No one can prepare you for the day you get that phone call to say that your mother has died. It was Monday the 15th of June and I had just been for a lovely run and swim in the ocean and was sitting in my favourite café about to embark on some work. I phoned her that morning as we spoke everyday and she said she had just made coffee and was about to sit with her friend who was visiting. She said she would call me back in an hour. Little did I know I would be receiving a call from my father 30 minutes later. He asked me to sit down. I can hear his voice still echoing the words through my screaming mind, ‘Your mother has just passed away’, and simultaneously my inner voice shouting, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
In the very moment of that fatal news, I could feel the umbilical chord between my mother and I sever. How could this be real? I had thought it would have been the news that my 94-year-old grandmother had passed, as it was something I had been preparing for, given her age and health. Yet it was my mother who was taken in the blink of an eye, like a flash of lightening, from us all. She did not see this coming; none of us did. I know that I will never be the same again. Something is fundamentally altered.
Being a space holder in my professional line of work and as a mother, the reality of what has happened has shaped a new profound understanding with the notion of loss. I feel my senses have opened up in a way I have never experienced. Grief has stormed into every chamber of my heart and what feels like a never-ending hollowness now resides within my cell memory.
The customary things that happen when someone close passes is to be able to be there in person for the ones you love, have a funeral, be present at a cremation, and all the rituals we have that help us find closure. Yet in my short experience of losing my mother I’ve come to understand there is never closure, only managing each day, moment to moment. Due to my sister and I both living in Denmark and the world being in the space it is right now due to the Corona Pandemic, we had to endure three weeks of the most nonsensical Covid red tape, just in order to travel back home, with no guarantee we could even be at home with my dad due to strict quarantine procedures.
We left a peaceful Copenhagen and landed in Cape Town in the middle of the night and were bussed off to a government quarantine facility. The experience was short lived as we refused to sign away our rights to a two-weeks period in what felt like a jail. A member of the health department arrived the next day and allowed for us to get waivers to self-isolate at our family home. His exact words were, ‘We may have a pandemic, yet we must not loose our humanity.’
The three weeks back in South Africa were a bitter sweet weaving of deep sadness, joy, laughter and tears. Amidst mourning our mother, it was very confronting having to come face to face with the daily reality of how covid protocols have reshaped South Africa. We were unable to hold a memorial in the way that would have best lived up to her legacy. We managed to create an intimate underground celebration at home to remember her. I feel such injustice with how South Africa has handled the lockdown in the name of the Corona virus. The massive pandemic of starvation, suicide, mental health issues, and domestic violence are all a result of the lockdown measures. It does not seem to add up in my books. I will never be able to prove it yet I know that the lockdown was a huge contributing factor towards my mother’s death at the age of 68. The two-month Draconian lockdown affected her natural state of wellbeing and social interaction. Not being able to exercise and high blood pressure due to the stressful conditions imposed were expressed to me in our daily calls leading to her passing.
To add to the pressure of the situation, I have a sister who has Downs Syndrome and lives at a home for people with special needs. She was not allowed out for the funeral and we were not been able to see her during our time in South Africa due to extreme measures that have been put in place. It feels like such a step away from our very humanity of love , family and togetherness.