Remembrance and remembering

August 28, 2013 § 82 Comments

In the last couple of weeks I’ve attended two funerals: one was of someone I knew very well; one not so well, and at both I’ve wondered whether it would be particularly ghoulish to write eulogies for my parents now, while they are still very much alive.

People are often outraged to hear that newspapers already have obituaries written in the event of certain prominent people dying – Nelson Mandela comes to mind. Or that television stations have news teams and ready-made tribute documentaries that just need updating, for example. But of course, it’s simple pragmatism – they can’t afford to be scrambling for words or footage when he dies.

And I feel the same way about my parents. I don’t want to be penning a tribute to people I love when I’m blinded by grief and overwhelmed by the long list of practicalities that the death of a loved one inevitably brings.

I want to recall the time my dad lost his keys on a huge sand dune, and I, aged nine or ten, proudly found them after an extensive search. I want to remember the time we were in Cape Town in a downpour and he scooped four-year-old me up in his khaki raincoat that smelled just like him, and scarpered for the car while I giggled and bounced in his arms.

I want to write down now how much I loved listening to the Goon Show with him in the kitchen, or jogging with him in the early mornings, both of us built for comfort, not speed, neither of us containing even an ounce of athleticism in our DNA.

I want to be sure to tell people how lucky we were to have an awesome stepmother who was brave enough to marry not just my dad, but three children aged 17, 14, and 10 who were still reeling from the death of their beloved mother.

How, before she and my dad were married, we loved going to her house for Sunday lunch where she served such delights as upside-down pineapple cake, or a triangular cheesecake – wonders we had never beheld before.

And how we noticed our dad changing back from a grey-faced, shrunken version of himself to the punning, jovial joker he’d been before. How the light returned to his eyes; the smile to his face.

Every semester when I set off for varsity, she baked me biscuits and helped me pack; today she is a wonderful grandmother to my own children. And she has been the best thing that happened not only to our family, but especially to my dad, who really wasn’t designed to be alone. She has loved my dad – and all of us – for two and a half decades already, and we have loved her for it, and for herself.

I don’t want to do all of that when I’m sad. I also don’t want to forget to tell both of them now, while I still have them, how much I love and appreciate them. Because if I’ve learnt one thing in my 44 years so far, it’s that life is short and death is often unexpected.

And if you don’t tell people that you love them today, you may not have the opportunity to do so tomorrow.

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