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Shaking a fist at the Grim Reaper

Published Oct 9, 2021


PERHAPS it’s a version of raging, raging against the dying of the light.

And it’s doubtful poet Dylan Thomas would regard it as old-age burning and raving against the closing of the day.

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But the conundrum that has arisen recently, and after an unhealthy time considering it, it is a kind of mental shaking of my fist at the Grim Reaper: I never remember deathdays.

Not my mom’s or dad’s, gran’s or granddad’s, or last year, brother (in-law) Sean’s, and beloved sister Jan’s, six or seven weeks later.

Birthdays I remember, and they have been hard this year. I know the deathdays cycle started last weekend and there are some rough weeks ahead.

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My beautiful nieces Tyane and Maxine have had a year without their beloved parents. No much-celebrated, imaginative surprises for their Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and both parents’ birthdays. So many tears.

Two weeks ago, one of our smiliest, most cheerful, gentle colleagues, Zanele Zulu, died too young, also leaving a grieving family and very sad workmates.

This week, lifelong Pretoria News stalwart Val Boje died, a loss felt across the country by people she befriended and mentored, and her beloved family.

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It has reached the stage where you ignore your phone’s beeps because it may be news of someone else you care about who has closed the day.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa, and millions across the world, feeling sunk by sadness and bewildered by bereavement.

On this page, Katie Reilly has written an article suggesting ways to deal with the delayed aftermath of grief, those unexpected moments when something wallops you around your heart and it breaks all over again.

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I want to add another: keep the joyful conversations you once shared going.

When Jan and I talked about karma, “when we die” and “the afterlife”, we had it all planned out. She was coming back as one of my dogs, and I was coming back as one of her cats. We both laughed often at how far each of us would go for our furry families’ comfort. Multitudes of WhatsApp pictures of animal adventures and additions were shared.

The humans cede much territory to them, including couches, tables, kitchen counters, beds, bathroom basins (water straight from the tap) and their own spots around the human kitty litter box where neither of us is/was allowed to go without the pack/pride.

I carried on our karma conversations with the canines and they decided theirs probably wasn’t so good. They may have been taken off streets or out of bin bags, but if they had any voice in their afterlives, they could have done better.

My bin bag baby’s begging eyes ‒ the best in the universe ‒ tell me she’d rather have my food. Except for the lettuce. Even the fake chicken burger patties would be good. I promise her every time that in our next lives, I will be rich and she and the pack would get steak and chicken every night.

I hope Jan and Sean have found the riches they so deserve and we should, even through tears, remember and be grateful for the riches our loved ones left us with.

  • Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor

The Independent on Saturday

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