Not even two weeks ago on a Friday morning we loaded the car & left for a ten day holiday in the Overberg.
In African terms the 550 kilometers was a short drive. We were at our destination shortly after lunch. We settled in. We loved the view from our chalet & the song of the Breede River a stones throw from our balcony.
Here we would spend seven nights & then we’d travel home. We’d stop for a night or two at friends in George and then we’d settle back into the rhythm of life for the last few months of the year, before Christmas & a new year overwhelms us again.
We had four nights.
We went mountain biking.
We had an awesome forest-walk along the banks of the river.
We saw some game.
We had a phone call from a friend.
A dear friend had died.
We got to know Sarel in 1998 when we first came to the Kalahari. He and his family became our friend. We shared a drought and a year when the Molopo river was in flood. We shared their eldest son’s coming of age, his falling in love, his making vows.
Since we left the Kalahari, we’ve kept contact. Phone calls every now and then. Visits from time to time. The residue of our shared experiences tasteful enough to sustain us through months and years.
I knew Sarel was ill.
I knew he did not have that long to be in this life.
I did not make it to the hospital.
I made it to the grave.
We interrupted our holiday after only four nights in the Overberg. We traveled 1600 kilometers, quite a journey even in African terms.
It took us two days.
We held our friend’s wife.
We held our friends.
We did not have many words.
What consolation is there to be given in death?
We tasted the emptiness of a world we once lived in.
Remembering other friends from that thirstland at whose graves we also said prayers of gratitude.
And we heard the voice.
The whisper who cannot be ignored.
Reminding us that time waits for no one.
Showing us that almost ten years has fallen off the calendar since we brushed the warm Kalahari sand from our feet for the last time.
Asking us what it is we value?
And if we are ready to embrace it?
The Kalahari is like that.
It is quiet.
It is sparsely populated.
There you can drive for an hour without seeing another human being or passing another car.
The sky is blue and immensely high.
The silence is loud, allowing you not to deny any truth.
And as we travel home, towards the last months of a furious year.
Towards a fortieth birthday.
My Zuko expresses the wonder that she might be pregnant.
And she is.
And we smile.
For we already have three gifts from his gracious hand.
Our barren souls praying the past few months: if it will be good, if you could find in you heart one more miracle, we will receive it with gratitude and raise it with love.
It feels as if somewhere along our journey, with unfulfilled plans, tears shed at a grave, silence & remembrance drunk and new life confirmed – somewhere everything changed.
The whisper still clear: ‘decide what is important to you & pursue that with everything you have.’
What is important to you?
May nothing stand in your way.
For years flow into decades and dissipate into lifetimes and it is too late to pursue your heart when death has come to fetch your soul.
Follow your heart.
Do it now, for tomorrow may never come.
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