Category Archives: Death

What Justice? Where?

It is my opinion that the justice system does not, and will never work.

Take the Stayner brothers for example.  7 year-old Steven Stayner was abducted by Kenneth Parnell, kept in captivity and sexually abused for seven years before he escaped.  The return to his family was fraught with adjustment difficulties.  The family did not receive trauma counselling.  Sadly, Steven died at the age of 24 in a bike accident.

The older brother, Cary Stayner, later landed up on death-row as a convicted serial killer.  He was sexually abused during his childhood but never told.

Kenneth Parnell was a paedophile with previous convictions and sentences.  For the Stayner kidnapping he received a seven-year sentence of which he served only five.  After his release and already quite advanced in age, he tried to buy another little boy.  For this he was sentenced 25 years to life under California’s three strikes law.  This law and not his crimes, finally removed him from society.

A stranger tale cannot be conceived but it serves to highlight some problem areas:

  • The Accused.  How is man with Kenneth Parnell’s background given seven years for the crime he committed against Steven Stayner?  He received equally light sentences for his other offenses.  It is because they only charged him with the kidnappings, never for the sexual offenses.  We must keep in mind though that some things have changed since the 70’s.
  • Defence Liars (exceptions excluded).  Who defends a man like Parnell, and why?  Okay, so the court appoints an attorney to defend the accused because every man has that right, and is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  But to defend him as though you want him back on the street?  As though he is innocent?  Come on!  And if a Liar is highly paid for defending someone like Parnell, his crime is the greatest.
  • Counselling.  Would Cary Stayner have turned into a murderer had he received trauma counselling?  For something as little as an armed robbery my family had to.  It is virtually impossible to deal with trauma, to file away what had happened and to have a healthy mental outlook afterwards without it.  Apparently it was offered to the Stayner family at some point, but rejected.  Again, in the 70’s the importance of counselling was not yet understood.  Of course I do not know if Cary would have killed had he properly dealt with Steven’s disappearance but I do know that if the family had been helped to work through the loss and eventual return of Steven, they would have been better equipped to deal with their emotional losses and wounds.  Cary stated that he felt neglected during the years his parents were grieving for Steven, and this is normal in most households where parents lose a child.  In fact, the disappearance of a child is almost worse than a death because the bereavement never reaches its logical conclusion.  Cary also said that upon Steven’s return they had to share a bedroom and that he resented that.  He was jealous of all the attention and gifts that Steven received.   The child needed help.
  • Evidence.  The business of not entering into evidence ALL known facts about the defendant misleads the jury.  It is impossible for them to fully understand the accused, what drives him and what his habits are if half of the facts are inadmissible.
  • The Jury System.  It is difficult enough to have a husband and wife agree on important issues, how much harder for twelve people?  And ‘a jury of your peers’ is a laugh.  A peer is someone of a similar age, race, education and background.  Someone who can identify with you.  [Definition of Peer: one that is of equal standing with another: equal; especially: one belonging to the same societal group especially based on age, grade, or status].  It therefore stands to reason that in a shoplifting trial, real peerage would mean that the jury is made up of shoplifters.  Who knows?  Perhaps they would actually give a proper and fair verdict.  In a first-world society I believe that a judgement by a judge (????) is far more accurate.  A person with knowledge of the law and hopefully, a good insight into human behaviour.  In third-world countries unfortunately, it opens itself up to abuse like threats and bribery.

So what is the solution to the lack of justice?  I think that after examination it becomes clear that there is none.  We live in an imperfect world, populated by imperfect people who implement imperfect systems based on imperfect ideas.

Because of that we will always have those who are imprisoned innocently as well as the guilty walking free.  The only hope is if everybody, from the lowliest cop right up to the judge, and further onto the lawmaker, strives for the truth.

John 8:32  “…… and the truth shall set you free”.

References:


Blood is thicker than Water

We recently had a family funeral.  It had been 15 years or more since I had seen some of those cousins but there was that immediate kinship.  It needed no words.  It is a bond without explanation.  A blood-tie.

I love my cousins and I love the idea of cousins.  I have almost 30.  We make a point of getting together once or twice a year, just to catch up and to have fun.

Cousins are nice for many reasons.  You are not that close to them that they judge, but not so far apart that they do not understand.  They accept you as you are, they don’t backstab or bite.  They have no need to.  They are your blood.   They knew you as a child and they know the circumstances that shaped you.  They identify with you.  They were a source of strength through each family tragedy.  They walked together with you, in your family shoes.

Aunts and uncles will always see you as a child.  They frown easier, like parents do, because they feel that they have a vested interest in you.  They have watched you from birth and wish the best for you.

Sad though are aunts and uncles that become grumpy with age.  Life is difficult, sure, but if you going to sit at a family barbecue with a sour face, why come?  Stay at home and you won’t be irritated or annoyed, nor will the people around you be inconvenienced by your disapproving face and under-handed grumbles.  And hell, if you have become a vegetarian and do not eat bacon, bring your own food.  Don’t sit there and complain about what is on offer when you have contributed zip.

I had to laugh at the funeral though.  An older ducky approached one of my aunts and said:

“Mary, is that you?”

“Yes”, said Mary, “And who may you be?”

“It is me, Sarah, don’t you remember?”

“Of course I do Sarah!”

Sarah stood still for a moment and looked Mary over, from top to toe before exclaiming:  “My Mary, but you have gotten old!”

Mary visibly froze, then slowly shook out her feathers:  “Well Sarah, you don’t look to young yourself”.

“But Mary, you look ancient!”

By this time I was rolling on the floor laughing but neither of them noticed.

“Now listen Sarah, I am seventy-three years old, what do you expect?”

Sarah tapped her foot:  “But you look seventy-three!”

Mary was turning red:  “How old are you Sarah?”

“I am fifty-six”.

With a satisfied grin Mary looked Sarah straight in the eye and said:  “Well, you also look seventy-three”.

And that was the end of that.

Comical as it was, it made me realise that these two had not seen one another for thirty or forty years, and that they have long since passed the age of niceties.  They say it like it is.  And the appearance of the other was indeed a great shock, a realisation of time gone by.

I was sad that I had lost a cousin whom I had not seen enough of.  I was more sad for my aunt and uncle and remaining cousins for the loss they will have for as long as they live.  But I was grateful to find that the bonds with my family were still intact and that it will always be.

Because in the end, blood is very much thicker than water.


What about Them?

We don’t even notice them.  The marginalised, the down-and-out.  Tramps, orphans, AIDS victims, alcoholics, drug addicts, the neglected, human and animal.

They are nameless, faceless beings we pass on streets, or read about in papers.  They sleep under bridges in extreme weather, live in homes without parents, they are kept in cages and abused.

We can say that we care, but really caring involves doing something.  Just driving by and saying “Shame” is not caring.  It is a momentary tug at the conscience.

They are unlovely and unlovable, they contaminate.  They are unclean and pushed aside.  They cause guilt.  We do not reach out a hand, because they are there by choice.

But are they really?

The simple truth is, that there but by the grace of God go I.

So spare them a smile and a prayer.  It costs nothing.


What’s in a Dad?

Every child deserves the privilege of a Daddy.

A boy needs a Dad to teach him how to be a man.  And to do man-things with.  A girl needs a Dad to teach her about men, and how to be a woman.

Dads protect their children and deal with bullies.   When a little girl is born, Daddy immediately makes plans on how to handle future suitors.  Way ahead of time, he has schemes of revenge in place to deal with any guy who breaks her heart.

Daddies have safe laps for little children to crawl onto.  Without a Daddy, a child has no understanding of security and is prone to anxiety.

Dads build doll houses and fix bicycles.  They make the house nice.  They care for Mommies.

A little girl without a Dad has no understanding of men and their ways.  She has no one to warn her and protect her.  She has no one to teach her that love comes in many forms and that sexual love is not necessarily real.

A little boy without a Dad has to learn about women on his own.  With no example, he has to work out what it means to be a provider.

Little children without a Dad, or with a bad Dad, are adrift on an open sea.  Their only hope is in rescue by the Father of fathers.


My throw-away Child

She received a call from her dad.  Did she want a kitten because the owner was about to drown it.  She didn’t, so I took it.  It had snow-white hair and blue eyes, and I named her Nicola.  I fell in love with Nikki, who was a boy.

***

I swallowed a potion to remove the foetus, if there was one.  Late that night the pain started, and the bleeding.  Then there was a little blob in the bath.  In my drug and alcohol induced haze I figured that was the end of it.

But years later as I sat on my knees in front of the rocking chair in Kyle’s bedroom, it all came back.  My second son was just a few months old.  I prayed, prayed in anxiety and worry and care.  My thoughts were so wrong and muddled.

The scene changed and a man in a black suit carrying a child in his arms walked towards me.  It was my dad, dressed in the suit he wore the day he died.  The little girl was about 5 or 6 years old.  She wore a white dress with a yellow sash around the waist.  She was beautiful with blonde hair and blue eyes.  And I understood her name, Nicola.  My little throw-away child.

Nikki, I threw you away but you were scooped up into the arms of your Father, where you are waiting for me.  You have forgiven me and long to put your arms around me, just like I do.

I do not know what your life would have been like had you stayed, I was such a mess.  But I do know that Heaven holds a special place for little ones like you, unconsidered, unwanted and discarded.

Thank you, my only daughter child.


To all the dogs I never loved …

Gingi was a Pekingese.  We found her abandoned at the SPCA when she was 6 months old.  Pekingesies have wonderful personalities.  Not really lovable and grumpy when teased, but so unique.  Once you own one, you will be in love.

Gingi came into our lives before I liked dogs.  She had attitude, more like a cat.  She was always so proud of herself when she went to the parlour and loved climbing into nooks and crannies and drawers.

Gingi died before I could love her properly.  She managed to squeeze her way through the fence and got knocked over.  The driver never stopped and she was dead when I got there.  My family gave her love, therein lays my consolation.  But she started teaching me that dogs could and should be loved, she started walking a road with me which Danni (my Rhodesian Ridgeback) carried through.

Then came Ameé, the cutest little baby Pekingese.  I enveloped her in love.  She died in my hands at 3 months old.  Jessie was extremely tiny and had congenital problems from inbreeding.  She also died in my hands.  My road of learning to love was almost complete.

I fetched Cinnamon (in the picture) when she was 8 weeks old.  She was from the same breeder as Ameé and Jessie and had the same problems.  But this time I went to a specialist vet who saved her.  She is a princess too, just like Gingi and gets funnily angry when the kids tease her.  She doesn’t want to sleep with me, or cuddle.  She loves me on her terms.

And I realised that I, someone who regrets very little, regret not loving Gingi enough.  But I am so grateful for what she taught me.  That dogs are wonderful additions to a family.  They enrich our lives, they teach us, they are loyal and love unconditionally.

Gingi my little animal, if you were here today, you would have been queen.


I yearn for this Life to have passed

When I will be in glory without trials, tribulations or tears.  Where there will be only righteousness, peace and ecstasy.  Where my bottled tears will stand in remembrance of my sojourn here.

There will be comfourt and laughter and a joyful reunion with all of old.  Loved ones long not seen but ached for.

I know the streets are made of gold and all is new, but more than that I yearn to be with those I love, never to be parted again.

This world is ugly and unkind.  It is tedious and difficult.  It is with blood, sweat and tears that we plot our path.  Worthy to do, worthy to learn, but it too has to come to an end.

Oh what is the hope of those who can only see this here and now?  They are stymied in growth and but poor in spirit.  A life lived without hope is not worth living.  There has to be more to reach for, a hunger and a thirst that will not be slaked until the end arrives.

You who are dead, open your ears and widen your eyes but even more, unlock your heart so that light and life might flood in.

This is all, until it is over, then there will be more.


I wish I had my Grandparents with me for longer

I adored my paternal Grandparents.  They were wise and loving people who gave their best to their six children, and grandchildren to come.

My father was 29 when he died of thrombosis, and it almost killed them.  He was their favourite.  My grandparents lived about an hour’s drive away but not long after, when I was about 7, they were posted from the Transvaal to the Cape.  From then on until they died, I saw them only once a year.

When they moved they wanted my mom and brother and I to go with them.  But my mom decided that it would be best for her to try making it on her own.  The only thing she accepted from him was money for a gravestone, which we visited once.

When I was a child, and reasoned as a child, I deeply loved them.  Initially, we would drive the 14 hours to visit them but when we got older, we went by train.  My grandmother would read Dr. Suess’ books to us.  She acted it out till we held our stomachs laughing.  The only time I ever saw her angry was when we, with my two cousins, made a game of jumping from a bedroom window into her daisy bushes.  Her garden was her pride and joy.

When I was a teenager, and knew everything, I loved them still.  But I did not have much time to spend with them then.  I had parties to go to, friends to hang out with and boys to meet.

They never reproached me, or asked me why.  They quietly accepted it with all the love they had for my dad.  Their love was not the gushy, kissy kind.  It was a love that brought me my favourite breakfast in bed every morning.  It was a love that wrote to me often, exhorting and teaching me.  It was a love
that wore out its knees for me in prayer.

When I became an adult, and thought like an adult, I wanted to spend time with them because I loved them deeply.  I caused them joy when I chose my God, or rather, when He chose me.  I was 23 when he died.

I had my grandmother for another 14 years before she too left me.

Ouma, I want to be like you.  I want the kindness, patience, forbearance, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, laughter and love
that made you so beautiful.  I want to be able to give of myself as unsparingly as you did.  Thank you for your letters and books.  For the phone  conversations, I wish there were more.  Thank you for your faith.

Oupa, thank you for the arm of protection you folded around us when we were a little family adrift, you owed us naught.  Thank you for providing for me so that I had a good start in life.  Thank you for your wisdom in allowing me to make mistakes.

I so look forward to the day that I shall be with you once more.


She died from AIDS

I see the coffin being lowered into the ground by pallbearers dressed in black. I hear the wailing and screeching, sniffs and sobs. I feel the chill in the air. Lettie’s tears streaming down her raisin cheeks onto her new dark dress. The smell of freshly dug wet earth covering Susan’s body. Her footsteps eternally erased from the soil she walked on. All that will be left is the smell of her, for a while. On her clothes, her bed, her things. And the imprint of her in our hearts.

With a trembling hand Donald reads the letter I wrote. The one in which I tried to explain my love for Susan.  Agnes is nodding her head. She is the only one sitting down, her shortened polio leg unable to bear her enormous weight. Edith stands with her head bowed, clasping her thin hands in front of her.

“Susan always worked hard. Her smile graced my home every day. I will always remember her laughter and the fact that she didn’t get angry. People came for advice because she was wise. She loved her mother Lettie and her family”.

Cousin Donald’s voice rings out over the crowd. Today is about remembrance. We are reminiscing together even though I’m not there.

“I am glad because now I know she will never have pain again. Her tears have been dried and she has been filled with joy”. He stops and looks at the funeral goers before carrying on. “My prayer is that Tsepo shall become a big man just like his mother dreamed he would. Tsepo, your mother loved you and she was very proud of you. Always stay on the road that she pointed out so that you may honour her name”. Tsepo’s seven-year-old face reflects the turmoil within. His newphew Johannes is eight and feels that he should comfourt his little cousin so he digs into his pocket and hands Tsepo a mint. Even though he is sad, he is glad to see his father again. Joseph works on the mines and does not often get time off work. His mother lives far away in Rustenburg, but Johannes does not like going there. She is mean and her parents treat him badly. He is always hungry when he visits her. It is much better to stay with Gogo Lettie and Tsepo. .

By means of a little piece of paper I tell them how much richer I am for having known Susan. I know they will soak out of it all the feelings I had poured into it. And afterwards, someone may ask about the person that wrote the letter. And Lettie will tell them about a white woman in Gauteng who became her friend.

oooOooo

If someone asked me, I would tell them that I was only twenty-one with a baby on the way when Lettie found me. She became my housekeeper and my teacher. Whenever I became despondent over baby problems she would say to me: “Nooi (young girl), as long as you can wrap him in a blanket your troubles are small”. How I used to laugh with her. Little did she know then how small that blanket would become when her own kids got older.  Joseph would land up in prison for killing a man in a drunken brawl. Nicholas would develop epilepsy and need permanent care.  Agnes would always be crippled. Hilda’s husband would always beat her. Susan would be in the grave long before her mother.

She only worked for me one or two days a week in the beginning, I forget which.  My husband and I lived in a tiny little house on a huge piece of grass. Everyone laughed because it looked like a doll’s house. Two years later we moved and Lettie followed. She stayed with a woman whose mother she had worked for. She told me that the couple fought all the time.  She was miserable.

Then one day she said: “Nooi, they told me to leave. What am I going to do? I have nowhere else to go and I cannot retire yet”. I was astounded. “Why Lettie, what’s going on?” “I think they are getting divorced”. My husband and I spoke it over before I approached her with my suggestion. “Lettie, you know the zozo? It is not much but if you want to stay there until you find something better, you are welcome”. I saw the worry disappear off her face in that instant. “I will take it nooi”. “Lettie, promise me you’ll look around for something better”. “I will nooi, I will”. By the end of the month she had moved her few belongings and there she stayed. I wanted to build her a proper room but did not have the means to do so. The zozo was made from precast and it was draughty. It got hot in the summer and cold in winter. But whenever I asked she insisted that she was quite comfortable. She never did look for another place to stay.

She spoke about her children often and they dropped in whenever they were in the area.  I got to know them all. Edith, Joseph, Agnes, Susan and Nicholas. Hilda I met later and her daughter would eventually work for my brother. By this time Lettie was well into her fifties and working for me three days a week. The other two she spent at neighbours. She would come home and astound me with stories of how they lived. People who seemed so normal from the outside. She also told me the story of her life. She only had a standard four because she ran away from school. Her mother then found her employment on a farm but she ran away from that too. I think in different times and under different circumstances, Lettie would have been somewhat of a free spirit. But poverty is a chain that nails everything down. She eventually fell in love with a “Boesman” as she called him, a coloured man. She had 6 children before he ran off. She left the children with her mother to find employment in Johannesburg.  Six children did not come cheap.

One day I asked her: “Lettie, did you never fall in love again?” “I did nooi. But it did not work out”. “Why not?” “Because he was from Mozambique and he wanted to go back home. He was a madala (old man) already by then”. “Why did he leave you if he loved you?” It did not understand the cultural differences. “He wanted to take me with him, but I could not leave my children Nooi.”   That ended her only true love. From there on she put men behind her and sought to raise her kids as best she could. To provide for them and see to it that they appreciated what they got.  I saw exactly the same trait in Susan in time to come.

Then Joseph was imprisoned. One night on the mine compound he got into a fight. They had had too much to drink and a man pulled out a knife. So did Joseph. In the ensuing fight, Joseph killed the man and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  I still remember the look of shock on her face during the months it took for Joseph to receive his sentence. The embarrassment. But she did whatever it took to raise the money to pay his expenses and never wavered.  Today Joseph’s imprisonment is but a dim memory.

She always said that at sixty she would retire. We used to laugh at that. “You are still a spring chicken Lettie, you have a long way to go. Anyway, what will you do all day long” I’d ask. “I’ll sit in the sun and I’ll rest. Then the children will look after me like I have looked after them”. I wonder if she knew it would not be the case but hoped for it anyway?  I also never really entertained the thought of her leaving. Somehow I imagined that I would always have her with me. “But when I leave nooi, I will send someone to look after you”. She saw me as a child and never noticed that I had grown up until we were apart. “Who will you send Lettie? No one will be able to look after me the way that you do”. She’d smile wisely and say: “When the time comes, I will know”.

Then she turned sixty.  And she left.  She sent her sister Olga in her place. The rest she longed for turned out to be bringing up grandchildren whose parents were working away from home, carrying water from the communal tap in the village and walking hours every month to collect her meagre pension. All the while dealing with daily life in a dusty town where everybody knew everybody’s business. She kept in contact with me. She even sent Susan or Edith  to visit and update me on their news. We wrote to each other and she visited once, just to see how big my children were.

Olga was with me for little over a year when she died.  She went to a shebeen one night with a friend and an argument errupted.  She ran off, not stopping to look for cars and was knocked over, dying instantly.  The husband soon appeared at my doorstep with family and friends. They sat in her room talking about her and planning her funeral.  He was an alcoholic, dependant on Olga for an income. There was no money for even a modest funeral. The only thing to do was to take care of the arrangements ourselves. My husband and brother made the coffin and we found a helpful mortician to make her look the way we remembered her. He lined the coffin with fabric and placed her in it. He even agreed to rent us a trailer to take her home in.

My sister-in-law and I piled the bakkie high with Olga’s belongings. On top of everything was her two-seater couch and on top of that, her son Ben and Donald. Behind us followed a ‘Martin’s Funeral Parlour’ trailer carrying Olga’s earthly remains. It was a slow six-hour arive, made worse by the starring passers-by and my attempt to stop smoking. We arrived in Jan Kemp Dorp at midnight, wondering who would help us off-load. But to our surprise, all her family and friends were there in their Sunday best, awaiting our arrival. They respectfully removed the coffin and placed it inside her house. Then they silently filed past it to pay their last respects. The only suggestion they made was that in future we should split the coffin lid so that the face only may be viewed.

Afterwards we had tea with Lettie at her house. She proudly showed us the works of her hands and explained the things she still needed to do. The house was warm and friendly and loving. It smelt of cooking and cleaning.  I was glad for the opportunity to have seen her world.

When I spoke to Lettie again she had decided that Susan should come and work for me. Her baby girl. I was reluctant because Susan was capable of so much more. She had completed a basic computer course and had elementary typing skills. Besides for that, she was a vibrant and energetic young woman. I was concerned that housekeeping would stifle her spirit and that she would land up regretting that she did not try other things.  Initially I think Susan agreed only for Lettie’s sake, but as time went on she grew roots. She always assured me that if she found something more suitable to her, she would tell me.  I got to know and love her. We chatted often, about the mistakes of our pasts, the hopes of our futures and everyday life. She told me that she had a relationship with a man when she was in her final year of schooling but only found out that he was married after she fell pregnant. She kept Tsepo but left the man.

Shortly after she came to me she entered the darkest time of her life. She fell in love with a man who cheated on her. Susan was a SeSotho and Thomas a Zulu. Their traditions were worlds apart. He said that he wanted to marry her but that she would have to go live in Kwa-Zulu Natal on their land with his mother. “Mandy, I can never do that. My mother would never allow it. And I’m not sure that I would ever see my family again, KZN is so far”, she said. “If you love him Susan, sort this out before you go any further”, was the only suggestion I could give. She cried. He had no shame. I did not understand, but I did. “Susan, you have to leave Thomas, he is destroying you!” I pleaded. “I know Mandy, but I love him”. “Love is a decision Susan, not a feeling. Move on!”  Her usual sunny face gave way tot perpetual sadness.

During that time a friend of hers contracted AIDS.  The husband, mother and children deserted her. The stigma of the disease was just too much for them to bear so she died alone, and was buried alone.

Susan finally ended the relationship with Thomas but it took a long time for her to heal.  But I was able to complete a goal I had for Lettie. I built Susan a room with a bathroom and the zozo hut was pulled down.

Then suddenly she became ill. “Mandy”, the gynaecologist warned, “this is a pelvic inflammation, but it is unusually high in the abdomen.  She needs to be admitted to hospital so that they can run tests”. “Where would you suggest I tale her Doctor?” I asked.  Susan was not on on a private medical aid and government hospitals were notorious.  Little did I know what lay in store for us. “Joburg Gen is good, but Baragwanath would be better. Get her in there today”. He wrote a letter that I saw as a talisman guaranteeing good treatment. How wrong I was.

Our first attempt at having her admitted at Baragwanath was when she arrived there at two in the afternoon with Donald.  Shortly before seven o’clock that evening he had to leave to catch the last taxi home. And since they had been there already five hours, there was no reason to suspect that they would not admit her. I was at a business dinner with my husband when I received her “please call-me”. “Mandy, they say that I must go home”. She sounded weak. “Susan, did you show them the letter from your gynaecologist?” I was livid. “Yes Mandy. They say that there is nothing wrong with me and that I must go home”. “Let me speak to the doctor”. He sounded uninterested and insisted that Susan was not ill. “What about the letter from the gynaecologist?” I asked. “Well, I believe that he has misdiagnosed this case. I am prescribing some medication, if she starts vomiting she should come back”. His manner was blunt. “So what you are saying is that she is only ill enough to be admitted if she vomits?” I asked. “Yes”. “Then you will admit her?” I insisted to make sure that I understood. “Yes”. Susan had to wait at the hospital for over an hour as we wangled our way out of our evening.  She had a packet of painkillers and an anti-biotic.

For three days she was too weak to get out of bed and then she started vomiting. Eight o’clock that night we rushed her back to Baragwanath. I was sure that she would be admitted. Seven o’clock the next morning she phoned me and asked me to come fetch her. “Why?” I screamed. “They say I am not ill”. Her voice was toneless. When she got home she told me that the doctor only consented to see her at twelve o’clock that night. That after looking her over and doing a urine test, he again told her that she was acting up and that there was nothing wrong with her. He put her in the men’s mental ward for the night.  She was never really able to tell me what had happened to her that night and God alone knows what damage it did but after that she lost her laughter and I believe, gave up.

Three more times she went back to the hospital but all she got was to stand in a queue for hours for a handful of pills. By the end of October we decided that she should go home to her mother.  There was a doctor in the town of Hartswater who knew the family. We hoped that he would be able to diagnose what was wrong with her.

She saw the family doctor immediately and phoned me from his consulting rooms.  He told me the same old story: “I cannot diagnose this until we run some tests. Susan needs to be hospitalised’.  But as a private doctor, he could not get her admitted. By now we were deep into November and what started as pelvic infection had turned into chronic diarrhoea. She needed constant care and could not keep nothing down.  In February she told me that she had Tuberculosis.  The lights came on for me. “Susan, maybe you should ask the doctor to do an AIDS test”, I suggested. “What do you have to loose? If it is not AIDS that will be wonderful, but if it is, you can at least get proper treatment for it”. “Okay Mandy, I will go”. She was beaten. “And Susan”, “Mandy?” “You don’t have to tell me or anyone else if you are positive. You do understand that?” “Yes Mandy”.

Two weeks later she phoned. “Mandy, I am HIV positive, but the doctor says that I don’t have AIDS yet”. I found that hard to believe.  “How do you feel Susan?” I was concerned about the community’s treatment of her because I knew how they felt about AIDS. “I feel okay. At least I know what is wrong and they gave me an anti-retroviral”.

The TB tablets made her vomit so she could not keep the anti-retroviral down.  She told her family that she was HIVpositive, not feeling the need to hide it from the community. I admired her for that. Other than her trips to the doctor and the hospital, she was bedridden most of the time. Every time we talked there was less of her.  By mid-March she couldn’t get out of bed and did not speak. At the end of April she died.

Lettie took it stoically and took care of the arrangements. “Nooi, Susan will have a headstone”. “Yes Lettie, she will”.

We were left with only memories.  Memories of a laughing woman in her prime. Beloved woman.  I am sad for Lettie who has outlived her baby girl.  I am sad for Tsepo who grows up an orphan. I am sad for me because I lost a friend.

oooOooo

Lettie is getting old but she still has two young boys to raise and water to carry from the communal tap in the village. I guess the RDP has not yet reached Jan Kemp Dorp.

She phoned the other day to tell me that she was coming to visit with Tsepo in June. “I took a video of the funeral nooi. I’ll come show you”. I am looking forward to her visit so that we can talk again like we always did.

My Lettie, your life has been hard but your reward will be great. I always tell you that when you arrive in the hereafter, you have the mansion and I will have the zozo.  You always laugh but a heart so pure and faith so steadfast will not go unrewarded. You say that I must not throw you away and my reply is this: “You have been given to me, and I to you, for always.”

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”

THE END