Letting the light into our lives

2009-04-08 00:00

There are many metaphors — climbing back up a mountain, finding a new road or reinventing our lives. Janet van Eeden found a good one: look to your wounds, that’s where the light comes in. There are many wounds: bereavement, violence, personal insults, hate speech, injustices and illness.

Creative editorial policy at its best links together on the same day features with a common topic, as it did in Van Eeden’s and Ron Nicolson’s pieces on March 20. Or perhaps it’s my own subjective thinking.

Van Eeden’s final quotation must have held particular resonance with a number of people who have suffered losses lately. Because we are all inclined to think parochially, many of us can relate her experiences to our own experiences and those close to us; and also to those people with political connections whom we read about — the Hani family comes to mind. And of course Nelson Mandela’s family.

I know people who have coped courageously with the violent deaths of loved ones and never wasted a thought on revenge or blame. They know instinctively how to let in the light.

Not so for others, featured often in the papers, who voice satisfaction, even glee, when justice has been meted out; and vengeful wrath when, from their perspective, it has not (although of course fraud and corruption convictions should always be cause for glee, although perhaps not for politicians).

As has Van Eeden, I have had the privilege of watching over three of my children who came home to be cared for until they could resume normal life. Those three separate episodes, those times of cherishing them in their temporary dependence, were some of the most precious of my memories (although, back then I was probably a lot more sanguine in my dealings with them than I am in my old age. Someone once told me, I hope with a touch of envy, that my children were raised with healthy neglect. At least she said they were raised and not dragged up).

Some time later my second son died in a freak farm accident. All four of my children are equally important to me and the loss of any one of them would have been equally dreadful. Wounds come in different forms and with closure (if that is ever permanent) comes the light, which also comes in different forms. Does that word ubuntu summarise the letting in of the light, and radiating it outwards?

I was fortunate (hardly the right word) in that blame was never a factor in my bereavements (my husband died recently) and I cannot claim to have handled them in exemplary ways. But who of us can go through life without experiencing hardships? One only has to think of Natalie du Toit, Christopher Reeves, Van Eeden and her daughter, Jessica Foord, Madiba, the Rattrays, Sister Abigail and some who would not want to be mentioned by name.

Most of us have someone close who suffers chronic pain with incredible fortitude and with the greatest gift of all, humour. They have all climbed their mountains and found their light.

In my own district, I am inordinately proud of the people and institutions who, each in their special way (religious, secular, Buddhist, medical or good-neighbourliness), have that light in their lives that reflects outwards with immeasurable good will. Ubuntu abounds among our people (and pray god it will one day among our politicians).

Nicolson wrote of the vulnerability of memorials and monuments, and Van Eeden wrote of the creation of a garden being as laudable as a literary work.

There used to be a corner plot on Howick Road that grieving parents had turned into a garden in memory of their son. For whatever reason, that garden is no more. But it served its purpose, letting a little light into their lives — and in those who passed it by.

In the place where I am privileged to live, among splendid scenery, where music annually, for a brief few days, rocks the monumental mountains, a small stone will suffice; under a big, big sky suffused with its special lovely light.

• Phyl Palframan is a retired farmer’s wife, living on the home farm, a mother, grandmother, gardener and freelance journalist.

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