Today

Today, I will celebrate life instead of being afraid of its fragility.

I will take time out to breathe deeply, to feel the blood flowing through my veins.

I will give thanks for all my blessings, which are many.

I will pray for those who are suffering, and mourning loved ones.

I will not take things too seriously, or let them overwhelm me.

I will realise that, in the end, the only thing that matters, will ever matter and has ever mattered is love.

And while there is breath in my body I will honour the commitment that I make today: to be a good person, keep an open heart and enquiring mind, and help others whenever and wherever I can.

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In Memoriam

Yesterday I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of four children at the Mants’ase Children’s Home in Lesotho, which a friend is involved with. Whilst the loss of a child is always devastating, what makes this story especially heart breaking – besides the fact there were four of them – is that they died trying to rescue a duck from a dam, which they believed to be ill and in need of help. The children were aged between eight and twelve, and a six year old who was with them when the tragedy occurred did not comprehend the seriousness of the situation and did not report it immediately for fear of being told off.

Incidents such as this are a huge test of faith for those of us who have it. If there is a God, it is difficult to understand how He could let four innocent children die in the pursuit of saving another living being. But if there is anything we can learn from such incomprehensible tragedy let it be this: the importance of compassion, of loving for our fellow humans (and non-humans), not just in word but also in deed, and of living every moment as if it was to be our last.

God bless you and keep you Nthabeleng Kibe, Mpho Mafa, Tebello Machona and Reitumetse Mohale. Sleep tight little ones. x

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Should anyone feel moved to make a donation to the children’s home to show support at this difficult time you can do so here. Thank you.

Remembering a Friend

A year ago today someone very special was taken from this world in the worst possible way, leaving a deep chasm of grief in his wake. For his family, his girlfriend and his friends life would never be the same again; there would forever be a Paul-shaped void. Of course life does, inevitably, move on – it has to, for despite its power even grief can’t stop the world from spinning on its axis – but time, though a healer of sorts, can never erase the pain of such a shocking and untimely loss.

I only knew Paul for a short time, but he made a big impact on me, as I know he did on all the many others that he met along the rollercoaster ride that was his life. Yesterday I was so happy to be reunited with his girlfriend Sarah, for whom the past year has been difficult beyond words, but who has shown such admirable strength of spirit in the midst of her grief. Nothing will ever make up for the loss of Paul, but one thing is certain: He may be gone, but his exuberance, charm and joie de vivre will never be forgotten.

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Series hysteria (aka Goodbye old friend)

Tonight I’ve been invited to my best friends’ place to watch the season finale of Game of Thrones (for the second time) and have dinner. But this will not be just any dinner-oh no. This will be a dinner fit for a king-quite literally, since the daft/ingenious pair of them have decided to create a Game of Thrones-themed dinner. One is doing main course, the other dessert. The latter of which, I’ve been reliably informed, will be nothing short of a triumph if it goes to plan, but if it goes wrong – and here I quote aforementioned friend – “I’ll look a bit of a twat.”

We three are not alone in our hysteria for the historical drama that’s taken the country by storm. I myself came to the party rather late, but through sheer diligence and the downloading assistance of my boyfriend (himself watching for the second time) have managed to catch up on all three series in under a month (if only I were that productive in all the other aspects of my life. But I digress).

I’ll admit that TV dramas have taken a back seat in my life in recent years – the last time I got really excited about one was when 24 first came out, when I’m ashamed to admit I failed to attend a friend’s birthday party in order to complete a marathon viewing session of 12 back to back episodes – but if this one’s anything to go by I might just have to make some space in my life to fit them back in.

Why? Because a good TV series is like a good friend-you stay by its side in good times and bad, sharing the highs and commiserating over the lows. You look forward to seeing them and can’t bear the thought of being parted. Which is why the end of a series can feel like a death (especially if-shock, horror, it’s the FINAL series), and can leave you feeling quite bereft. Or, in some people’s cases, feeling inclined to do a spot of historical baking. I shall report back…

Doris

As the days go by he finds he mourns the passing of the time more than her. For this he bears such crushing guilt he is tormented through his every waking moment, sometimes even in his dreams. She was not, he recognises, an easy or a pleasant woman. Many a time he’d heard her referred to as formidable, cantankerous, nasty and mean.

But for all her numerous faults, she had been his mother; dark-skinned, curly-haired, thick-ankled Doris. No nonsense, take-dat-spoon-on-da-back-of-yar-legs-and-dat-be-a-lesson-to-ya Doris. He’d lived his life in a combination of fear and awe; fear of her anger at the world, which all too often manifested itself as anger towards him, and awe at her ability to cope after all she had been through.

It’s what she’d been through that made it hard for him to turn away. The people who gossiped in the street didn’t know, they took her at face value and never bothered to look beneath the surface. But he knew everything. Not that she knew he knew. He was only a small boy when he’d crawled under her bed, found the box with the photographs – and the letters.

In her native Jamaica, at the age of seventeen, Doris had been gang raped and beaten so badly that she miscarried her firstborn – his brother. Two years later, when she was heavily pregnant, her husband was murdered by the very same gang. It was all there in the letters, the heavy black scrawl of the condemned asking – no, begging – Doris for forgiveness. He never could bring himself to ask if she had granted her rapist – also her husband’s killer – the absolution he so desired.

He had simply allowed her to exert her grief on him.

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Thinking about a mother’s love for her son reminded me of my time living in a remote orphanage in Kisii, Kenya, in 2007. It was run by this lovely lady, Rebecca, and her husband Amos. They were the most wonderful hosts for the six weeks I spent there, and despite them speaking limited English we struck up a very warm relationship. Even though I sometimes found it so hard being there, I look back fondly on their family and the hospitality they showed me.

Resting place

As the creeping fingers of dawn reached up through the morning mist to stroke the tops of the pines, a solitary figure made its way with stoic determination toward s the highest point. Swaddled in layer upon layer of thick woollen clothing to keep the biting cold at bay, it would not have been immediately obvious to a bystander whether the form was male or female, though it was evidently human. On its feet were green wellington boots, in its arms a large earthenware pot. As it walked the ground crackled beneath its feet. The sound of twigs snapping echoed around the forest, sending the animals who resided there – unused as they were to human presence – scurrying for cover. From all around the sound of birdsong rang out as if heralding the new arrival.

At length the figure reached the brow of the hill and stopped. It pulled down the hood of its coat to reveal the face of an elderly woman, deep lines carved like tributaries through her pale, leathery skin. Her blue eyes, though sunken now, were nonetheless still bright with the memory of a bygone youth. And now they blazed with memories of another.

The woman removed the lid of the urn with the greatest of care and, turning away from the wind, emptied its contents into the air. The ashes danced in the breeze as they floated away, over the tops of the pines and out of sight. In life her husband had loved this forest, it seemed only fitting that in death he should become a part of it.

“Good bye, my darling.” The woman exhaled, allowing herself the smallest of smiles as she wiped away a solitary tear.

Then, her work done, she began her slow descent to journey home.

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I took this photo at the top of a hill in Shimla, northern India, after an arduous 30 minute trek to see the enormous statue of a monkey god that resided there. Seeing this view made it all the more worthwhile.