25 April 2016

Forever is Forever

does not seem
too far away.

Sometimes it is
after we lose someone
when we learn 
to love.

Where hope,
and dreams greet,
and everything is perfect
the way
it was meant to be.

So hear me,
soon enough
we will meet again

I will carry your soul
in my heart.

The same heart you 
helped me build.


18 April 2016

The Climb

This weekend saw me running the Jonkershoek Mountain Challenge. Yes, another trail run but this race was different from all the rest. Obviously it is the longest and most challenging run I have ever completed but, from the day I signed up, I knew this race was going to be far more than the obvious.

There were many obstacles thrown up the week before race-day. Kevin picked up a knee injury,  I picked up an infection and on the night before the race unusual circumstances had me awake and upset until well after midnight....then to top it off, I woke up on race morning with swollen glands and a fiery throat.

Ridiculous opposition which simply made me more determined. We were going to run. Period.

Kevin taped his knee, we took copious quantities of varying (legal)  drugs and Sunday morning found us on the road to Stellenbosch at 0630.

The race was brutal, gruelling and painful at times. It was also magical, awe-inspiring and breathtaking.

The uphill climb was unending; it almost destroyed me until I remembered that looking up at how far you have to go is never, ever helpful. Simply keep looking straight ahead and find a safe place to plant your feet.

Keep moving. Keep breathing.

Very much like life. Beautiful and terrible.

Kylie and Russell showed up for us on that mountain on this exceptional day. We both had intensely personal experiences that left us with no doubt that our beautiful people continue to cheer us on as we pursue all that life has for us in this new season.

04 April 2016

The Layers of Loss

Easter weekend I hit wobble. In the midst of so much joy the darkness found a crack and slithered in regardless.
My 'flight mode' kicked in and I took off, unannounced, into the Mcgregor mountains with little regard for anyone else's feelings or concerns. Part of me knew it was wrong. That same part didn't care.

I took flack for it. My family and those closest to me shat me out. I defended myself; knowing full well they would never understand the gravity and relentless compulsion that causes me to flee on these rare occasions.

I resisted the urge to SCREAM and tell them to be grateful that I fucking well came back at all.

Yes. I still swear.
Yes. I am still angry.

I recently had coffee with someone who has walked my road and is a kickass friend who helps me unravel my shit. She gets it. I am so grateful to be able to go and bleed over a cup of coffee with her....and walk out lighter.
It saves me. And it saves many who love me ---- that they dont have to witness the inner workings of my occasionally tortured soul. (can you imagine??!!)

The layers of loss.

That is what I am experiencing.

Russell died.

Fucked up and awful and unimaginably revolting.
But so much else died with him and that is only realised as time moves on.

Tomorrow Levi goes back to formal schooling. While those around us are excited and proud of me for making this 'bold move' and 'doing the right thing' for my boy...all I feel is yet another death.

The death of the plan; the death of the dreams we had as a family. They were amazing and awesome and we worked hard to achieve them. But they are dead. They are void. They are gone.

Levi going back to school is the right thing but it still represents yet another huge loss for me.

24 March 2016

Beautiful and Terrible

This came up on my timeline this morning. I read it and it resonated with me. It made me smile but only for a split second. 

But then I remember. Almost a year ago to the day...I woke up to run Two Oceans and Russ was supposed to run with me. Everything was good. Except he was still feeling a bit nauseous and I suggested he not run this year. He agreed and graciously made me coffee and taxi-ed myself and my friends to the start line.

He drove away with a farway look in his eyes - typical runner FOMO - pissed off that we could not do it together. 

Next year we said.

Five days later we got the diagnosis.

Five months later he was gone. 

I fight a silent battle. I have seen how quickly something amazing can fall apart. I have felt pain like I never believed possible. I have fought like a freaking beast to survive and (by the grace of God) even thrive. 

I am so afraid to be happy. I am afraid to look ahead and make plans. 

It scares the living shit out of me.

14 March 2016

Unpacking the Months : Part Three

Part One Here
Part Two Here

....So he invited me to go see Goldfish at Shimmy's with his best friends... being the closet clubber that I am I was totally up for the jol. In fact, I Could Not Wait.

Taken at Shimmy - I was still pretty shy and retiring back then.

A few things unfolded in the two weeks prior to Shimmys though...here is the short version.

1. We ended up at the Sevens final together - along with Levi, Rachel and my folks.

2. We spent time along with our kids and some other friends at the beach - the most notable being an afternoon breaking in the SUP board at Kommetjie.

3. He met some of my close friends at a sundowners evening at Noordhoek.

We spent much time talking - mostly being completely ridiculous. We did not regularly compare grief notes. Our relationship has never been based on our mutual losses at all - it is a big deal but it is NOT the pivot around which we turn.

I spent way too much time telling him  how I was completely able to take care of myself  and how I would never, EVER want to be dependent on anyone again - emotionally or otherwise. The pain of enduring loss a second time was simply too much for me to even consider.

He did not seem deterred by my hardarse attitude at all. I pushed him away but he stood firm and slowly I realised he was not going to be easily scared off by me. He made me laugh. Regularly. He also fought with me which was kind of amazing because everyone else felt sorry for me. He did not.

He seemed to be able to tolerate my erratic behaviours; to be able to tell the bullshit from the core - and he didn't judge me or try to fix me or rein me in.

Same t-shirt...same shades but all so different now.
He understood the inner madness that still sometimes drives me to the outer limits of my existence. He had the ability to take me back from the brink and remind me that life is FUN, that my kids need me and that there is still so much to do and live for.

He also regularly reminds me that gratitude is the key to recovery ... although there are/were times I wanted to slap him and just tell him to SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET ME BE MAD.     :-)

Slowly I have begun to come back to life. I did not know when I met him that he trail runs. He only started running, for the first time, in August last year. I don't believe that is coincidence.

The irony rests in the fact that my original search was simply for a trail running partner; I gave up on that and instead I found a partner who trail runs.

I am quite possibly the most conflicted / unconflicted person you will ever meet. This weekend you see photos of me on facebook - radiant and joyful with the man I now love and yet if you had been in the mall this morning you would have found me in a complete tearful mess - mad at God for allowing the other man I love to have suffered and died such a cruel death.

Life is messed up and there is so much I cannot reconcile but God is good.

I choose to believe that.
In spite of everything that has happened.
And because of everything that is happening.

09 March 2016

Make Them Remarkable

Russell believed I was amazing. 
And he would often tell me so. 
I used to look at him in disbelief because he knew me SO well and despite 
that fact still thought I was this incredible human being. 

I remember looking him squarely in the eye and telling him :

The only reason I am who I am is because you love me unconditionally. Because we are a team.
You give me the courage and confidence to be exactly who I am at any stage of my life.

When he left this world the impact on me was so utterly devastating. It was as if someone had taken my roots and pulled them out. I felt lost, vulnerable and completely alone - like a toddler lost in a shopping mall. I was a shadow of myself. His love for me; mine for him - that was my anchor and safe place. The space from which I could safely launch myself into the world.

I will never take anyone I love for granted again. It can happen so easily, so surreptiously. 

Take stock of those around you - notice how they make you feel and make sure you sow back into that relationship and be part of making them remarkable.

08 March 2016

Simply Tuesday

Tuesday started pretty damn well.

A drive to beautiful Kommetjie first thing in the morning, 3 cups of coffee along with lots of laughs with a very special friend.

Later I arrived home to find a builder mate of mine waiting to give me some input on changes that need to be made to my home.  He offered plenty of advice for me on how to go forward with some of the plans I have in mind and we engaged in some healthy trail and boxing banter (he's a runner too).

I was feeling normal. Like myself. And quite chipper actually.

I pottered back inside, found the kids all working quietly and doing their thing.

I wandered into the kitchen and before I knew what was happening I had begun to unpack some of the storage cupboards.

One thing led to another and suddenly I was overwhelmed by piles of stuff.

His stuff.

His office space. 

This happens. I feel good and able to meander through the day. I attempt to tackle the hit-list that is my home.....and time after time I am derailed.

My home is full of 'piles'. I just cant seem to ever get through anything. It is SO debilitating. I wish I could just tell someone to come in and take it all away but that is not an option.

I have to do it.

I have to allow myself the time but God alone knows how long I am going to live in a house full of 'piles'.

The kids were deeply affected today too; they discovered some of their childhood toys which opened up memories.

And then you have to pull yourself together. Because life waits for no-one.

Levi and I had an appointment for orientation at his new school so we dried our tears, put on loud, inappropriate music and did the necessary.

He knocked their socks off.....despite the fact that his mother told the HOD that I have absolutely nothing to offer them other than the stellar opportunity to educate my son...who will, in turn, make their school look good.

At least they know not to ask me to cake sales and camp-outs.

02 March 2016

Of Grief and Raves

This weekend I went to ULTRA. I went on invitation with a group of friends and have to say I was tentatively excited. I told myself it was not a 'rave' but a music festival.....that way I did not freak myself out. :-)

It was an unforgettable 10 hour experience. I honestly have seldom felt more alive and in my own skin.

Part of me felt guilty.

Part of me felt ashamed that this is what I needed to feel like myself.

Surely I should be 'grieving more appropriately'?

As these thoughts all began crashing into my brain, threatening to suffocate me in the middle of the heaving crowd, the opening bars of  "See You Again" reverberated through the air.

In that moment every single negative emotion vanished. The clarity I experienced was incredible.

Russell knew me better than anyone. He knew my way of dealing with life was often not straight and narrow. He also knew my boundaries were rock solid and that ultimately I did what needed to be done to get through shitty times. He watched me over and over again. Quietly supporting me; never trying to confine me.

In that moment I felt him applauding my journey, smiling at the girl he knew could dance her feet off any night of the week given half the chance.

Grief is not about tears for me. It is not about looking back and wishing things could be same.

It is nothing like I thought it would be. 

Every day I grieve. Every day I grieve differently because grief is a reaction to major loss.

No two days find my reaction the same. 

The implications for me are huge as I never really know where the grief tide is taking me BUT I have finally come to a resting place in my own heart that wherever it does take me - I will be okay. 

26 February 2016

It Is Not Okay

It is six months since I was left alone out here to deal with life.

It's super shitty. I realise I am incredibly angry. Which makes me feel guilty.
I am also tired. I don't sleep anymore. 

This doesn't mean I am not happy in many aspects of my life but the fact remains that I am not okay. 

The biggest problem is that I often feel okay...which means I look okay and then suddenly I am totally not okay. It dangerous and confusing; even to me. 

The fallout is huge for the people closest to me. I swing wildly from massive guilt to f*** everybody rage mode and it is exhausting. The lack of control over my own life is debilitating.

I know I have to ride this out. I know it is normal but it is overwhelming to say the least.

Tomorrow I head up the coast to spend 24hrs with some mates; no kids, no responsibilities. 

I am so ready to just forget the world for a couple of hours and hopefully head into March with a little more confidence and energy.

Happy weekend to you all; make it worthwhile.

18 February 2016

Unpacking The Months:Part Two

(Find Part One here)

It took some time but I finally relented. I had nothing to lose. The email was written and sent.

He facebooked messaged me the same day and we connected on whatsapp on 21 November.

By this time I had regrouped  and was actively going out and living large. I was pushing new boundaries in my own independence and seeking out experiences that would definitely have scared me in a former life. I wasn't really in the 'needy' stage anymore - I kinda felt like I had started getting my shit together.

Then I wrote this blogpost the day before my birthday. I will never forget this day as long as I live. It was brutal.

He texted me  after reading my post, I knew he really GOT IT.  Of course he did....he had been exactly in the space I found myself right that moment. We chatted that night - briefly - around our grief experiences.

Another week or so passed; we began chatting more frequently on whatsapp. Like every day. Slowly we became more acquainted with each others' lives and generally developed a friendship that felt comfortable and easy. He had (has) a wicked sense of humour and an approach to life that mirrors mine so closely that at times it is quite unnerving.

I remember standing in my neighbours' kitchen with a G&T in hand one evening when 'the text' arrived from him. The one that asked if I was free for coffee sometime that week.

Not the one that said 'the kids and I are off the beach, do you wanna join us?'
This one was clearly a solo event.

I involuntarily did a little chick-skip; Andrea raised an eyebrow and said 'you may be in trouble here girlfriend'.  It was a funny moment .... and also a very scary one.

And so coffee was had. Two hours on Noordhoek beach on a balmy December morning.

Two relative strangers and yet a familiarity that took my breath away.

It was the beginning of an incredible friendship - this I knew with utter certainty.

The rest was too early to tell but interest was certainly piqued as he invited me to join him at an event in a couple of weeks time...and I accepted.

See Part Three here

16 February 2016

The Slow Creep

I have felt it coming on for a few weeks. Stalking me quietly. Grinning menacingly at me as I tried  to find ways to ward off the oncoming assault.

I do not suffer from depression and I never have. I did, however, live with a man who fought the battle his entire life. I know the signs, symptoms and I am well acquainted with this beast.

I am flattened. I am tired. I am worn out. I am bleeding. I have no reserve but to simply let it come for me.

God knows I have tried.

Almost six months later I am realising there is no escape.

No matter how many 'strong choices' I make...or how many kilometres I clock ..... or how many happy hours I spend doing crazy things....NONE of that is holding back the oncoming tide. I am going to drown. And soon.

It took a simple, loaded statement to make me wake up and see the pending destruction,

"Mom, it feels like we have been orphaned. 

You are hardly here because of all the work you have to 

do and when you are here you are never really present."

That was it. Something has to be done.

I do not know what that something is right now apart from phoning my mom and asking her to please come over immediately.

Chances are good she will know the answer.

My mom is cool like that.

15 February 2016

Unpacking The Months : Part One

It was cool October morning in 2015 when I woke up as I always did.....filled with dread. Completely unwilling to get up or answer my phone or talk to anyone. Hating my circumstances. Tired of trying to be positive and fucking grateful for all 'the good' in my life. I had just lost my husband and I still felt well entitled to being thoroughly pissed off.

For some reason, on this morning, I realised I had a choice to make. Yet again.  I could choose this muck and shit. I could choose to finally give in to the relentless sadness and anger and pain 

OR I could choose to begin all over again. Right from the beginning. 

Not forgetting my past or where I have come from but accepting that the life ahead of me is no longer one of shared dreams and aspirations. No. The life ahead of me is now purely mine for the crafting. 

That alone was enough to take my breath away. And not in a good way. Hyperventilating comes to mind.

Baby steps, I told myself. What is the ONE thing I can do today that will help me want to live again.

I need to eat. Simple hey? Not what you were expecting to hear from someone who has NO interest in food or eating on any given day BUT....

I needed to eat .... so that I could gain the strength to RUN again. Running was going to be my salvation. 

Road running was not the answer - I needed to head back onto the trail but finding a suitable partner proved to be a pretty precarious experience! After a couple of weeks of certifiably insane experiences I lamented to my mom that there were DEFINITELY no guys out there who just wanted to hang out and run with me from time to time.....ja....big surprise hey?! 

My mom casually says to me ... 'I know a guy Mel, he also has 3 kids actually.  He seems to be pretty outdoorsy, active and he lost his wife in similar circumstances some years back - perhaps I could email him and put him in the picture - tell him exactly what you are looking for - I am pretty sure you will be safe with him!' 

Awkward much?

See Part Two here

18 January 2016

Where to from here?

I feel slightly at a loss with my blog at the moment. Not quite sure how I transition from the intensity of the last few months (and posts) to random arb posts about my day to day living. All seems ridiculously trivial. What the hell is the point?

I guess I am going to simply write because its a discipline I know is beneficial. I know that writing helps me embrace my shit that I cant vocalise any other way.

I was lamenting to a friend recently that I cant cry. Well, not easily anyway. And when I do I immediately try to make it stop. Crying for me always seems thoroughly counter-productive and extremely self-serving. I don't like it. I would far rather take that pain and DO something.

One of the few things that can usually help bring on the tears is when I sit down and let my hand slide across the page - unedited, perhaps wrecklessly but ultimately honestly.

I am beginning to think I may need to reassess things - perhaps tone down the DOING and try get in touch with the FEELING.

Even writing that makes my blood run cold. 

Scary scary shit.

I have been told I need to go for therapy. Frankly I call bullshit. I know what needs to be done. I just need the courage to go there and trust that despite what comes out I will recover and regroup.

The fact of the matter is this - despite the fact that my entire life has turned upside down and that everything I have ever known or trusted has been challenged I still feel thoroughly like myself. In fact, I feel more like myself than ever before.

Perhaps I need to unpack that in the future. Or not.

30 December 2015

Tribute thoughts

11-9-68 to 25-08-2015

This is the unedited, first and only draft I did for Russell's tribute service. I never did use it as I decided on the day to just speak from my heart. I found it on my laptop today and am so grateful.  I have no recollection of what I actually said at the tribute. 

For those who could not be there; this is the best I can do for you at the moment - I have a feeling much of what is written here was covered on the day. I do hope to upload the video footage in the coming month or so.

1 September.

I don't know what to say. And yet there is so much to say.

Lets start at the beginning. I met Russ as a teen at a multi-denominational young adults group. He only ever came once...lucky for me I managed to peak his interest enough to engage with me in some lively churchy banter. I guess you could say our first date was going to visit a new church together the following weekend. Yup, true story.

What drew me to Russ from the very start was his passion. His intensity. His pure conviction about whatever was on his heart at the time. He drew me out over the weeks that followed and I vividly remember twisting his arm to go to movies instead of studying. I also remember him telling me the story of how in matric he had handed in his prefect badge because he could not stand the hypocrisy of the school system. I may then just have fallen in love with him. He was a straight-arrow bad-ass and I knew I had met my match.

About six weeks into our relationship he had to go to Plett with YFC. It was going to be a long 2 weeks! I can still see us standing in my folks driveway; him about to get into the car to drive away and my heart POUNDING IN MY CHEST because I knew. I knew I had to say it. I told him I loved him that night. He hugged me tight, kissed me goodbye and drove away WITHOUT saying it back.

I walked back into my parents house, into the kitchen where my mom was making supper. I just started to sob uncontrollably. I knew what had just happened had little to do with his response (or lack thereof) and everything to do with the fact that my heart now thoroughly belonged to someone else and that scared me immensely.

Upon his return he casually told me he was in for the long haul – if I didnt see marriage potential I needed to be let him know. Intense. Intentional. Goal orientated. He had me in his sights. 

Lucky me. Suffice to say we were married within a year of meeting each other.

Our first ten years were treacherous and we both made big mistakes but we were relentless in our pursuit of each other.  

When it hurt we still did the work and each time we overcame our struggles our love and commitment deepened.

I am so grateful for the 24 years we had.

These last 4 months have been the most bittersweet of my life. I was daily humbled by his unwaivering faith. His complete and utter conviction that whatever the outcome our God is a good God and He will not fail us.

Not once did Russ bemoan his circumstances – not once! True to form Russ approached his situation analytically, intentionally and spiritually. While he was ill he did not watch tv, surf the net, read books or fall into a pit of despair. We spent every moment together – doing nothing but simply being together.

The last weekend we had together was so special. Russ was really ill. I was with him and talking to him and trying to be strong while inside I was torn apart; hiding my excruciating pain. Then the most remarkable thing happened – We watched as Russ was transported into the presence of Jesus. He was fully alert, fully awake but very clearly not in our realm. His eyes were bright, full of life and excitement.

I watched as he fully experienced the love and utter joy at being in the presence of His father. He was so deeply overwhelmed by the enfolding love and his gratitude overflowed. He thanked Him endlessly for his peace, joy and love and his words resound in my ears to this day. (and i have it recorded on my phone)

 'Lord I don't want this stop, I don't want to lose this'. 

We sat in stunned silence, on holy ground, as Russ begged Christ to pour out His love into this valley and over the mountains that each and every one of us  (you)  could know what it feels like to be fully loved.

When Russ came back to me I jokingly asked him if he was now ready to leave me. And without hesitation he replied yes. He called me his beautiful princess and told me that we will be together soon. That there is no here and there but simply an eternity waiting for us. That this life is simply a taste of our time yet to come. 

I cannot tell you what this did for me – to know that my man who simply adores me had found a greater love and deep peace.

I now know, without a shadow of doubt, that heaven and the afterlife is real because Russell told me so.

10 December 2015

Closing the Chapter

I made my blog public when Russ became ill. I wrestled with God for AGES about it as  I was NOT happy to gut myself and bleed in public.

It was one of the single most difficult things for me to do - to pour my pain and grief onto a page for all to see. I did not want to be some poster child for inspiration when I knew very well who I was and how I was processing my circumstances....but I do believe it helped me make sense of the unthinkable and perhaps it helped many others too.

I will never know the full impact but I do know that the season is over.

I will be closing my blog once again. I will simply be writing for us - about our every day lives. There will be no profoundness or inspiration. Just the tick-tock of everyday life and our attempt to live it out in a simple yet intentional fashion.

I want to thank all of you for walking with us so strongly and purposefully in this time. You all have held us in a way I never imagined possible.

With my love always
The FiveTribe