The most dreaded words….Death in the family. When I got the call that my sister-in-law’s husband has passed away I was shocked to say the least. Johan was not that much older than myself and hubby Jacques and his death was not an expected one…not that death is ever expected but still. As deaths go this was horrible news and I was totally unprepared.
What else can one do but spring into action. I immediately booked flights for myself and the mother-in-law, sorted the kids and made my arrangements to be away from home for a week. No mean feat if you have got kids but fortunately my kids are old enough to be left to their own devices. As long as mom ensures that there is enough food and bus money all is well in their world.
Arriving in Johannesburg on Wednesday I immediately sussed that this week was not going to be your average ‘I am mourning for my dead husband’ type of week and knowing my two sisters-in-law I could see my thoughts were correct. From the word go it was a fierce battle between saucy jokes and teary episodes. The word F*ck got used a lot…. For everything. For the funny things and the sad things.
It was just that kind of week. We all had a part to play in this production but the biggest part was keeping Rachelle upright and just being there for her. Making her laugh throughout what must have been the shittiest times of all times. Having to arrange a funeral, dealing with the hospital, the funeral company, being a pillar of strength for everyone from her kids, her mother in law and numerous friends, family and acquaintances near and far. My heart bled for her. My brain cannot comprehend yet what has happened although I am here with her. Losing your partner after 31 years together, I cannot even fathom the thought.
We soldiered on. We designed funeral flyers whilst toasting Johan and reminiscing over which photos to use. We laughed at my mother in law whom seemed to have gotten a second breath at 74 and this whilst we are supposed to be in mourning. But laughter is good, it makes you forget momentarily of the sadness hanging over us, the funeral still waiting to happen. The goodbyes still to be said. Be still my heart.
Between myself, my mother-in-law, Antoinette my other sister-in-law and Rachelle we endeavored to make this a week never to forget. I am often sure Johan is glaring down on us from above thinking ‘what the hell?’ , ‘I am missing the party of my life.’ A man died and we mourn his life as his voice is still, his place is empty, he left a hole never to be filled again but his death allowed Rachelle to bond and reconnect with her woman-tribe as never before. As I write this I am aware that this is not the way one would want these things to happen I would like to remind you that we are very rarely or rather never in control of life…What we can do though is take life’s lemons and make lemonade from it and enjoy the moment for what it is or we can ‘die’ with that person by getting all bitter and dried up and forgetting that we are still alive.
Losing Johan was not what we wanted or what Rachelle expected but life has a way of not giving us what we want nor what we expect. It is how we deal with it what matters. This past week I saw four women standing together, saying fuck a lot, laughing their heads off at nothing and everything, crying together, group hugs wherever and whenever it was called for. We laughed, we cried, we crocheted, we cooked, we did our nails, we laughed and we cried some more. And it was ok…the laughter and also the tears. It was part of the process and part of the healing.
I played at photographer at a horribly sad but amazing funeral which showed me a totally different side of the brother-in-law I thought I knew. I saw a community come together to say goodbye to a beloved friend, neighbor, colleague, son, husband, father and so much more. I cried my eyes out at the lone piper leading the funeral car with the casket out the church grounds my heart was so sore.
That night we toasted Johan with a glass of red wine and we took some shit funny photos and laughed our heads off before we all broke down with Rachelle and cried copiously making a cuddle-puddle on the bed on top of her comforting her by all of us lying on top of her. What can I say? YOu had to be there.
What I take home with me is the thought that life is too FUCKING short! Say sorry, stop fighting, love one anther, live and let live. Stop nitpicking, treasure your partner, live life, be happy. Say fuck, make jokes and laugh out loud. Because tomorrow might be too late.
I dedicate this blog to my belated brother-in-law Johan and my beloved sister-in-law. I salute you for your strength although I know it is not always easy. Remember the good times and hold fast to the hand of our Heavenly Father. We love you. <3
be sure to read Antoinette my sister-in-law’s blog. Antoinette is a newbie blogger over at http://www.doyouwantsomecheesewiththatwhine.co.za
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