Growing up as a child we often visited my Grandmother’s grave in a cemetery in Johannesburg. Not only was this an experience to go and get tactile closure of the passing of an amazing woman whom I only knew about 8 years of my life. But it was also an experience of coming to terms with death. Not only death, but the passing of children.
At an early age, I got to experience an unexplainable sense of attachment to people whom traded their life on earth for that of the eternity. On route to my grandmother’s grave, we had to drive past the mass grave assemblemt of the Westdene buss tragedy.
Our mother only telling us briefly about the incident, not understanding completely what it is all about. Just knowing there is children who got their wings. I remember often just staring at the graves, with one always standing out for me, the one of the boy who saved a lot of his class mates, but on his last attempt of saving someone, he even was taken away by the water, to his eternal home.
As a child this sense of attachment came from being a child, seeing the final resting places of children. It didn’t influence my emotions, it didn’t bring deep thoughts to mind, but still there was this unexplainable sense of empathy.
All grown up. I got my first taste of heart ache when those feelings I experienced as a child, turned into hurt. Watching a program on television about the Westdene bus tragedy. When suddenly, you don’t feel for the children anymore, but you feel for the PARENTS of those children. Suddenly the attachment shifted. Suddenly the emotions I didn’t understand as a child turned into pain.
Without knowing the parents. Without knowing their circumstances, their hearts, or even their NAMES, you still FEEL for them, in the most unexplainable way.
Parents, of all walks of life are connected. No matter on which road of life we are, no matter what we are given in life, we all have one thing in common, and that is the love for our children, and with that goes the deepest of empathy for other parents. For only a parent knows the love a child brings. I could never in my whole life imagine that one could love another human being like one loves one’s child.
Nothing in life is guaranteed. No one knows what life will bring, no one knows what tommorow holds. We try to live the best we can, we try to take care of ourselves,and we try to make our journey of life the safest one possible. But. No matter how good, how healthy, how safe we try to be, we can’t hide from the inevitable fact that we are not immortal.
We all know this. But what if the unspeakable happens. And God decides to give wings to the human being you love on earth the MOST.
This is a reality that I was confronted with 6 years ago, when my whole being revolved around this question “WHAT IF???” Waiting outside the theatre, for our youngest son to endure an emergency operation. His life depending on the procedure. The surgeon informing me beforehand of the risks involved.
All alone, giving my 8 week old baby over to human beings, out of my arms, into their arms, seeing the theatre door close, taking a last glimpse of my baby boy,fighting for his life, not knowing that if that theatre door opens again, that it will open with the sight of my son.
“What if???” dominating my whole body and soul for 4 hours on end. At stages waiting at that door, it felt like I was going to stop to exist, my body, my inner core not able to deal with what is going on at that given moment.
My “what if”. Turned into ” thank you’s “. Thanking the Lord for each day I get to live with my son.
To some on this journey of life, the ” what if??????”. Turns into a reality they simply have to cope with. Some parents get confronted with the reality that they must accept the fact, that the theatre door will never open, that the medicine will never work, that the wounds wil never heal..
That God has a timing for everyone one on earth to get their wings and soar to the eternity.
Reading about people’s journeys, seeing it on television, experiencing the impact it has on the human soul to see a child’s grave…
Does not nearly come closely to FEELING for people on this journey.
This past few weeks. My heart stretched in ways I never thought is possible. Although I had experienced pain, attachment, fear of loss….. NOTHING could have prepared me for what my heart has allowed me to feel.
I have loved in only a way a parent can love,but for the first time in my existence, I have felt a small fracture of the pain a parent also can feel. I learned that that love,can bring also the most unimaginable sense of heart ache .
In a time span of round about 3 weeks, I got to feel emotions of mourning.
Not of my own child, but 4 children given to parents who had the privilege of feeling their love, who had the privilege to experience life with them.
Katlego, an Autistic angel whom only got her voice AFTER she received her wings,
Liam, a little blond haired boy, with the most beautiful smile I have seen in a long time, who’s journey wasn’t meant to cross ours,but who had a huge impact my life, a boy whom we started praying for with each message we got, when hearing about his battles,
Ori, baby boy with the biggest eyes. The synonym of cuteness. A special needs boy, who had the best parents possibly. Who’s journey on earth, was BETTER because of what his mom did for him. A boy privileged enough to experience the love of a mother, who literately did ANYTHING for her child she possibly could.
And a mother, with the name Rochelle. Only reading about her loss, only knowing that her child and Ori got their wings the same day… Our paths never crossed. But the feelings towards her the same as towards any of these parents mentioned.
Human beings who’s life’s was shorter than the conventional life expectancy span.
Shorter than expected. More POWERFUL than ever imagined….
Children whom had a special purpose in life: to touch the hearts of those still wandering on mother earth, to inspire those who stays behind,by their unconditional love. Kindness,and fighting spirit. To leave long lasting footprints in the life’s of those whom they touched directly and indirectly.
This has made me feel an unexplainable amount of pain. The severity of these feelings almost forcing myself to dare utter the words “empathy”.
In this case I have no right to even let the word “empathy” come to mind.
Because although I have a strong sense of attachment to anyone who ever loved a child, although I have sensed fear at it’s worst,
I HAVEN’T WALKED IN THEIR SHOES, I HAVEN’T ENDURED WHAT THEIR SOULS HAD TO ENDURE.
It is times like these when words are difficult. It is times like these when I wish I could just send these parents a blank message, knowing that they will feel the heart that has sent the message.
Because I am a firm believer that words coming from an unemphatic mouth, words written by an unemphatic hand, does not really mean much.
Although the soul of those organs spreading the words, is doing it with the best intention possible. Trying to comfort in the best way they can imagine possible.
Sometimes words coming from people who haven’t lived what one has lived, can sometimes come through as insensitive or hurtful.
Everyone wants to comfort, wants to try to heal, not always knowing how to because of the lack of empathy.
That is why I wish I can just give a blank canvas, a blank message, and let the receiver feel the words my heart wants to spread, but is not able to project into sensible, meaningful, healing words.
To all the parents who’s children got wings before they did.
To all the parents whom the words “what if????” got reality to it,
to all the parents who has felt the unexplainable…..
And burning in my heart at this moment: Katlego’s parents, Ansje and André, Gugu and family, Rochelle and family, here is my figurative blank canvas, here is my blank message to you, one I am not able to put into the right words, but one I know you will be able to feel. One parent to another: