My dearest Tiekie
It has been seven long years since I received that dreaded phone call and I still miss you like crazy.
It is every person’s worst nightmare. That urgent phone call to tell you that someone that you have loved forever is no longer there.
We were away for the long weekend, with bad cellphone reception and I left my phone in the room when we went to dinner. I should have known something was wrong when we got back to our room and I saw the missed calls from brother Danie, all the way from London. But I was in an excellent mood, and phoned him back all chirpy, then stopped in my tracks when he broke down crying. All he could say was that you were gone. The next thing I can remember was someone (me), screaming and crying.
Surely, I should have had a premonition? We were virtually like twins? Do you remember how we used to dress up the same and convince the neighbourhood kids that we were twins? I was only slightly taller than you, even though I was three years older. We looked so much alike way back then. And we were closer than most twins. Best friends and sisters.
It took a while to get the whole story out of him. I knew some of it already. You hurt your bad knee (again), coaching netball at school that week and fell down at school, fracturing your elbow. The doctor prescribed bed rest. The 27th of April was a public holiday and your husband took the kids to your father-in-law so you could get some much needed rest. You took the opportunity to send save-the-date messages for Kats’ 8th birthday party two weeks later. I got the sms earlier that day when we were driving to the Kruger Park. I still replied and said that I would definitely be there.
At around 17:00 in the afternoon, you phoned your husband in tears, saying you couldn’t breathe. He immediately rushed home to find you already blue in the face. The emergency services declared you dead on arrival. A blood clot through the lungs. A pulmonary embolism. We were told that even if you were in a hospital your chances of survival would have been slim. But, that blood thinners as a preventative measure may have helped. Or even some aspirin.
Your best friend from school later said you sent her a message in the early afternoon to tell her that you were feeling sick. You were going to take a nap. Nobody knows whether you had pain that afternoon. I wish you phoned somebody, but I am sure you thought nothing of it. You were only 32 years old, after all. All we know is that when you did phone, it was already too late. And my world came crushing down.
You were so loved. You had the most beautiful memorial service. The kids in your class sang a special song. There were friends and family from everywhere there. I cannot remember much about it though. All I can remember is that your two little angels were sitting with me and that my heart broke in a million pieces for them. They were so small. Only six and (almost) eight years old. I don’t know whether Antonio knew what was going on, but Katelijne was inconsolable. I will never forget how she asked me to read a story in bed for her that evening. Like her mother used to do.
And I can remember anger. Anger at people’s comments. Like “God always picks the prettiest flowers from his garden”. What the hell? What sort of God will do that? I am sorry, I cannot understand that.
But, the anger has subsided. Your husband married again, and to a lovely girl who loves the kids. But it is not their mother. And whenever I see them I feel sad, sad and guilty that I cannot do more for them.
I think they see me somehow as an extension of you. They are starved for a mother’s love. And as we expected, it is not getting any easier as they are getting older. I wish I could tell you they were fine, well adjusted and have no issues. But I would be lying. They are not doing fine. But they are both seeing a professional and dealing with their loss. What I can tell you is that they are loving, caring kids and that my girls love them to bits. They love spending time together. Anya and Antonio are like a brother and sister.
What I miss most about you is someone to talk to about everything and nothing. Someone who knows everything about me, everything about our shared childhood, about the joys and the pains. And you were always so much better at remembering details than I am. I miss being able to phone you and check with you about who the neighbours in Eloff was, and the name of your friends who were waitresses at my wedding. And to giggle about starting a fire with the embers of our marshmallow-in-a-pot solution in Eloff. And someone to share the memories of dad with.
Today, I am writing this letter to you to tell you that I miss you and will always miss you. I miss your smile, the way you would listen to my problems without judging me, the way you cared and loved and laughed.
I wish your children could have known you better. You were such a wonderful mother. And I hope that as they grow older, I can tell them more and more about you and the type of person you were, and hopefully they can aspire towards being like you.
I have so many regrets. I wish we spent more time together. The last time you came to visit, we took the kids to the Montecasino Bird Gardens for an Easter egg hunt, and we all had such a lovely time. We took many pictures, but can you believe we never took one of you and I. The only picture with you in it, is one where a parrot bit the bottom of you pants and we took a picture of the bird, chewing on your pants.
In the last seven years, I have tried to make sure that I take as many pictures of the kids and I, as possible. It doesn’t matter that I don’t look my best. What matters is that our memories are captured. It is too late for you though.
Above all, I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you that I am sorry that I have not been enough of a presence in your angels’ life. And I want to tell you that the one positive is that, as a family, we are now probably closer than we have ever been.
With all my love