"let your boat of life be light, packed with only
what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, someone to love and someone to love you,
enough to eat and enough to wear
and a little more than enough to drink:
for thirst is a dangerous thing"

Friday, 18 January 2013

never too late for a resolution

You probably did not even notice but there was a noticeable lack of "New Year jargon and motivation for 2013" on my blog this year.  The heat of January has slowly infiltrated my already spongy brain and I have busied myself with some "new and out of my usual box" experiences, which I thought I would share with you.

Michael's mom is dying.  We cannot tell how long it is going to take but we are hoping that her sons from Boston and Canada do get here to say their goodbyes.  I have been blessed this week with 3 relatively good visits to see her.  Over the Christmas / New Year period whenever we arrived to visit she was in a deep sleep.  This week however I have caught her in the morning and she has been responsive.  I am not experienced at this and feel a little stupid at times but I have decided to do the reading and praying option (I put my foot down for any singing - that could push her over the edge).  

For Helen's 90th birthday (nearly 3 years ago) the family collected letters and photographs from friends and family all over the world.  It was then put into a scrapbook which over the last couple of years she has read often.  There is lovely mix of letters and cards in the scrapbook and there are a couple that I read to her over and over again.

Her daughter Jennifer, who lives in the UK, wrote a lighthearted letter where she listed memories of her childhood through to adulthood which were special to her.  "I remember being about 5 years old, walking to the shops with you, listening to stories about you when you were a little girl and  I felt very special to be alone with you while my 3 older brothers were at school".  This one sentence gives Helen a faraway look in her eyes and a big, gentle smile.

Her daughter-in-law, Judy in Boston wrote a wonderful letter about their daughter-in-law / mother-in-law relationships and the similarity of the paths they followed.  She quoted words from Ruth, in the bible, and makes mention of two favourite hymns.  Now Helen's voice is failing and she nods and smiles in recognition of the hymns. I certainly could not sing them.  What was I to do?  I read the words of the hymns to her and then last week her great friend Connie brought along a CD of all the popular Methodist hymns.  This was the answer.  Now I read Judy's letter to her and tell her to hold on, while I fiddle with the CD player and play Love's Divine at full volume while she smiles to herself and taps her very long and thin fingers on her lap.

Some letters are too long, some of the people I do not know but by reading a couple of lines from these letters seems to give her some joy, a smile and a nod of remembrance.

The American Scrapbook idea is a wonderful one to bear in mind for a gift for your parents or grandparents.  The one I put together is by no means fancy.  I used an expensive flip-file and printed the messages on coloured paper and together with birthday cards and old and new photographs it really is a wonderful testament to the woman, Helen Kotze.

While this is a sad time we feel more for the family who are overseas.  There is no knowing how much longer she will linger on, she is losing weight and only eating small amounts of smooth food, drinking water and apple juice.

While this is not something that one hopes to have to do often, it is giving me lots of satisfaction in making Helen's life a little bit better and this experience will, in turn, help me to help my family and friends when they are faced with a similar situation.

The nervous way I used to walk into her flat has changed - I am no longer afraid of what I am going to find because in that frail body is the same woman who has lived, loved and fought the system.  I learn a little more about her each day.  If she is not afraid of dying (and has been requesting it for months and months) why should I be afraid to watch her die.

She now seems resigned to her end, she is peaceful and loving and most of all is always grateful.

That was slightly side tracked but here are some other things to share with you:-

“Most good things happen without a plan: friendships, 
falling in love, 
finding a job, and so on. 
If you want to make your new year count, 
you’ll need to be intentional — not by setting goals, 
but by making space in your life 
for what really matters.” 
Jeff Goins

and then:

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, 
and living alone won't either, 
or solitude will also break you with its yearning. 
You have to love. You have to feel. 
It is the reason you are here on earth. 
You are here to risk your heart. 
You are here to be swallowed up. 
And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, 
or left, 
or hurt, or death brushes near, 
let yourself sit by an apple tree 
and listen
 to the apples falling all around you in heaps, 
wasting their sweetness. 
Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum LP

This will be my resolution:-

If you want to make your new year count, 
you’ll need to be intentional — not by setting goals, 
but by making space in your life 
for what really matters.

I like that!!


  1. Jenny, this was the most wonderful post. I am sure I speak for our whole family when I say how thankful I am to you, for being there with Helen at this time. I'm so glad I got a chance to see her over the summer and I am hopeful that she soon has the peaceful death she's so longed for.

    1. Thanks Janet. Only catching up on comments and things today. The end was certainly sooner than we thought and I am so pleased that you got to see her when you did. xxx

  2. I have made a firm decision.......I'm going international with my goals. Helen was so blessed to have your gifted warmth and unintrusive manner of caring in the most special way. If ever I am ill, I am going to make you sing to me, if only to have us laughing madly.!!