Where there’s a will
Where there’s a will
It’s been a mad month. I had to travel twice to Plettenberg Bay from Cape Town to make arrangements after my father died on Heritage Day. It has been an emotional time spent rummaging through some childhood memories and my late parents’ furniture. Here are a couple of things I learned:
Grief can be funny
My brother whom I only get to see every few years flew in from the UK. We had lots of inappropriate laughs and it made me realise that siblings sometimes understand you better than anyone else. It made the process easier having him around and we shared some stories and beers while doing death-related admin. Karen also made sure that she was there for me, too.
Hey, parents, most of you probably understand the importance of having a will, and I can’t reinforce this enough. If you’re not around, your kids will inevitably have to try and sort out your affairs. Even if you do have one, if you don’t keep updated records of your accounts and copies of important documents in one place (home ownership, policies, car registration and so on) in get very messy. We had to plough through a mountain of paperwork to extract a handful of pages.
A good lawyer will help you set up a will that takes care of your kids, too.
I mean, one minute you’re stocking the fridge and piling up the laundry, and then you’re gone. I found it curiously personal to be staying at my dad’s house while he wasn’t there, looking at the leftover beers and the eggs waiting to be eaten for breakfast. There were things he’d stored in the garage, obviously with the intention of making something, but now they’d never get used. Death makes living seem absurd.
Death, like birth, is nothing like the movies. My dad had asked that his body be cremated and the ashes thrown into the sea. There’s a scene in the movie The Big Lebowski where the wind blows Donny’s ashes back into Jeff Bridges’ character’s face, so we wanted to avoid that. We had a biodegradable package designed to dissolve in the sea off the harbour wall, but it just sank like a stone in front of my children who looked a little nervous about being there. I’d made a clumsy speech for their benefit, but they didn’t show any signs of being upset. The plan had been to take them along so that they could have some closure, but perhaps the package of ashes was hard for them to relate to their grandfather- a coffin is a grim, tangible reminder of the human who has gone.
And that’s the end of my parents’ parenting journey. I will not get to hear them tell their stories or show pride over their sons again. They did a good job, and I am proud of them, imperfect as they were. As we all are.
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