Tag Archives: death

To my mother in heaven…

Today is Halloween. All Hallows’ Eve. All Saints’ Eve. The day, when where I’m from, we light candles for those we’ve lost because it’s said that the veil between this life and the next is the thinnest, which makes me wonder: if you could have a dinner, inviting any ten guests, dead or alive, who would it be? 

Personally, I’d like to meet my mother, but I’m also scared of meeting her. I don’t really know who she was when alive. She died when I was six. 

One day, several years ago, I suddenly realized I always thought that my mother, if I met her, would have been disappointed in me. The fact that my finances were always a disaster while I was off on some adventure to live my dreams and rescue kids in Africa. That she’d read me the riot act. That she’d see me as the black sheep of the family — the artist, entrepreneur and hopeless dreamer who didn’t have it all figured out. I was scared we’d have nothing in common beyond wanting to heal people. She was a nurse. I almost became an MD. And I still desire to aid people in healing; mentally, physically, spiritually. 

In short, I was scared all my mother would do, was judge me.

I’d gotten so used to being the person everyone wanted to be someone else, I figured I’d just be a disappointment to her. 

Isn’t that a fucked up way to live life? To think that your mother wouldn’t love you because you’ve made mistakes? That she wouldn’t even want to see you, because you’re not like her? 

Today, I’m not the woman sitting on that couch, wondering if my mother would love me. As a mother myself now, I know that all we dream of for our children is for them to find happiness. We do not care that they screw up, we only care about them finding their way again. We do not punish, we love. 

Yes, many of us, as parents, will use punishment, just as we will use encouragement, as a way of making our children follow a path we believe to be right. Be that to brush their teeth, or stay off drugs, but in our hearts, all we seek is their happiness. Their joy. For them to be loved. For them to live a life they love. 

Maybe, if my mother came down from heaven, all she would do, would be to hold me and tell me it’s OK. That my mistakes are alright — that we all make them. Maybe all she’d want would be to see her daughter.

The thing with life, is that none of us were born with a map. We all get lost. Some more than others. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to find our path. Nor does it mean we don’t deserve to be loved. 

In short, I don’t think our loved ones in heaven want to punish us for our sins; for our mistakes; or for getting lost. They just want us to find our way to happiness again; find our path. Because that’s the highest desire you can have for anyone else. And, most likely, they’d want just one more day with us.

I don’t really miss my mother. I was too young when she died. I miss my gran on the other hand. I’d like to take my gran for a trip to Paris and walk around the streets, spending hours talking, laughing and baking. I bake pancakes pretty much every weekend and I know it’s not just because I love pancakes, it’s because when I do that, I carry a piece of her with me. I also listen to French radio to calm my nerves. I find strength in doing the things we used to do together; feel her love when doing them. 

I can’t meet my mother, but I can honor her as a parent, by seeing myself through her eyes; loving myself and supporting myself in finding my path, instead of beating myself up for getting lost.

I can’t go with gran to Paris, but I can go to Paris with someone else who loves me as much as she did and loves doing the things I love, the way she did.

There are many people I’d like to invite for dinner, ranging from Tim Ferriss to Leonardo da Vinci and Shakespeare. I wouldn’t mind Branson, Jolie, Di Caprio, Scorsese, Mandela, Musk and a bunch of other people to gather around my dinner table. I’d invite half of Silicone Valley too, for good measure. There are many, many incredible hearts and minds in this world. So many. The thing is, by looking for those who are not there, we miss the ones who are. Our children. Our family. Our friends. Our partners. One day, all of them will be in heaven too. Now is our time with them; our chance to honor them by creating beautiful experiences with them.

Or as Angelina Jolie said: “That’s the reason we kind of exist. To give to each other. And learn from each other. To capture the moments of people. So I find it really strange to have somebody ignore the obvious human being right in front of them.” 

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Filed under Death, Inspiration, Inspirational, Love, mourning, Parenthood

Final goodbyes…

Friday I got the message I’ve been waiting for: “It’s time to come home to say goodbye to grandma.” I’ve been waiting for that message and yet it took me an hour to book the ticket because it freaked me out so much that once it’s booked that’s it. That’s the final goodbye.

A few months back, Liezl’s sister, Jess, died and I wrote a letter to Jess that I gave to Liezl. I wrote that letter because I wanted to help Liezl and I wanted to say goodbye to Jess in my own way. Below you can see an excerpt.

Liezl always tells me that she knows when I’m hurting, because she can feel it. Well, I know Liezl is hurting now, because I can feel it. So please, let her see life as a puzzle of moments made up of experiences with those we love. We only get so many puzzle pieces with each person. We never know when they will leave for another world. It feels so unfair when they do, especially when they are young, or when we have lost many people we love, but that’s life. We can’t change it. All we can do is treasure the moments we have with those we love. The ones who are here. And carry the wisdom and love of those we have lost in our hearts.

In a few months I may have to write another letter to my extra nieces in Cape Town, as their father, Tony, is dying. And I promised him I’d be there for them when that happened. Liezl and I plan to take them to see the stars — to look at their dad.

About a year ago Tony had one of his bad spells and he took the time then that he was entitled to live in a hospice for a few weeks. That he has survived till now is a miracle, but when he was in hospice I sat with Liezl and another friend of ours in the little chapel they have there. We were talking about grief. About mourning. And I felt so happy that I had those two women next to me. I knew I wasn’t alone.

I think when people die, what we need is something that anchors us to life. We need to feel love. We need to feel the joy of life. We cannot allow ourselves to be bitter about what life is: a limited period of time. Instead we need to cherish what little time we have and make every moment with those we love special. Because it is special. Every single moment you share with the people you love and care about is special.

Yesterday I was speaking with Liezl on the phone and at first I was rambling on about how this just wasn’t happening, because I needed someone to hug at night. My gran couldn’t die, if I didn’t have a man whose heartbeat I could hear through the night. I needed to know I had life next to me. But as I spoke to Liezl we spoke about the kids I raise, about the kids I mentor, about our friends in the township, about Liezl’s family and about all the plans we have for Little Angels and Malaika. And somewhere I started smiling and I didn’t stop.

My phonecall with Liezl anchored me to life; to what I love. The kids I help raise are the most important part of my life and Little Angels is the part that’s brought me the most joy.

When I got that message Friday I was overwhelmed by memories from my childhood. I was petrified of losing the one home that’s always been my safe haven — my grandparents’ flat. It’s where I lived for part of my childhood. It’s where I ran to away from my stepmom. It was my haven. It was where I built the dreams of the future.

My grandparents taught me that love is real and that the reality of it is commitment. In a family you don’t always see eye to eye, you don’t always understand each other, but you are always there for each other. You take care of each other.

My grandparents also taught me to look after what you have. You take pride in your home. In your clothes. In your being. You look after what’s yours.

When my mom died my grandparents on both sides became substitute parents. They were always there. It made me realize that family, really, is just simply the people who show up. When I moved to South Africa and started looking after children I did that because I believed all children should have what I had as a kid — someone who’s there for them. A rock.

I am coming to terms with now having to create my own haven. I need to find my own footing. I need to be my own rock. But the truth is that none of us are a very good rock on our own. We need each other. We need life. We need the sound of the heartbeats that we love.

Cherish those hearts. And commit to look after them, because that’s what family does. I’m a firm believer, as my life is a testament to, that family is the people you care about, not the people whose blood you share. My family is part South African.

I feel like I’m losing a part of myself right now. A part that’s always been there. And I keep bursting into tears. But I also know that there will be many more parts to my life; many more blessings in the shape of human beings; in the shape of beautiful souls. And together we will go on adventures and create moments filled with love and laughter.

It’s all an adventure that comes with a breathtaking view. – The Greatest Showman

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Image source: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/349943833533018228/ 

 

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What would you like it to say on your tombstone???…

It was a question in a game we were playing today and it kinda makes you reflect, doesn’t it? What would you like to be remembered for? What would you like your life to be about? What is it you are all about, truly?

On my stone I would like it to say: “She lived.” At least, that was the first thought that popped up in my head. I’m not sure if I would actually want that to be the text. I’m not even sure I want a tombstone. It feels limiting. What I mean though is that I want to live. I want to be free in my living. I want to live a life without self-imposed restrictions. I want to be fearless in my approach to life. I want to be as happy dancing with the stars as with the raindrops. I want to dare to live. I don’t want to think that life will start when and if and where. I want to live right now, fully here in every moment, because truly, who knows what’s next?

They say that all you really know is that you will die, but that’s not entirely true. Because you know you will die you also know that now you are alive. And as a human being, it seems to me you have a choice to explore that aliveness. Even when you taste drops of salt, you know that soon the sound of laughter will be coming out through your mouth. You can feel, you can taste, you can breathe. You are love when you experience it.

I don’t know, but to me there is a difference between being alive and truly living alive and to truly be able to live alive is what I would love to do.

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P.S. I really do love you…

Ever lost someone you loved? I have. Most of us have. And with them a part of the world went missing. You can’t have it back. You really can’t. It’s scary as all hell and it hurts like hell.

When I lost my mom I was six years old. I can’t remember much of what she was like. I still remember the pain of losing her though. If I think about it I get tears in my eyes. I panic. I get the impression of leaning against a wall that disappears suddenly and you are left falling onto the ground with a big bang.

When I lost my granddad (mom’s dad) I was 24. Grandpa was like my surrogate dad. All my grandparents have been like my parents since mom died. I found out a month before he died that he was going to die. We were on the Canary Island for Christmas – I had come home from London to be with the family and as we came back to the airport there was this awful voice calling us on the speakers saying we should contact the office. My gran had called to say granddad was in the operation room. My sister cried hysterically all night. I think her world fell apart then. She was only a year old when mom died and she loved grandpa above and beyond.

We found out he was dying the next day and I sat down to write him a letter, saying all I ever wanted to say about how much he meant to me. I had to go back to London, but flew back to see him a week or so before he died. It’s the only time I’ve seen grandpa in a bad mood. He was my pillar of strength. He was like a ray of sunshine – always happy. He got angry with me fair and square (and without menace) when he thought I was rude, or wasn’t on time (that’s nine times out of ten), or broke some rule or other, but he was never sulky, or down. He’d do anything for the family. I see their old Volvo coming driving to the rescue whenever something happened. I used to live with them quite a lot during high school and coming home to him and gran was the most secure thing in the world. They were simple, straight forward and easy to be around. When he finally died I cried a little, but I was ready for it. I’d said what I wanted to say and I felt like I was in a good place. I was still studying, I was enjoying my life and I had a boyfriend to help me through it all.

Last year my gran on dad’s side became senile and even though she’s still alive, to reach her properly is impossible. I thought I’d handle it well and maybe I did, as I guess I was the one who still managed to talk to her (showing her pictures in old books I’d given her, magazines, etc….basically just trying to give her a chance of participating in the moment, not in a fantasy), but I still feel like my heart is breaking. I heard her voice on the phone for my birthday and I burst out crying like a baby. Maybe because I never had that final chat with her. Maybe because I wasn’t at a stabile point in my life. Maybe because I don’t have a boyfriend to lean on. Maybe because I can’t visit her all the time. I don’t know, but losing her has been rough. I just think she should be there when anything happens in my life. Like, how can I get married without gran? And whenever I need support, there’s no one to call that will give me the same loving understanding.

Having these people in my life has been one of the best things ever. People make up my life. They make me smile. They hug me. They make me laugh. They share the good times and the bad times with me. They are the security net insurance can’t buy. Without people my life would be dead. When one person leaves that hurts. The great thing is that there are so many people out there just waiting to be discovered by you – people who you will share your life with. People who will be a joyous part of your life. Don’t be scared to love, because there will always be love. Always. It changes shape like everything else, but it never leaves you.

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Admiration…

In the drama school where I was trained, you weren’t allowed to have any “gods or idols.” With that they meant that you weren’t allowed to worship anyone or anything without questioning. Our principal came from Russia and had trained at GITIS, where they worked with the Stanislavski system. What our principal came to discover when he left was that Professors on Stanislavski all over the world had very different opinions on what Stanislavski had meant with this or that, but most people, himself included, just worshipped the man and did not question him. However, if no one understood him, how could he be “right”?

Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Mastery Of Love says the same thing. He has 3 rules:

  1. Don’t believe me.
  2. Don’t believe yourself.
  3. Don’t believe anyone else.

So what does he mean? Well, you might have heard that Buddha said something similar and probably every other “guru” there ever was. What I believe they are trying to say is that first of all, just because a person is in a position of authority, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right.

In Blink Malcolm Gladwell talks about a famous experiment where the subjects were told, by a person with authority, to submit electrical shocks to people when they answered incorrectly to questions posed. People followed suite to the point where the electrical shocks where lethal (what they didn’t know was that it was actors acting out the shocks, not receiving them). (You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment#The_experiment) Of course it is easy for us all to say that we wouldn’t do that. Again I have to refer to mentalism…the things people can make you do are stunning (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=befugtgikMg). Basically – we listen to some people and not to others, we trust some people and not others, but why we do it isn’t always the right reasons. We simply do so because they behave in a certain way, they put forward their words in a certain way, we have certain things in common with them, or a certain amount of people already believe in them. Not because their message is true.

Secondly, look at your own thoughts. Has it ever happened that you wanted Chocolate Fudge Brownie AND Half Baked ice cream and couldn’t decide which one to buy? Have you ever wanted to date this person AND that person? Have you ever thought this is true BUT that is also true and they are complete opposites? Well, if you had one mother and one father, that’s probably the case. One person said one thing, one said another and you came to believe in both. In most cases you don’t even know where you got the ideas you got from, but you hold them all for being true, even if they are seemingly opposite. For me the only resolution is to meditate, because it feels like I rise above the conflicting issues and look down on them. I am no longer sitting in them. Usually, I realize that none of them are the ultimate truth. I just see that one part of me was formed by certain influences and like one idea and the other part of me that was formed by different influences like  another idea. I’m not sure I can completely disregard these influences, after all, all I am is what I know, but I can do my best to look at life from a perspective of totality rather than engaging in either part(s) of me.

It’s the same thing when you are cheering on the anti-hero of a story. The nice thief. The lovely criminal. And haven’t we all been in love with a lovely criminal at some point or another? The person we know is either morally corrupted or utterly insane, but we still like them? Because a part of them ring true to a part of us and depending on how big that part is, we are more, or less, in love with them.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t admire people for certain talents/skills they have. It’s all very well to seek inspiration, but when we get that slightly glassed stare in our eye and we wax on about something…it’s time to watch out. The person we are talking about has in some way or other made us putty in their hands. And we will focus ONLY on what we like about them, the other things will be swept under the carpet. We are also very unlikely to question what they say and it’s nice to question things even if they are good, because we then find out more about them. A good example is when I went to see Shutter Island a while back. I always say that DiCaprio + Scorsese = Match Made In Heaven. I really, really wanted to say I loved that movie, only I didn’t. There was something lacking in the direction, because I did not see the characters for what they were. Sure you are meant to be tricked by the story, but not by the characters. To me, the hospital workers seemed mean. They weren’t supposed to be mean though.

With the years I have learnt that people are human. Even the (biz)man of all men…Richard Branson. I enjoy looking to people for inspiration. I enjoy learning from people. And I get passionate when I talk about them. However, to believe that they are flawless is a folly. And if anyone has ever talked to someone they really respected and they have looked at you and grimaced in distaste, well…you felt bad, but who should really have been feeling bad? I think the person that just behaved like an ass.

What’s more, when we admire people, we often put them above ourselves. As mentioned – we give over our opinion for them to decide. They say it’s good, we agree. We don’t question because we don’t see ourselves as equals, i.e. their opinion is worth more than ours anyway, so why question them? Yet, as I’ve said in previous posts: we were born into this world as empty bowls. Then we became filled with experiences – life got poured into us. And from those experiences we start forming opinions, beliefs, thoughts…some conscious, other unconscious, and until the day we take charge (if this is possible, I’d like to think so, but for a fact I only know what I have experienced even if I say from now on I want to meditate before I act) the inside of our bowl run our lives. We are only good, bad or great because we were shaped that way. Don’t fool yourself into believing someone else is better than you. They were just shaped differently. Don’t like your shape? Reshape yourself. Just for goodness sake don’t do what I did and beat yourself up if you don’t immediately end up on the page you want to be, because life will continue to happen. You cannot plan what will happen tomorrow. You cannot force opportunities into your life. If you keep seeking, it is likely you will find answers to your questions and if you keep practicing you are bound to become great at what you are practicing, but you might not get to practice as often as you like. You might get sidetracked by events. You might have a bowl filled with things that make it harder for you to learn than it was for x, y and z. The learnings that take you where you need to go might hurt, until you learn to see them differently. And no matter how great you become, you might never get a chance to direct Leonardo Di Caprio (but I sure hope that I will 😉 )

Let me tell you a personal story. When I was 6 my mom died from cancer. The last time she saw me she refused hugging me because she was in severe pain and really high on morphine. My dad told her off for not hugging me though (he was distressed). She died the next day. And she didn’t leave me any notes saying she loved me (she got sick very quickly and died shortly thereafter). Whilst my mom was sick, one day she peed in her pants and told me about it. I started laughing hysterically. Because I was panicking, I was out of my mind. Shortly after her death I was playing with a friend, having a good time and laughing and she told me it was very weird I was laughing, because she would never laugh again if her mom died.

Now, I was six. After all these events took place I believed my mom didn’t love me and I believed I was bad for not loving her enough – my laughing proved this, right?!? Of course I had it all wrong. Looking back I’m like Jesus, why didn’t someone tell me? Because no one knew what was going through my head. But one thing led to another and I slowly just shut down. I went from outgoing to shy, I became bullied and my life became a mess. It’s taken me years to recover my self-confidence. Because obviously the bullying led me to think I was even more shit. And then I hid even more. And people thought I was even stranger. But I was just a kid that got it all wrong.

Nowadays I meet a lot of people that praise me. Others that desperately want to get my knickers off. Some admire me. Yet, I know I’m the same person people told to shut up every time I spoke. The same person people thought “no one could ever fall in love with”. Why have people changed their minds? Because I behave differently. I don’t think I’m unlovable anymore. I’m still me though. And that in and of itself says a lot about admiration.

What’s more about admiration is this: who do you like? Who likes you? Do you all have the same “good” abilities? Usually people like you because you have what they would like to have, or feel comfortable showing off they have. If they dislike you, it’s usually because you display what they are scared to show. To this day I have a hard time hanging out with people others percieve as geeks. because I immediately think I will be called “geek” again and my life will once again become hell on Earth. And God forbid when I have to act a geek in a play or movie….I go into a state of frantic panic. Of course I catch myself, my judgments of others (both my judgment of the geeks and my judgment of the ones I think will judge others for being geeks) and I tell myself to, quite frankly, go fuck myself. It’s just fascinating to see that that’s still in my brain though.

Today when I react unfavorably to something (like geeks), it’s crap, because I know a little bit more today. I can choose a bit more how I react. So yeah, it’s crap when I react unfavorably because I know I’m doing it, or I catch myself some time later. But like every other mofo I was programmed. And sometimes that programming takes over. I’m on autopilot and I behave in ways I rather wouldn’t. I still get terribly shy and think no one likes me at times. Am I bad for that though? Am I bad if I never become as famous as Scorsese for my directing and Branson for my biz ventures? Nah. My bowl was filled with other things than theirs and I wanna enjoy what’s in mine. Once again – I’m here to experience, not to achieve. Not to judge. Just be.

So next time you think someone else is the coolest person on the planet…maybe…think again…

You wanna be a star…

…or a guru…

…or maybe just someone who sniffs out life…I mean, explores life that is…

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