Gewildste

Gedenkdienste vir Grendeltyd

Ek en my man leef al ses jaar in die buiteland. Soos met 820 000 ander emigrasiegesinne, is ons geliefdes reg oor die wêreld versprei. Met behulp van hedendaagse tegnologie het ons die kuns van kommunikasie oor kontinentale afstand vervolmaak. 

Met ‘n video-oproep vra ek my ouma om hulp: “Vleg ek die koeksister só?” My swaer wat ná die afloop van sy nagskof bel soos ons vir aandete aansit; die soet klank van my peetkind se eerste lag wat oor my oorfone speel soos ek per trein pendel; my oupa se stem oor ‘n blikkerige telefoonlyn toe ek hom ‘n geseënde Nuwejaar toewens: “ Ek gaan nie hierdie jaar maak nie, maar mag jy ‘n mooi jaar hê.”

Om huis toe te verlang, is deel van ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse emigrant se bestaan. Ons staal ons teen die pyn van verlange deur ‘n rits redes op te roep: stabiliteit, onafhanklikheid, onderhoud…  Met jou slimfoon is dit boonop so gerieflik om kontak te behou. 

Nietemin sit ons altyd ‘n geldjie vir ‘n vliegkaartjie weg, want soms raak die verlange onuithoudbaar.

Ek het hierdie jaar ‘n vliegtuigkaartjie nodig gehad. Ek sou baie graag my ma by my wou hê toe ek ná my breinoperasie uit narkose kom. Ek sou baie graag my oupa wou groet wat in daardie selfde week oorlede is.

My ouma se boodskap verskyn op ‘n koue selfoonskerm: “Ek kon nie eens my maat groet nie… ek kon net vir oulaas by die hospitaal se ingang my elmboog teen syne druk. Hy het in sy laaste oomblikke na my geroep. Ek kon nie daar wees nie.” Grendeltyd het ons van bystand en afskeid beroof.

Digitale media skep ‘n legio moontlikhede om met mekaar te kommunikeer. Ek hethuldeblyke via WhatsApp-stemboodskappe versamel en die klankopnames in ‘n afgerondegedenkdiens verwerk. Op hierdie besonderse wyse vergader ons almal – elk in sy/haar afsonderlike sitkamer – deur na die oudiodiens te luister. Aussies, Britte, Duitsers, Kapenaars, Transvalers en Boesmanlanders voel vir een besonderse uur mekaar se nabyheid aan.

‘n Virtuele gedenkdiens is nie ‘n plaasvervanger vir die fisiese nabyheid van ons geliefdes nie. Met die oudiodiens kon ons egter in ‘n spreekwoordelike kring sit en elke deelnemer kon met waardigheid kommunikeer: dié wat mompel, dié wie se hande van Parkinson se siekte bewe, dié wat halfpad deur hul huldeblyk begin huil, dié wat uitbundig kon lag oor ‘n vrolike herinnering. 

Hierdie oudiogedenkdiens kon vir ons as familie troos bied, sodaning dat dit my roeping geword het om my vaardighede in ‘n bediening te omskep. Ek is dankbaar dat ek ander families op hierdie wyse met my diens, Herklink, kan bystaan. 

Só skryf Helena van Schalkwyk: “Wat ‘n unieke en deernisvolle gedenkdiens wat Herklink met die heengaan van my moeder saamgestel het, in ‘n tyd waar ons, as gevolg van die Corona-pandemie, nie bymekaar kon wees nie. Ek het veral daarvan gehou dat die oudiodiens nie visueel was nie. Dit laat ‘n mens stil word om met aandag na die boodskap en die onthou-klankgrepe te luister. Hierdie oudiodiens is ‘n kosbare skat wat ‘n mens vir ewig kan bewaar om na te luister, en ‘n nagedagtenis om ons geliefdes te onthou.”

Ek het vir ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse familie, wat weens grendeltyd nie die VSA kon verlaat nie, ‘n gedenkdiens saamgestel. Vanaf my rekenaarskerm kon ek sien hoe almal inskakel om na die gedenkdiens te luister: geliefdes uit Washington, Ierland, Dubai, Wellington, Hong Kong, Dubai, Kaapstad. Dís rou in die Tyd van Covid-19. Dit is ‘n globale gebed. Dit is nabyheid in grendeltyd.

A Spoonful Belonging

Ouma Rusks. NikNaks. ProNutro. A dented can of CremeSoda past the expiry date. Vacuum packed biltong from some or other tragic bovine. When homesickness strikes, you can wander through a bountiful land and still be in search of food.

It baffles the mind why one would yearn for mass produced biscuits when you have Italian biscotti on your doorstep. Why choose to be assaulted by the artificial concoction of a strawberry flavoured Fizzer when you can buy a fresh, organic strawberry from a picturesque medieval food market? What is so magical about Mrs Balls Chutney flavoured Simba chips, when you can order a Peshwari naan with any intriguing filling you could wish for? Wouldn’t you rather trade the calories of a gelate lump of Peppermint Crisp tart for a smooth, delicate texture of a German cheese cake?

When we succumb to nostalgia, the food from our childhood becomes a safe haven, an embassy in a recipe. The logo of a Lucky Star Pilchards can is a vintage token of our heritage. The wrapping of a Wilson’s toffee is a postage stamp on a love letter for our country. We trace our fingerprints on our identity documents with rooibos tea.

Food is memory and belonging. When we cook heritage food, it’s a way of saying: We were here, we shared food and we were loved.

Bobotie is for the openhearted. A braai is for the pioneers. Rusks refuse to be intimidated by the state of the atmosphere and will be your trustworthy companion on a bullet train or “ossewa”.

Europe is showing some promising signs of summer. Any day now, it will be worth the walk down a cobbled street to buy a refreshing strawberry gelato. Yet, I will yearn for a homemade frozen lolly made from Oros guava flavoured juice concentrate. As I labouriously suck on the frozen sugary block through a hole I chewed through the plastic bag, my mind will wander back to a day in 1996 where I ran barefoot on a gravel road for my first schools athletics.

Maize pap is a stopgap for hungry teenagers returning from surfing at Cape Point. It’s a moment of bliss in the Valley of a Thousand Hills when an ugogo sold me a freshly picked mielie and took both my hands in hers as she passed it to me.

Pannekoek is a delightful midweek supper after a Lowveld thunderstorm. It’s community at the church basaar where the batter is whisked with a (clean) garden spade in a (cleaned) steel drum. When I smell cinnamon, I can hear the joyful cries of hadedas and of children running on a rugby field.

When my clients and their families submit eulogies for a {Herklink} audio memorial, they recount beautiful memories of their loved ones. They reminiscence about their loved one’s hobbies, their family relationships, their wisdom. Many of these memories are intertwined with food. 

There’s the story of the lady who loved to have friends over for coffee, so much so that she drank eight cups of coffee a day. A memory is recalled of the Spoornet engineer who set the table with a tablecloth and silverware each day to enjoy the lunch his wife packed for him. Cousins remember their favourite uncle teaching them how to play cricket and how the man of the match was rewarded with an extra topping of kaiings on freshly baked bread. There’s the famous milk tart baked by the matriarch every Sunday for tea, and when someone else attempted the recipe the “damn thing didn’t even rise an inch”.

Sometimes we need to be confronted with death to realise how important our daily bread is. Death reminds us how important the people are with whom we break bread with. The IPC’s 2021 Report states that over 13 million South Africans suffer from food insecurity due to the pandemic’s impact on food prices and unemployment. Our fellow citizens deserve better: better food, better lives. And better eulogies.

Reclaiming Grief Through Storytelling

“I couldn’t even say goodbye to my husband of six decades. I could only press my elbow against his at the hospital entrance. That was it.”

I stared at my grandmother’s text displayed on my unsympathetic smartphone. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve gotten on a plane and make the 15 000 mile journey home. Home, where I can hug my family, eat traditional South African comfort food, go for a walk along the beach to clear my head.

Instead, travel restrictions due to the pandemic made it impossible. Under normal circumstances, I can manage my homesickness. This time, I knew that a text or a call wouldn’t be enough to process the passing of our patriarch.

With his descendants and loved ones scattered between Australia, Germany, the UK, and various parts of South Africa, I knew that a live-streamed funeral via an unstable internet connection would only serve as a painful reminder that we couldn’t come together to mourn the passing of our patriarch. 

I decided to compile an audio memorial service by collecting eulogies, in the form of WhatsApp voice notes, from friends and family. Using these eulogies, along with carefully curated background music and sound effects, I crafted a memorial service that we could all listen to simultaneously. From the intimacy of our living rooms, speckled across the globe, we said goodbye. Together. Yet apart.

My grandfather’s audio memorial helped me and my family to reclaim our grief. The eulogies weren’t praises typically shared at a funeral. They were stories of seemingly insignificant acts of kindness: his appreciation for nature, playing chess for hours on end, citing quotes from a John Le Carre novel, complimenting my grandmother on her cooking.

The audio format of a private podcast is a protective shield against judgment, nerves and fear, creating an environment where each person can grieve authentically: those who wail, those who stutter, those who chuckle at a funny story. 

Sitting in front of a hifi speaker isn’t a substitute for a physical funeral, but it provided us with a way to honour his memory. It was accessible, authentic and safe.

I shared my ideas with others and Herklink — a portmanteau of “herinner” (remember) and “klank” (sound) in my native Afrikaans language — was born. I help families craft their own audio memorials – a dignified end of life celebration that trumps the restrictions of a global pandemic.

My clients tell me that for them the audio memorial was the most multifaceted, intentional way to grieve. It’s a tacit reminder that although our loved ones are no longer with us, that they live on within us.

Stories are how we make sense of our lives – especially when grief makes everything seem senseless. Listening to a story of a loved one requires intentional “re-membering”: crafting a living imprint of the person who has passed away. Their stories matter, because they matter. Your story matters too. All you need to do is close your eyes and listen.

In dialogue with death

Much has been said how digital communication changed the way we communicate in the 21st century. We’re able to talk to our loved ones by the click of a button. We share countless photos and videos depicting our fast pacing lives.

We’ve become comfortable to share some of our life’s most significant moments on social media, often with an audience we don’t personally know. We merrily include the more insignificant moments: a photo of a plate of food, a sunrise, a spontaneous selfie.

In an era where loneliness is considered a pandemic, it can make us feel closer.

However, when someone dies, we need to ensure that we don’t fall trap to a false sense of closeness. We need real moments that remind us of our shared mortality. This doesn’t always call for the publicised approach. Honour the pause that death invites. Listen to what death has to say without interruption or response. The pause allows a moment for life to respond.

When we craft an audio memorial, we go back to a time before social media, maybe even before the time of radio. We go back to a time where the only stories we knew were the stories told by the voices we know.

When we listen to stories of a loved one who passed away, it’s a tacit reminder that although our loved ones are no longer with us, that their stories live on within us. Listening to a story of a loved one requires intentional “re-membering”: crafting a living imprint of the person who has passed away.

Stories are how we make sense of our lives – especially when grief makes everything seem senseless. Their stories matter, because they matter. Your story matters too. All you need to do is close your eyes and listen.

Organising a virtual funeral

How to hold a dignified, accessible memorial in a

time of social distancing

The time before and after death is a time for communication. It’s not a time to rush.

I’ll walk you through some practical solutions on how to plan a virtual ceremony:

  • Who should be the relevant participants?
  • What are the limitations in internet connectivity?
  • Which digital platforms should I consider?
  • How can I get my family to contribute in a meaningful way?
  • What are the options for a lasting keepsake?

Join me for a free webinar on Tuesday, 19 April at 11:00 (CEST)

‘n Mondvol herinneringe

Ouma Beskuit. Nik Naks. ProNutro. ‘n Blikkie Creme Soda verby die vervaldatum. Vakuumverpakte biltong van wie-weet-watter-bees. Vra enige Suid-Afrikaner wat in die buiteland woon: ons gee toe dat ons by tye hierdie items ten duurste aanskaf.

Maar wie wil nou massavervaardigde Ouma Beskuit koop as jy vars Italiaanse biscotti kan eet? Hoekom is jy in vervoering oor die sintetiese aarbeigeur van ‘n Fizzer, wanneer jy ‘n stroopsoet aarbei op ‘n eeueoue Europese mark kan koop? Wat skuil agter die magie van Simba blatjanggeur-aartappelskyfies wanneer jy ‘n varsgebraaide shawarma kebab met warm, komplekse geur kan geniet? Verruil jy nie liefs die kalorieë van ‘n glibberige, drillerige blob Peppermint Crisp-tert vir die sagte, ryk genot van ‘n Duitse käsekuchen nie?

Wanneer die nostalgie ons tref, dan raak die kositems uit ons kinderdae eweknie met die veiligheid van ‘n Suid-Afrikaanse ambassade. Die etiket van ‘n blikkie Lucky Star Pilchards raak die amptelike permit van geborgenheid. Die foelie van ‘n Wilson-toffie word ‘n seël op ‘n lugposbrief vir ons mense. 

En ja, as die somer weer in Europa arriveer, sal ek dalk ten duurste Oros koejawelsapkonsentraat koop. Ek sal ‘n koppie daarvan in ‘n plastieksakkie gooi, dit toeknoop en in die vrieskas sit. Dit sal my terugneem na ‘n dag in Januarie 1996 waar ek kaalvoet op ‘n siedende grondpad skole-atletiek gedoen het en ‘n tannie uit haar plakkershuis vir my ‘n laafnis teen 50c verkoop het. 

Wanneer die verlange onuithoudbaar raak, dan soek ons trooskos. Huiskos wat ons herinner dat daar ‘n land aan die suiderpunt van Afrika is wat ons gemaak het wie ons vandag is. 

Bobotie is vir die openhartiges, braaivleis vir die pioniers. Beskuit word nie deur die atmosferiese gesteldheid geintimideer nie en sal jou getrou op ‘n ossewa of sneltrein vergesel.

Mieliepap is ‘n oplossing vir rasende tieners wat vroegoggend van Vleesbaai se strand terugkeer. Dis ‘n oomblik van rus onder die wingerdkappe saam met Gladys, waar sy haar maal in ‘n verbleikte roomysbak vir “mirrag” met my deel.

Pannekoek is ‘n aangename verrassing op ‘n skoolaand ná ‘n donderbui. Dis ‘n fondsinsameling wanneer die beslag in ‘n 50-liter-oliedrom met ‘n tuinvurk geklits word. 

Wanneer ‘n familielid ‘n huldeblyk opneem en vir Herklink stuur om dit in ‘n virtuele begrafnisdiens te verwerk, word daar die mooiste dinge oor hul geliefde gesê. Daar word hulde gebring aan hul pligsgetrouheid, familieverhoudings en stokperdjies. Die hulde is dikwels verweef in ‘n herinnering aan kos.

Daar is die storie van die oom wat vir sy Namakwalandse familie gaan kuier en tot skemeraand met die kinders krieket speel. Die wedstryd word met ‘n maal van boerbrood, kaiings en korrelkonfyt afgesluit. Daar is die tannie wat ander graag by haar huis ontvang en altyd met koffie regstaan – sodanig dat sy sélf agt koppies koffie per dag gedrink het. 

Daar is die oom wat by die spoorweë gewerk het en elke middag proppers in die kantoor tafel gedek het om die kos wat sy vrou vir hom ingepak het, te nuttig. Daar is die matriarg wat plegtig elke Sondag ‘n manjefieke melktert gebak het, en toe ‘n vriendin die befaamde familieresep volg, toe “bak die ding nie eens ‘n halfduim hoog nie”. 

Soms moet ons met die dood gekonfronteer word om te besef hoe belangrik ons daaglike brood is, en hoe heg ons aan die mense is met wie ons brood breek. Voedsel is fisiese sekuriteit, en kos is geestelike geborgenheid. Die Infeksievoorkoming- en Beheerraad se Februarie 2021 verslag dui dat byna 12 miljoen Suid-Afrikaners weens die pandemie se impak op voedselpryse en werkloosheid aan honger ly. Ons medeburgers verdien beter: beter kos, ‘n beter lewe. ‘n Beter huldeblyk.

‘n Skrikkeljaar vol vrees

17 Maart 2021: een volle jaar van krisisbestuur om die pandemie te steier, en hier sit ons nou. Hier, waar ons bevoorreg is om ‘n dak bo ons koppe te hê, selfs al is ons elke dag onder dieselfde, enkele dak omdat ons moes tuis bly. Ons moes tuis bly, maar vir dié van ons wat in die buiteland leef, was ons bloot by die huis.

Die afgelope jaar het baie van ons laat skrik. Miskien het jy skrik gekry vir die verlange wat in jou kom sit het toe ons forseer word om te bly sit. Dalk het jy in een stadium geglo dat Suid-Afrika nie meer vir jou plek het nie, maar die pandemie het jou laat besef dat dit jou enigste tuiste is.

Toe ons moes sit en tone tel, het dit onomwonde ‘n geleentheid vir bestekopname geword. Die wolkekrabbers of die bloekoms oor die horison tel nie wanneer ons van ‘n tuiskoms beroof word nie. Ons sit met ‘n knaende verlange wat slegs deur die oop horisonne onder die Afrikason geklop kan word.

Dalk is dit in ons Afrikaners se bloed: hierdie versugting na ‘n oop, ongeskonde horison wanneer angs in ons kom sit. Vir ons Afrikaner voorvaders was daar ‘n koste aan hierdie ongeskonde horisonne verbonde. Die balansstaat toon ‘n rekord van opoffering en uitbuiting.

Kennisnemendes het pandemies voorspel. Ons is gewaarsku dat die uitbuiting van die natuur en die ongelykheid tussen dié wat eet en dié wat honger ly, tot ‘n verlies gaan lei. Wanneer ons die weerloses nie beskerm nie, bied die mure wat ons om ons bou geen beskerming nie. 

Ons skend die omgewing, tog herroep ons ‘n beeld uit die natuur wat die einde van hierdie pandemie beskryf. Die Engelse term, “herd immunity” verwys na die beskutting wat geskep word wanneer genoeg mense, nadat hulle in aanraking met ‘n aansteeklike virus gekom het, weer aansterk. Hierdie samehorige eenheid van immuniteit skep dan verdere beskerming vir die weerloses wat aan die virus sál omkom.

Mense kies nie noodwendig om weerloos te wees nie. Dalk was dit die noodlot, of sistemiese onreg. Om almal oor dieselfde kam te skeer bied onvoldoende beskerming teen die aanslag van hierdie dodelike virus. 

Ons kan nie die weerloses teen die noodlot beskerm nie, maar ons kan deur opoffering ongelykheid aanspreek. Die pandemie is ‘n duur les oor uitbuiting, en dit is ‘n les wat ons as Afrikaners al te goed ken. Die prys wat sommiges van ons hiervoor betaal is om onder ‘n vreemde kudde, wat in ‘n taal blêr wat ons nie ken nie, te wag totdat genoeg mense aansterk voordat ons kan terugkeer. 

Enige boer of veldkenner sal vir jou kan sê, ‘n ooi ken haar lam en sal aanhou roep. Dit het drie skrikkeljare geduur, maar die Boesmanland het reën gekry en die gras is nou baie groener.

Hulpbronne

Ander is ook daar om in hierdie tyd te help. Hier is ‘n bron van artikels, webtuistes en skakels:

Ondersteun mense so wat rou – Corne van Graan

Kinship Rituals – Planning for a funeral in times of physical distancing

South African Depression and Anxiety Group

Braam Klopper – Pastorale Sielkundige

The Groundswell Project – Dying to know

Sufjan Stevens – Recording as a way of grieving

Grieving through a global pandemic

I grew up in the small rural settlement of Augrabies in the Northern Cape. Today, 17,500 km from home, my South African upbringing remains undeniably part of who I am. I’m a first generation expatriate. Much can be debated about the polarity between ‘emigrant’ vs ‘immigrant’ terminology, but to me, the term merely implies the longing to go home, and to be at home.

My experience is not unique. Along with 820,000 other South African families living abroad, labeling this longing as mere “homesickness” does not suffice. We persistently struggle with cultural bereavement and long for a sense of cultural congruity. 

Some communities steel themselves against this trauma by cueing a list of “push factors”: financial instability, safety, lack of opportunity… Others attempt to celebrate their heritage, undetered by the discordance of our daily lives in a world so different from home. We stay up to date with the news, hope to one day return, and keep in touch with family. Today, this is remarkably easy via digital communication.

On a video call in my kitchen I will ask my tannie how to make a koeksister. My brother-in-law often calls as he drives home after a night shift, just as we sit down for dinner. On my commute, I listened to my godchild’s first recorded laughter through my earphones. 

Nonetheless, sometimes the burden of longing becomes too heavy, and we get on a plane for a visit. It became too heavy when my grandfather passed away in May 2020. This time, a call or text wouldn’t suffice. I wanted to go home, but lockdown made it impossible.

With his descendants and loved ones scattered between Australia, Germany, the UK, the Cape and the Boesmanland, I knew that a live streamed funeral with an unstable internet connection would only serve as a painful reminder that we couldn’t come together to mourn the passing of our patriarch. I decided to compile an audio memorial service by collecting eulogies, in the form of WhatsApp voice notes, from friends and family. 

Using these eulogies, along with carefully curated background music and sound effects, I crafted a well-rounded memorial service that we could all listen to simultaneously. From the intimacy of our living rooms, speckled across the globe, we said goodbye. Together. Yet apart. 

Conscious of the significant hurdles many face during the Covid-19 pandemic, I founded Herklink – a portmanteau of “remember” and “sound” in Afrikaans. Herklink produces audio memorials for families who are unable to hold a traditional funeral due to the current travel restrictions, be it international, or between neighbouring suburbs.

The audio format of a private podcast is a protective shield against judgment, nerves, and fear. Family members can record a eulogy in a setting they feel most comfortable in. Some read a letter they wrote to the deceased, others record a brief message whilst running an errand. Recording a eulogy with your smartphone is easy and accessible to young and old.

I request my clients to collect the eulogies within a 14 day timeframe. The main contact person, usually a next of kin, receives the eulogies and then forward them to me. My clients tell me that collecting the messages is a comforting show of support. One person aptly described the process as “a way for our family to reclaim our grief.”

Once I receive these eulogies, I use my skills as a playwright to create a narrative of the person’s life. The audio memorial serves as a tacit reminder that although the deceased is no longer physically present, our memories of them remain real.  Furthermore, evidence suggests that stories recorded and consumed in auditory format are cognitively and emotionally more engaging at a physiological level. Listening to a story, rather than watching a live video stream of a funeral, is an active process of co-creation and imaginative effort. One could say it is an intentional and motivated method to grieve.

Each family takes full ownership of the distribution via a secure web page, and can listen to the service when most convenient, often to account for different time zones. For two of our clients, we’ve seen a combined total of 1,078 audio streams to date. Many listen to the memorial more than once. “It’s a priceless family keepsake that we can listen to again and again, a tangible tribute to honour my mother.”

Our mission for Herklink is to create an accessible, affordable and authentic platform for all South African families to mourn, regardless of where they live. In a time where funerals have become increasingly exploitive and expensive, an audio memorial is a meaningful addition to a traditional funeral. Listening to the stories of those  we love is a rekindling of our shared wisdom. In 2021, we will need this wisdom to better our lives, and those of others, more than ever.

Twee Kontinente vir Kersfees

Ek skryf uit ‘n koue, donker Duitsland. Soggens wend die son sy beste probeerslag aan om gesig te wys, en gee vóór tjailatyd moed op. Hierdie jaar voel die winter ‘n bietjie kouer, ‘n bietjie donkerder. Onder normale omstandighede sou die strate met die soet reuk van “glühwein”, wat tydens Advent verkoop word, gevul wees. Grendeltyd maak dit egter onmoontlik – die eeueoue Kersmark is afgeskaf.

“Glühwein” kan direk as “gloei” en “wyn” vertaal word: warm rooiwyn versnit met kaneel, koljander en naeltjies. Dis ‘n feestelike drankie wat jou binneste met die vreugde van samesyn laat gloei. 

Kersfees in Europa is ‘n sprokie. Die strate blink onder goue kersliggies, die dakke lê snoesig onder gevlokte sneeu. Dis juis dit: ‘n sprokie, ‘n halwe waarheid. ‘n Mens kan nie vir ewig in ‘n sprokieswêreld leef nie. In  een of ander stadium moet ‘n mens weer huis toe gaan. En Kerstyd is huis toe gaan-tyd.

Hoewel ek die fabelagtige winter hier geniet, smag my siel na Desembermaand op die plaas. Kerstyd op Augrabies: waar ons nie wyn nodig het om te gloei nie, want die son ken geen skaamte nie. Niemand is op vakansie nie, want in Desember is dit oestyd. 

Almal spartel soos kaiings op ‘n rooster om klaar gewerk te kry. 

Met Oukersaand skep ons vinnig asem.  Tafels word buite gedek. Dis te warm in die kombuis om skaapboud te maak, ons braai eerder. Die aartappelslaai is ‘n koel laafnis. Daar is nie groenslaai nie, want teen die tyd wat die vleis gereed is, het die blare reeds verlep. Kinders word vir nagereg rivier toe gestuur, waar waatlemoenskille met ‘n breё glimlag die rivier afdryf. 

Ná ete is dit Kersspel. Swemhanddoeke vir die herders se tulbande, ‘n stoepbesem met ‘n springbokvelletjie oor  word ‘n donkie. Goud, wierrook en mirre is ‘n toegedraaide boksie Nestlé Quality Street. Twee verse uit Lukas 2, en dan is dit “Stille Nag”. 

Môre jaag die hitte ons vroeg uit die vere uit. Ongeag die aangeleentheid is ons oudergewoonte laat vir die erediens. Die gemeente se bariton sing “When A Tjaaild Is Born” met oorgawe. Daar is ‘n samehorigheid wanneer almal die siedende kerkgebou verlaat. Mans skud blad. Opgedolliede tannies word deur almal, van die predikant tot die prokureur, op die lippe gepik. Kinders staan in ongemaklike Sondagpakkies rond, sommige spog met nuwe speelgoed. Ons wens mekaar ‘n geseënde Kersfees toe en keer terug na ‘n oase van oorskiet.

Suid-Afrikaanse emigrante sal vir my sê hierdie Kersfees is ‘n mite. Sien ek dan nie die misdaad, die moord, die val van die rand nie? Word tog wakker! 

Ek moet bieg, ja, dalk is dit nie meer so nie. Dalk was Kerstyd nooit só nie. Maar, die storie van Jesus se geboorte is ook ‘n sprokie: die onskuldige maagd, die engele, die gasvryheid van die herbergier, die duursame geskenke… dalk is dit verdigsel. Daar was rowers op die pad, blindes, melaatses, ‘n korrupte koning! 

Kersfees vertel die verhaal van die geboorte van ‘n Messias. Dit is egter ook ‘n verhaal van twee mense wat ‘n spesiale gebeurtenis – die geboorte van hul eerste kind – in ‘n vreemde land, onder moeilike omstandighede, moes deurmaak. 

Ek is seker Maria sou eerder tuis wou wees, met haar suster aan haar sy. Josef sou dalk graag sy kind se koppie in ‘n mooi wiegie wou neerlê. Die eerste Kersfees vertel ‘n verhaal van ‘n spesiale geleentheid wat vir Josef en Maria nie volgens plan verloop het nie. 

Hierdie Kersfees gaan vir baie van ons nie volgens plan verloop nie. My plan was om huis toe te vlieg, by Kaapstad se lughawe in ‘n huurkar te klim, die lang pad na Augrabies aan te durf, my swaar winterjas uit te trek, die son op my lyf te voel. 

Hierdie jaar se planne vir Kersfees werk nie so mooi uit nie. Ek is nie tuis nie. My familie is nie naby nie. 

Ek is egter steeds van plan om mense te nooi vir ‘n fees, aldus ‘n kleiner fees. Dit sal nie sprokiesmooi wees nie, maar dit sal ‘n geleentheid skep om nuwe lewe, die Lewe, te vier. Teen Kerstyd het die son reeds gedraai, en die somer is weer op pad.

Groei deur Grendeltyd

Hoeveel keer begin ek deesdae ‘n brief met die sinnetjie: “Ek skryf uit ‘n koue Duitsland, 12 500km van my tuisdorp af…”

Om huis toe te verlang, is al vir jare deel van my identiteit as ‘n Suid-Afrikaner wat in die buiteland leef. Hierdie unieke verlange voel soms soos ‘n wingerdloot wat stomp afgesnoei word. Dit is ongenaakbaar, maar dit laat ruimte vir nuwe groei. 

Tydens grendeltyd word hierdie verlange verwronge in rou. Ek rou soos ‘n boer wat haar oes moet afskryf weens ‘n onsigbare pes wat aan die wortels vreet. Tydens oestyd bedank ons die Aarde vir goeie weer; en mekaar, vir harde werk. Ek verpas hierdie lonende tyd: my ma se sestigste verjaarsdag, haar tweede jaar in remissie; my pa in die fleur van sy aftrede; my broerskind wat leer praat; vriende wat trou; blommetyd in Namakwaland.

Daar sal ‘n tyd kom waar ek weer hierin kan deel. Daar is egter een ding wat vir ewig ‘n verlies sal wees: die verlies wat my oupa agterlaat. 

‘n Nuwe seisoen laat nie ‘n groot boom wat geval het, weer toe om te bloei nie. Met dit in gedagte, het ek vir my oupa ‘n oudio-gedenkdiens saamgestel deur huldeblyke te versamel en dit in ‘n professionele oudiodiens te verwerk. Ons kon reg oor die wêreld daarna luister, elk in ons afsonderlike sitkamers… ‘n Globale danksegging.

Ongeag hoe dor hierdie seisoen mag voorkom, moet ons aanhou werk en aanhou dien. Ek is bevoorreg om dit met Herklink te kan doen. Twee families het na my uitgereik om vir ‘n geliefde ‘n oudiodiens saam te stel. Helena van Schalkwyk skryf:

“Wat ‘n unieke en deernisvolle gedenkdiens wat Herklink met die heengaan van my moeder saamgestel het, in ‘n tyd waar ons, as gevolg van die Corona-pandemie, nie bymekaar kon wees nie. Hierdie oudiodiens is ‘n kosbare skat wat ‘n mens vir ewig kan bewaar om na te luister, en ‘n nagedagtenis om ons geliefdes te onthou.”

Baie jare het verstryk sedert Matriek, maar ek het nogtans my Afrikaanse onderwyseres om hulp gevra aangaande taaloorsig vir Herklink. Ons ouderdomsverskil beloop dekades, maar die pen bly jonk, en haar rooipen bly flink. In grendeltyd ruil ons spelfoute uit, asook ‘n gedig of twee:

geleende woorde vir geleende tyd

uit die digters se monde

ons gespreksgenote

in die oggende verlaat ons ons herd

en stap blootsvoets deur die strate

waar ons oor die duwweldorings loop

met lang bene blink in die lig

laat ons dus ons liggeeldae opteken

vir wanneer die donker ons kom haal

en die Here ons nie meer soek nie

want die lewe is ‘n asem lank

laat ons luister na die klank uit die mond

want die wêreld is ‘n groot blou bal

wat stil deur die ruimte val

en ons kom en ons gaan is 

soos water uit die kraan

2020 was vir baie van ons nie maklik nie, maar dit het ‘n geleentheid geskep vir groei. Mag ons hierdie nuwe jaar sterker groei deur elke daad van deernis en omgee.

Met erkenning aan: Wilma Stockenström, Jean Goosen, Ingrid Jonker, Hunter Kennedy, Breyten Breytenbach, Johannes Kerkorrel