This year my birthday was filled with tragedy. Don’t misunderstand me. I had a wonderful birthday. The day flashed by in a whirl of fun. I expect to enjoy a super-duper fabulous year.
I received a multitude of beautiful voice and video calls from family and friends in South Africa and around the world. Technology has made that easy, cheap, and standard. I spent happy hours chatting away gleefully. I received too, so many messages on all the social media and messaging platforms that my heart soared and my spirit sang. I am delighted that there are so many who thought of me and took the trouble to send me good wishes. Steeped in all that love, and returning it in abundance, I celebrated well and with passion. But …
Life is Death
There is no period when we do not experience death. As young kids we experience the death of grandparents. Not only ours but those of our friends. We might be too young to comprehend fully, but death is there. When I was in High School one of the boys committed suicide. From our teen years, we become aware of the passing away of family friends, or their parents.
As we approach retirement our lifelong friends, peers, and cousins depart into the great unknown. These are people we know and love. We attend many funerals and cremations. There are also the deaths of people who are neither friends nor social acquaintances, but celebrities, politicians, captains of industry, sports stars, and even villains, Death is present all the time.
The death rate is 100%
I checked the statistics of many countries. All have a 100% death rate. Eventually, everyone dies. There are no exceptions. Death is relentless and has a steady pace. Occasionally, that pace is disrupted by an unexpected death caused by sudden illness or a traffic accident. But the pace is steady, generally accepted, and mostly understood.
The tragedy of my birthday, the overwhelming sadness that weighs heavily on me is because so many regular well-wishers did not call or message me this year. Should I be upset? Should I be angry? Bloody hell – yes! A demon has disrupted, disturbed and displaced the natural flow of life and the rate of death.
We have been robbed
In interfering with the normal ebb and flow of life, which included those expected and occasionally some unexpected deaths, this demon has robbed us prematurely of wonderful people. And so, I received a message from Des Lindberg – but not from Dawn. I met Des and Dawn in the days of the Troubadour, in the early 1960s, long before they were married. The absence of Dawn’s greetings this year hit me hard and tears rolled down my cheeks. Also missing was Alvon Collison singing (in key) to me. I interviewed Alvon as a young writer when he was playing Pharaoh in “Joseph…” in the 1970s. Through all his hardships and devastating illnesses, Alvon was always cheerful and inspiring. No cheer this year. There was no chat with Clive Scott to raise a smile and share some experiences and memories.
The demon killed old friends
No call from Louis, my matric mate and rugby opponent, to tease me. Louis felt out of sorts on a Friday night, was tested on Saturday and the positive result on Sunday saw him admitted immediately to hospital. On Monday at 03:30, Louis died. Frighteningly fast. Mannie, who found spares for my motorbike when I needed them, messaged me that he would be discharged from hospital and be home on Wednesday. He wasn’t. Mannie died on that Saturday. There are too many more. I choke as I write.
The list is looooooong … and growing
The list of personal friends the demon has claimed is now over two dozen long. Damn! Buggeration! These are not people I had met once, or about whom I had read in the newspaper. These are people I knew personally and for a long time. So many I miss and love. These losses are not just personal. They are losses to their families, their friends, to society, and to the world. This is the deep tragedy my birthday screamed. We have been robbed unexpectedly at a rate much greater than is tolerable. It is not easy to bear. This huge sadness, the sense of loss, and the pain we all feel, are balanced only by an inordinate joy of being alive.
Kindly and expertly edited by Andrea Abbott who is also a skilled photographer.