u-turn 25 birthday

*Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a U-turn Phase 3 Work-readiness graduate. My passion is communication and I’m part of the U-turn communication team. Every week I will be writing a blog post sharing my personal experience on this programme, to give you a window into the experience of being a graduate.

Winters for me are emotionally hard, not because of the wet and cold Cape Town weather but because my soul journeys inward between July and August..

My mum’s birthday and the day that she died are in July.  In August it’s my late granny’s birthday.  When July starts it feels as if my soul is on a stage 4 load-shedding schedule. In the morning an emotional switch goes off in my soul and I cry, yearning for the presence of mum and granny. As I leave home the power comes back  on. I smile and go through the day broken, yet mended. In the evening as I enter the door of my home, the switch goes off again. This journey of mourning lasts for about five weeks till my birthday and special holidays.

Last year living in the shelter was tough. On my mum’s birthday, I felt that I just wanted to be alone. I  chose a crowded V&A Waterfront as my place of solitude. I felt emotionally safe in  this place as it was filled with many memories.

Overlooking the yachts, I cried when I thought nobody was looking. I remembered my mum taking my brother and me to Robben Island. I could still envision the joy in my mum’s eyes when I fetched her at the harbour, after she had been on a boat trip from Durban to Cape Town. She took the trip after retiring early from teaching to go into full-time ministry.  I remember watching Pilgrim’s Progress with her at the Imax.  The memories played as movies in my mind and the tears fell like rain against the windows of my soul.

 Returning to Loaves a river of tears  wet the ground of a quiet Rochester Road.  As I entered the shelter, I wiped the last traces of moisture from my eyes.

That evening in the NA meeting I shared how my day was. The fellow clients comforted me with their kind words, some having walked  a similar journey to mine. The hardest part of mourning in a shelter was that my pillow was silently drenched with tears.  I did not wail out of respect for the other clients, whereas now in my apartment my ears hear the cries of my soul.

Last year, on my granny’s birthday, I had COVID and was at the Old Mutual COVID Isolation Centre. I had to mourn silently because I was in isolation for more than 10 days.

This year, on my mum’s birthday, I told God that I know my mum and my granny are in a better place, but it hurts. I know that if I live right with God I will see them one day, but  it’s hard. It feels like they are in a distant country, where all communications are cut off.

 I know that healing takes time and through everyday things, I feel them close to me.

 I feel the closeness of my granny in baking bread,  even though I take shortcuts and don’t knead the way she taught me. The smell of the yeast in the dough reminds me of my childhood living with my grandparents. I waited and prayed as a child that the biscuits she baked would be burned because they would be allocated to me and not our guests. I replay the stories she told me after we watched Muvhango and had devotions. There were times that we would go to bed only at one in the morning as she would share the stories of her childhood and adult adventures.

On weekends as I read books, I remember my childhood adventures with my mum at the bookstore. I reflect on my teenage years when I was too lazy to read my Afrikaans setwork books and  gave them to my granny to read.  As a retired teacher, she fell for my trap and explained the books to me. I used her descriptions in my homework and exams. 

Whenever I miss my mum, I play “The leader of the pack” by The Shangri-Las. That was my mum’s favourite song. Seeing the teenager emerge in mum was classic. There’s a part of the song where she  got excited when hearing the motorbike in the background.  Seeing the joy in my mum’s eyes  lit up my soul.

While at the Stellenbosch Municipality COVID-19 temporary shelter for the homeless, I walked into our sleeping quarters while the radio was playing. At that moment Ann Murray was singing “Put your hand in the hand”. The song was playing a few days before my granny’s birthday. It was as if God was saying, “I know how you are feeling.” This was my granny’s favourite song. She quoted the lyrics as an encouragement, whenever I was going through a storm. She also mentioned that whenever she had to go for an operation, she meditated on the lyrics. 

“Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea

Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently

By putting your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee”

My granny and my mum’s legacy lives on in my interactions with people. When I want to feel them close to my heart, I wear their brooches and jewellery.  They are forever embedded in my soul.

Join me next week as I share my journey as a U-turn graduate.