27 November 2015

The Birthday

There are times when words are unable to express the sanctity of a moment or experience. I am not even going to try - suffice to say joy, peace and gratitude flooded my being on this day.


I fell many times on this daunting climb but I did eventually make it to the top; I felt Russell's pride in that moment.


" In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that ..
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back."
Albert Camus

23 November 2015

The Ambush

My run today nearly killed me. Not because I am ferociously unfit but rather because my grief decided to ambush me on the hill back up to my house.

This particular hill has fast-moving traffic on both sides. Busy people with busy lives careening to get home at 6pm. 

Little did they know that the girl walking unsteadily was not tired but rather fighting for her life and sanity. I have not experienced this kind of sharp, unabating, overwhelming pain since Russ was ill.  I thought the worst was over.


I remember this pain. The one that takes my breath way; causes me forget my children, my family, my friends, my own life. It simply screams for my life to be  be over. At any cost. 

I remember this pain from the days I would sit alongside my sleeping, ill man.

And now ---- I arrive home to my kids excitedly preparing for my birthday tomorrow. 
Kids who, I know, feel an overwhelming responsibility to make my day super-special and so I hide my swollen eyes  and dash upstairs announcing a quick shower before dinner.

And so another page is turned.

17 November 2015

"One Day"

In the beginning all I feel is pain;
my heart has been broken
but quietly the realisation comes
first with a smile, then with a laugh

Just like when the sun begins to set
and light and darkness dance -
 within my broken heart
Joy and sorrow co-exist

For the past week I have been ruminating on this journey of parallel experience. Brokenness and joy. Laughter and tears. Triumph and tragedy. Light and dark.

It troubles me deeply.  I understand that this new reality of mine is not unique. In fact I was told that One Day I would find myself laughing again. Enjoying the silly, meaningless fascinations of everyday life. 

It is quietly, gently unfolding before me and yet I still feel a deep sense of discomfort as I cannot understand how this can be happening mere months after losing my soulmate. 

I wish I could say I feel a sense of relief at the desire to laugh again, but no
I feel betrayed by my own heart and head. I feel disloyal and shallow. I feel like I want to, need to, hold onto the deep brokenness and pain to honour the love that Russ and I shared.

Gentle introspection (not a familar experience) has forced me to unravel and rebuild all kinds of weird shit that I had never considered. It has been both devastating and empowering. 

Again two very different emotions restlessly residing within me.

While sorrow and brokenness are never fun places to hang out they remind me  of a life and man who brought me so much joy; I would not trade these tears for anything. 

Perhaps it is simply accepting that joy anew can begin in deep brokenness.

"Every moment of our lives we have the opportunity to choose joy.
It is in the choice that our true freedom liesand that freedom is, 
in the final analysis, the freedom to love. 
-Henri Nouwen 

10 November 2015

Life is beautiful. And Terrible.

I really should not do this to myself. I had a completely different post in mind. Now I am a wreck and have to hide from my kids until I recover.

I realise now why I dont blog very often. Blogging often results in me looking for a particular image which then means I have to delve through MANY images to find the one I need.

A part of me feels I need to FORCE myself to do the hard stuff - look at photos, watch videos and listen to his voice notes. Maybe it's good for me.

Probably healthier than sitting in a dark corner cutting myself. Yes. I now understand why people self-harm.  Hurting physically is far more appealing than the gnawing, relentless bite of emotional pain.

My mom took both these images. It is the day we moved from her house back to ours.We had been told that our time together was limited. We desparately wanted to make sure we spent as much of it as possible in the beautiful house we built together nine years ago.

This day marked the beginning of our preparation for the end. I still feel utterly gutted.

You don't know pain until
you're staring at yourself in
the mirror with tears streaming down your face,
begging yourself to just hold on 
and be strong.

31 October 2015


My alarm went off at 7am this morning. Same as every Saturday for the last 6 weeks. The difference today is I actually pulled myself up and out of bed whereas all previous weeks I have stabbed the 'dismiss' button with revulsion.

The difference today? ACCOUNTABILITY. Something I have managed to studiously avoid my entire life and even more so the last few months. Today I knew I was ready for the challenge.

I have been desparate to run but emotionally it has been utterly devastating for me each time I laced up. Each footfall took me back to races, landscapes, mountains and trails that Russell and I had disovered together.

He always kept me warm on those freezing start lines! 

It felt utterly wrong to be running without him; my breathing would choke me up and I always ended up walking with tears behind my big dark glasses.  He was my running mentor, encourager and he was SO proud of me.

My 10k PB was set on Chappies Challenge thanks to him!

I know he wanted me to keep running; this fact alone did not help me push through.

 As fate would have it I have discovered a new friend who unwittingly let slip her hidden running dreams.... Little did she know that this was just the fire that needed to be lit in me...I thrive on seeing people who thought they could NEVER run get to a place where they are signing up for races.

Punishing run through Roodeberg - Our last race together.

Stunning training run overlooking Noordhoek - discovering new routes.

At 0745 we were in the car and at Parkrun. Sweet relief for me to see a NEW parkrun venue with a completely new route so I was not assaulted with memories of the many past runs with Russ.

 In fact I can say I enjoyed every moment with my friend. It was a completely new, clean experience and I came away feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Early morning beach runs were so great for our souls.

Running will always remind me of him but slowly I am beginning to find comfort in this instead of pain.

Finding my own footfall again but embracing the fact that he remains part of each and every step.

30 October 2015

Ticking Normality

Another week has passed.

This one has been more tenable than last week. It has held some highly amusing moments; widowhood definitely has a funny side occasionally.  I even took the kids out for spur of the moment supper last night and it did not overwhelm me. We had a great evening and I ate a good steak! Hopefully it will provide much needed fuel for my first Parkrun in months tomorrow.

I have help at the house this week - much of the woodwork (doors and windows) were in grave need of repair and restoration. It feels good to start getting on top of things and to feel like my house may feel like a home again in the near future.

To this end I also started clearing the schoolbook cupboard. I am tossing all old homeschooling content as my kids are starting a completely different curriculum next year. I am pairing down to the bare minimum in an effort to keep things clean, simple and uncluttered.

This weekend seems set to include more DIY-ing, springcleaning, running and rugby-watching....and my big brother is coming to camp out with us for a few days which is going to be very cool. :-)

Sounds awfully normal doesn't it?

25 October 2015

Two Months

I wish the 25th of each month simply meant payday to me. Instead it reminds me that I need to take a deep breath. And then another. And another.

The day started badly. All of us were cranky and unhappy. Steve texted with the idea to climb Table Mountain and I laughed hysterically. In the past this would have lit me up like a bonfire but these days just getting out the house is a miraculous experience.

Instead we settled on a trip to Dias Beach in Cape Point.

This idea was not met with much enthusiasm from my crew. (Rach was working at TEARS for the day) Levi and Faith came along with heavy hearts and grim attitudes. Once again I found myself trying to carry everyone's emotions.

It's getting old. I want to be selfish and just deal with my own shit. My own pain. MY loss.  I want to not have to think about ANYONE else for even one day. Sadly parenthood affords none of us such luxury; not even in my unenviable position.

I am happy to report that after some time in this beautiful natural haven we all found some solace. Some joy. Some semblance of happiness and gratitude for what we have on our doorstep.

I have found that in nature's wide open spaces I find what I need to rejuvenate. I feel deep loss and loneliness but I also find a sense of comfort. It's incredibly difficult to describe but that's okay - I don't have to be able to articulate the experience - I just need to immerse myself more often.

Nature can bring you to stillness
that is its gift to you.

Eckhard Tolle

24 October 2015

The Anniversary

24 years since we met.

23 years married.

60 days since he went ahead of me.


 So finite yet we live like we have infinity within our worldly grasp.

I celebrated our life together by doing exactly what I knew we would be doing if he were right here with me. 

Levi and I went to Cafe Roux with fellow rugby junkies and watched our boys give the AB's a cracker of a game. 

Bittersweet. My heart ached in a way words will never convey.  

The trouble is....you think you have time.  


22 October 2015

Facing The Obstacles

Faith and I have both been wrestling lately.

She no longer wants to dance.
I no longer want to run.

These things that used to bring us so much joy and peace now seem like insurmountable, meaningless tasks.

Together we are making a plan. While she dances - I run.

Sometimes neither of us can do it and instead we lie on our beds and watch series.
Or stare into space.

But we have a plan and we are doing our best.

21 October 2015

Walking Through the Days

 I really wanted to blog more often. I wanted to one day look back and see how I made it through the most heartbreaking time of my life. What did I do each day? How did I manage?

Truth is I have not been able to blog. I have written perhaps 4 journal entries. I could not even tell you how I have made it through the last 56 days. In a nutshell it would probably look something like this:

1. The kids. Conversations with my children have often left me speechless. Their wisdom defies their years and I am so utterly grateful to have them in my life.

(when discussing times that may be hard in the future)

Rachel: Mom, I have never been married so I have never had a dad walk me down the aisle. I have many great men in the family who can do that for me.

Levi: Dad taught you how to drive, Mom. So when you teach me it is actually still Dad teaching me.

Levi: We may never be as happy as we could have been but that does not mean we cant ever be happy.

2. My family. We have always been a super tight knit clan but this has pulled us together in ways few would understand. I am eternally grateful for my dads right now - both of whom are keeping my world afloat in terms of Russell's business and his estate.

3. My friends. I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined I would be surrounded by so many strong, loving, funny, wise and devoted women. Women who love me at my very worst, women who constantly remember me and include me and allow me the space to just be what I am in the moment. Russell knew this - he trusted my friends to take care of me and they continue to do so every day.

4. Chores. Yes. Simple acts like hanging the washing. Stacking the dishwasher. Wiping the surfaces. Cleaning the pool and pulling out weeds. All these simple things are acts that require great discipline but reap rewards in terms of my sanity. Unfortunately going to the mall is not on this list - this chore still require superhuman strength.

5. Series. The more mindless the better as my attention span is questionable at the best of times.

6. Pyjamas. And Russell's jerseys.

7. Coffee.

Things I have not been able to do:

1. Read. My capacity to read is gone. I cant concentrate at all. Not even a magazine.
2. Run. I am (was) weak and way to emotional every time I pulled on my running shoes.
3. Answer the landline or any unknown number. Dont call my landline - I wont answer it.
4. Clear or sort or throw anything out. I still have everything in my home that I had 2 months ago. 
5. Simple administrative tasks like paying outstanding bills. I care not. I will one day but its not today.

I can only say that almost 2 months down the line my heart is more broken with each day. It definitely feels worse. I have had to face the fact that it will never be okay - I will not wake up one day and feel like 'Okay, its done, lets move on with life'. The best I hope for each day is enough guts to simply make life look good for the kids.

Like I said to my friend T this afternoon - I am done with this human charade. Over it. Bring on the next scene.

09 September 2015

The World Keeps Turning

Waking up sucks so bad but at least I had a massage booked for 9am. My body is wracked with pain and that really is not cool when your heart is messed up too.

I cried my way through the massage. Thankfully my therapist is a very good friend and she just creates a safe space for me to come undone. My weekly massages may well be the key to a slow, gentle re-entry into my new life.

Aware that my day was going to hold many administrative challenges I decided to swallow my pride….and a tranquilizer ….. to get me through the horrors of red tape, long queues and 0860 phone calls. Phone calls that have me telling my sad story to people who don't actually care but have to tell you how sorry they are. And I have to be nice and say thank you for telling me how sorry you are.

Going out is still uber tough for me. It literally feels like I am walking around without skin on my body. I feel utterly raw, exposed and completely vulnerable. Simple things like noise, wind, voices or a stranger bumping into me causes a startlingly painful physical reaction. I know it sounds weird. In fact I googled it in case I was going nuts but apparently I still fall into the category of  'normal grief sufferer'. Normal is good. For now.

I started with a trip to the police station to get an affidavit to prove my residential address because I have nothing in my name and we all know how bloody fun FICA is nowadays.

Next up was the queue at the licensing department to renew my car license. Thankfully that went smoothly.

I then rushed to meet with my broker to discuss my financial future; true to form Russell took care of every detail and now it is up to me to take all the wisdom he shared with me over the years and make wise decisions for our tribe. This is a scary thing for a girl who never even had to check her own oil and water but he knew I could do it.

Tomorrow I will recover from today but still remembering that despite all the obstacles I got shit done. Yay me.

08 September 2015


People have been telling me for months how brave and amazing I am. This has never sat well with me. My retort was, without fail : ' I don't have a choice!'

I have come to believe that I was wrong about that statement. I did, I do have a choice. Each and every day I have a choice in how I approach what has unfolded in our lives.

I was running with a friend a couple of days ago and she was so upset by our circumstances and just venting about how messed up it all is. I agree. It is bloody messed up but in that moment I knew that I had to find meaning in all of this suffering. The alternative is not an option.

I have begun to read and research (as I do....!) the enigma that is grief, suffering and loss. The more I read the more I KNOW that there is a way to grow through this and not live in a place of bitterness and pain.

“I don't hold to the idea that God causes suffering and crisis. I just know that those things come along and God uses them. We think life should be a nice, clean ascending line. But inevitably something wanders onto the scene and creates havoc with the nice way we've arranged life to fall in place.”
Sue Monk Kidd (When the Heart Waits)

“In the secular view, suffering is never seen as a meaningful part of life but only as an interruption.” 

“Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine.” 
Tim Keller (Walking with God through Pain and Suffering)

"...there is no map for the landscape of loss, no established itinerary, no cosmic checklist, where each item ticked off gets you closer to success. You cannot succeed in mourning your loved ones. You cannot fail. Nor is grief a malady, like the flu. You will not get over it. You will only come to integrate your loss,....... The death of a beloved is an amputation. You find a new center of gravity, but the limb does not grow back.  When someone you love very much dies, the sky falls. And so you walk around under a fallen sky."

"Tragedy and trauma are not guarantees for a transformational spiritual experience," writes Mirabai Starr, "but they are opportunities. They are invitations to sit in the fire and allow it to transfigure us."
Mirabai Starr (Caravan of No Despair)

Let me be clear. I don't want to sit in this fire and be transformed. I don't want to do the work with myself, with my kids.  I want Russell back here, next to me, to live out our golden years but that is not an option anymore. 

So I choose to find the best way forward. If not only for myself then for Russell to whom I made a promise. 

A promise to continue the amazing work he started in the lives of our family; a promise to use our story to encourage and inspire others to begin to see the eternal nature of our lives. 

A promise to never, ever give up.

06 September 2015

Beware the flares

I took the kids to the mall this morning. This is akin to me running a half marathon.
This simple act requires determination and a fitness of mind that defies description.
I took time deliberately to get dressed properly - each moment carefully and purposefully executed.

1. find your jeans Mel. find jeans that actually fit properly.
2. find a shirt, feel the fabric, tell yourself what that fabric feels like. breathe
3. shoes. you need shoes. not any shoes. find cool shoes. like your converse.
4. brush your hair. brush your teeth. at least attempt to fix your face and hide the dark circles.
5. breathe.
6. dont cry.
7. you CAN do this.

I took the kids to breakfast at the Mugg and Bean. A simple act that almost had me completely undone as I noticed that we now fitted a standard table for four. No more dragging an extra chair.

That. THAT is now my life. Moments that completely explode before me without any warning. Moments that have the potential to destroy me.

I did not cry. I did not even let my kids see the flare that ripped my heart in two.

I had breakfast. Or rather they had breakfast, I had coffee.

And they squabbled and I moaned at them.


It carries on regardless of the fact that on the inside I have already died just a little bit.

10 August 2015

Live Well ~ Die Well

Yesterday was horrific. Russ refused to eat, drink, get out of bed or communicate.  I cried most of the day.

This morning as I turned over in our bed, my heart in my throat, I found him awake and alert.

I could sense today was not going to be an ordinary day. I was right.

'Babe I am so sorry about yesterday. I just checked out. 
I may be sinking into depression. I am just so tired. I don't know if I can do this.
I am so sorry.'

Instant tears leapt from my eyes as I saw my once strong man, now bedridden, crumble in agony at his admission. I took his hand, reminded him of our conversation three months ago, where we agreed that when he felt his fight was over that it would be OKAY.

The assurance fell from my lips as I promised that, until his last breath, I would fight on his behalf. The rest of us will fight but he does not have to live up to our expectations. He can rest in the freedom of knowing others have got his back.

He reached across and wiped the tears from my face and said the words that tore my heart in two.

'But I don't want to leave you.'

I reminded him, come what may, I will see him again soon. We will run those perfect trails in the New Earth. The ones where I won't get tired or be scared of snakes. We would be together again. No pain, no suffering and no running injuries!

And he smiled.

I promised him I would take care of our kids,  I would make sure his legacy was tangible every single day of our lives. I promised him that while we hold our faith firmly until the end we can still plan for a glorious exit.

There will be no defeat in this thing we call death but only unexpected victory.

08 August 2015

The Bottom Line

It has been four months.

Four months of unabated hardship.  (woe is me)
There have been silver linings;
moments of sweetness but only because we have truly sought them. If I look back, in wordly terms, we have had a pretty kak time.

At every turn worst case scenario has bitten us.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard a doctor say these words in the last few months; in a variety of contexts :

"Unfortunately this can happen, it's unusual but it can happen. I am so sorry."

I have long ago given up asking the infuriating WHY question. All this did was make me angry, bitter, confused and ultimately completely unsatisfied. I have simply had to settle for the HOW.

How do I get up today?
How do I make it through this hour? 
How do I know if this pain will ever stop?
How do I make sure I survive and am enough to take care of the emotional needs of my kids?
How do I tackle the horrors of admin, banks, lawyers, home affairs and SARS in the face of death?
How do I care for myself, my man and my kids?
How do I reconcile my future to what I have known in the past?
How do I make it through the night listening to his laboured breathing without screaming in anguish?
How do I live another day with the knowledge that my person is leaving me? 
How do I deal with the fact that grieving is already a daily occurrence and yet there is still so much more to come?

I have seen so much in the last four months. Scripture, inspirational quotes, learned people, youtube clips, testimonies, books.... so much  has found its way into my orbit but ultimately the answer to life is not very complicated. In fact it is very, very simple.

Life is hard. Accept that you have no control. Surrender. Now go get on with it.