MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Death is a wobble

It is two days after I found you dead. There was some unavoidable laundry to be done. The washing machine flooded the kitchen floor on my behalf. Mourning your absence. At least when you were still breathing, there was always the hope of resurrecting you in dry bones fashion. No such hope existed for the washing machine.

A beloved friend ignored my firm instruction that I wanted to be alone. She brought herself, breakfast croissants and cheese as well as lunch. My shock nausea could not stomach a croissant. It did welcome having another breathing body in the house. After a cup of coffee, we left with the mission to find a tear-free, leak-free washing machine. We walked into the appliances store. There were no replacement-husbands for sale. The washing machine on the floor that met my budget, was appropriately named “Wobble”.

Is your death not a major wobble in our journey together? My phone rang just after Wobble and I met. It was the husband of your Aunt Johanna from Australia on the line. Uncle John spoke in his dry voice about his unbelief of the news of your death. I have not spoken to your dear Aunt Johanna since we moved to Cape Town. They did not believe in using cell phones and being close to their nineties, I could understand their unease with technology. After Aunt Johanna developed a disease called Aphasia (difficulty finding words and formulating sentences) our communication was limited to email communication with Uncle John. I thus did not expect to talk to her, but the next moment her voice filled my ears and I started crying next to Wobble. I did my best to keep the mostly one-sided conversation going. Her words were few but profound. She kept on saying: “Oh dear, Oh dear.” And then she said: “No more trouble, no more trouble.” And in the most awkward space of an appliance store, I publicly burst into loud sobbing. I no longer needed my old washing machine to cry for me. I was quite able to spill some water myself.

The store could only deliver three days later. Backlog with lockdown. My cleaning lady was coming for the first time and I needed that washing machine as urgently as a fish needs an ocean. I looked at my friend who was insistent that Wobble would fit into her car if the rear seats were down. And so we proceeded and got Wobble uploaded. After some lefts and rights we navigated to a place called home and parked as close to the front door as possible. Now these two 60-plussers were going to discover their strength. Ten steps took us to the small wall of the stoop. We balanced Wobble on the wall and I announced that I am now going to climb over the wall, without it being an indication that I am “over the wall”. We laughed our tears away. Our next target was to get halfway through the sitting room on our way to the kitchen. She called her husband who was our appointed on-line man to advise on the plumbing. It was clear that we lacked the tools for that part of the job. Another friend could master linking the in and out-flow that would prevent Wobble from spilling on the floor.

The next day I drove somewhere with the bakkie. At 100km an hour there was a distinct shivering that announced that the wheel balancing was out. Yet another wobble. Papa God, how am I going to navigate this wobble in my life journey? When I wobble, moving unsteadily from side to side in my grief, I will Hold onto You. I will balance my wheels in the anointing of Your presence and spill my grief in the safety of Your embrace. In the valley of my dry bones of mourning, I will prophecy to myself from Ezekiel 37:4-5 “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to Annette (and to all those who feel like dry bones). “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live.”

I will Hold onto Him as I encourage others who journey with depression and the threat of self-death.

Annette de la Porte (author of Hold onto Him).

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