps one day he will tell it. Those words were to return to haunt me years later when I realised that I had never really had a dad.

I remember her funeral so well, people coming up to me and remarking how young she was. Young, she was 48, that wasn’t young… well I was 22 and 48 seemed like a life time away. It was only on my 40th birthday that I realised just how young she had been and how much she had missed out on. My brother once remarked to me “Did we know we were so young then, in fact do we realise we are so young now?” Do any of us?

She remains in my heart and I am certain in my psyche, her kind manner and unbelievable strength especially through her illness will always have a strong influence on me. I know her spirit is present in my own daughter who, though never having met her, carries her it with her in her heart and soul. To this day I am still reminded by people I meet who used to visit her in her wool shop in Glenhazel, what a special lady she was how many lives she touched. In the words of her great friend Shirley Feldman Late Sadie was just the strongest lady I have had the honour and privilege to have known. She was a true friend who gave from the heart without asking for a return! An ‘Aishes Chayil’ – an accomplished woman – as in Proverbs 31:10-31

Another thing about the funeral was the number of people who came to me and said “I am so sorry, I know exactly how you feel”. I wanted to scream! You have no idea how I feel, no matter what you have experienced you are not me and on that say I swore I would NEVER use that expression no matter how much I believed I understood the person standing in front of me.

So three young adults returned to a home with no parents, alone. We were certainly surrounded by family and friends who cared deeply for us, but can anyone or anything ever take the place of a parent? I don’t think so.

And so the next few years would be a lot of fun and a lot of searching…

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  1. Hello,

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve found death exceptionally difficult to deal with. My father died in 1984 too, except I was 11.

    I wish you a long life x

    • Thank you for reading and sharing! As much as it is a part of our lives it effects each one of us differently.

  2. I am so sorry you had to go through this. I can’t possibly understand how awful it must have been to be there when she died: but I think you gave her peace with what you said.
    I recently read a book “surprised by motherhood” by a mommy blogger Lisa Jo Baker who also lost her mother – I think she was in matric – and it really affected her so much she didn’t want kids – she had to look after her siblings. I think the real power of tragedy comes when we can turn it around for good and it looks like you have.

    • I believe each one of us is fighting a battle of some sort and each one of us is trying to do our best. Thank you Heather

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