18th August 2015 was a bittersweet day for me … it was my birthday but it was also the day that my younger son had long awaited … for years he had yearned to go overseas to play rugby. His father and I had told him that before that happened he had to finish his degree, get some work experience and earn his own money then he could do whatever he wanted to … I drove him to the airport and with a heavy heart and eyes full of tears I said farewell as he left South Africa for the U.K. He first played for a club in Scotland before moving to England. In the time he has been there he has come home sometimes more than once a year. Soon it will be for good.
In June 2016 my older son had surgery for testicular cancer. We are so grateful that it was contained although he continues to be monitored by the oncologist. He had put off surgery until he had been to see his father in hospital in the U.K. as he had taken a turn for the worse.
In 2016 I discovered a lump in my right breast. A mammogram and needle biopsy followed. It was termed a ‘mouse’ because it moved and I was advised to leave well alone. However the lump kept growing which was not normal and I was constantly aware of it. In March 2018 I had my 2 year mammogram plus an ultrasound as the lump had grown quite a bit. I did not want another biopsy even though the last one was benign and the type of lump should not have grown as it had, besides my medical aid doesn’t cover biopsies and I didn’t have the money to have another. Removal was the best option in my opinion. The radiologist agreed with my decision to have it removed especially as I was over 50. An ultrasound was also done to measure and it was confirmed that the mass had grown considerably. In April I saw a surgeon and we decided to proceed with surgery to remove the lump. A giant fibroadenoma weighing 43.47g was removed, part of which had to be scraped from the chest wall. Fortunately this proved to be benign.
On Saturday 14 July 2018 my Mom who was battling with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease took a bad turn and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. Despite having medical aid the plan that my parents were on could not be changed as my father was a Railways pensioner and was put onto that particular plan when he went on pension, this meant that they had to attend Government Hospitals. After spending the whole afternoon in the Casualty Department my Mom was eventually admitted for treatment and once she was settled in bed we said goodnight and told her that we would see her the next day. I took my Dad home, made sure he was okay and then went home and got into bed. My son was going to take my Dad to see my Mom the next afternoon and Marc and I planned to go in the evening.
Early the next morning I got a phone call to say she had passed away. Stunned I woke Ryan telling him to get dressed as we had to go to my Dad and tell him in person. I then phoned my sister who lives in Johannesburg and Ryan contacted Kyle in the U.K. before we went to my Dad He was busy cooking his Sunday breakfast but as soon as he saw me with Ryan he knew that the news was not good. It took him a while to get himself ready so we could go to the hospital. By the time we got there they had already taken my Mom’s body down to the morgue and the Sister handed me a clear plastic bag with her belongings. It was all that was left of her in hospital. My Dad was reeling as he tried to absorb the fact that my Mom was not going home and he would now be living on his own in the house they had lived in for 57 years.
Downstairs we went and eventually found the morgue. It was locked. We waited for someone to come and help us. Eventually someone did and we proceeded to get the necessary paperwork done. I contacted the funeral home and whilst we waited for them to arrive Ryan and I took my Dad to have coffee.
I had just finished mine when I got the call from the undertaker to say he was downstairs so I left Ryan with my Dad and went back downstairs.
I met the undertaker and was told that I had to identify my Mom … I managed to get through this only by reminding myself that her spirit had gone and it was just her body … her shell … the human form that was lying in the body bag. I was numb as they unzipped it and looked at her frail body for the last time. She looked so tiny. She had died in the hospital she was born in.
I walked with the undertaker as he wheeled her to his mortuary van and watched as they put her inside then I found my way back to the coffee shop to Ryan and my Dad. We stopped at our home first so I could shower and change and also to get him out of his house for a short while. When we went back to his home I contacted family and friends and then I started some of the paperwork for my Mom’s Executor so that there would be very little delay in dealing with those formalities, notified her pension and funeral fund etc. I had to keep busy and focus on all that needed to be sorted so that my Dad did not have to deal with everything. It was my way of dealing with everything and I did not want to think of her not being there anymore.
My sister flew in later that evening. She would be staying with my Dad. My brother in law, niece and nephew arrived a few days later.
The next few days were a blur as we dealt with the funeral home, arranged the memorial and sorted out more paperwork. Some time ago I had made a file with everything I would need to deal with when the time came that one or both of my parents died. As my sister lived in Johannesburg and I didn’t live too far from my parents it was easier for me to deal with this side of things. My sister dealt with most of the arrangements for the memorial and calls that were received. Bron & I had contacted a friend who worked at our old Junior Primary School and they offered the use of the hall for Mom’s memorial. They went the extra mile arranging everything we would need there and it was all done with such love and care. We were so appreciative of everything that they had done for us. My niece and nephew had compiled some music. Ryan and my nephew each spoke sharing memories of their Gags and I also said a few words, with difficulty, but it was something I needed to do. Whilst my parents did not attend church it did not mean that they did not believe and we decided that Mom’s memorial should be simple and informal.
Kyle and his girlfriend flew out from the U.K. but could only get here after the memorial. It was good to have them home. It is times like this that living far from home is the hardest and whilst we told him not to come Vicky knew he needed to be here … besides, she had fallen in love with KwaZulu Natal and there was no way she was staying behind!
I was leaving the week after the memorial for an early 60th birthday spoil in Dubai with special friends who had gifted me my ticket and visa. Debbie and her family had moved to Australia 17 years prior, her daughter Derryn had grown up there but had moved to Dubai where she was an air hostess with Emirates. Derryn had met her husband in Dubai, he also worked for Emirates and they had a beautiful little girl. I would be staying with them and Debbie who had flown in a week earlier from Australia. I used to look after Derryn when she was a baby and now I was meeting her baby. It seemed like yesterday that she herself was so small. It was a long planned holiday and I was really looking forward to it.
I had given my Dad my old smartphone … a huge upgrade for him from his very old Nokia. I spent time with him showing him how to use it and the staff at the agency at his local Mall were really patient had helpful too. We got him onto WhatsApp but he had a problem with his connection the whole time I was away … this was eventually sorted and I have to say I am really proud of how he has learned his way around the phone! We still have to help him out when he gets stuck but it was a huge change and for an 88 year old man he did really well.
I still had to pack and do final bits and pieces. I could hardly think straight. Thank goodness for Vicky, she helped me decide on clothes and literally packed my case for me and between her and Kyle they got me to the airport, this time on his birthday!
This was my first solo long distance flight! Luckily I was going directly to Dubai … no connecting flights to worry about.
We arrived early the next morning and it was a long walk from arrivals to where I had to fetch my luggage and meet 2 very excited ladies. Tears of joy and tears of loss flowed … they had known my Mom well too and I had helped Debbie and her sister, who also lives in Australia, when their Mom died in August 2013 and then their father in May 2017 as they had become part of my extended family in South Africa.
Back at Derryn’s apartment we chatted for a while and had some coffee and then they, being seasoned travellers, insisted that I try and sleep. Not being one to sleep in the day I lay down and within minutes was so relaxed that I fell into a deep sleep. I woke feeling refreshed but still tired. I got to meet Emil in person at long last and then Chloe came home from school. We had all waited so long for this moment.
Leaving Emil at home we set off to see some of Dubai and have lunch out. Over the next few days Debbie and I spent a lot of time going out on our own during the day and evenings. We walked so much that my (then) new cellphone recorded my best steps at 6000. Every day since I get a message saying that is my target for the day!! … however I work in an office at a desk and don’t get to walk nearly as much! There was so much to see and do and I would love to go back one day to do some of the things we didn’t get the chance to do. What an experience though. Sadly all good things eventually come to an end and it was time for me to pack my case once again. With lots of help this was achieved and as I walked into the lounge to enjoy my last evening with the family I looked at them and burst into tears. Distance between family and close friends is really awful.
Not long after I got back my Dad flew to Johannesburg to spend a few days with Bron and her family. He was flying back on my birthday. While he was away Marc and I stayed in his house. My birthday fell on a Saturday … Marc had a function and had left early that morning. It was weird waking up alone in the house that I grew up in … on my 60th birthday, we had moved in when I was 3 years old. Every year since I had left home the first call I would get to wish me would be from my Mom … this was the first year that I never got that call. Instead of it being a happy day of celebration my tears flowed as I spent the day alone and finally allowed myself to grieve the loss of my Mom. It was good to cry and release. All too soon the day was almost over and I had to fetch my Dad from the airport. I got there early and bought an easy Woolworths meal for him and I to share when we got back to his place. After dinner I drove home and went to bed but not before Ryan had wished me and given me my gifts from him. I was fast asleep long before Marc got home from his function.
Sometimes we wonder why so much happens in our lives and we feel that some things are hard to bear. What we forget or don’t realise is that we don’t go through things on our own. Our band of angels is always close by watching over us and sending love and comfort. Not only our band of heavenly angels but our family and friends here on earth too … our own earth angels. The problem is we forget to ask and we expect that they all just know when we need them or need help. This is harder still when you are the one who likes to help but it is important that we also ask for and accept the help that is waiting for us.
Yours in Love & Light,
Jennifer Harris McGarvie
Hands on Healing