How does a Mother come to terms with losing her beautiful daughter and precious little grandson in a horrific road accident? I've been asking myself that question over and over for the past year. I knew this tragedy had the potential of destroying me, of losing myself, of feeling that my life had ended when Pippa and Kieran's had, so I've been doing my 'work'. Reading volumes on how to survive such a loss. Sharing with my wonderful supportive family and friends. Swapping stories and opening up to other grieving parents on a website that offers the opportunity for those experiencing the ultimate loss to come together and learn from each other throughout their painful journey.
I have had counselling. I have been confronting my loss and pain head on in the hopes that one day, the compuslive visions in my head will evolve from those of the nightmare of October 22, 2006 to the memories of those beautiful souls that brought such joy and love into our lives. How I have hoped and prayed that one day I will be strong enough to 'celebrate' their lives and move beyond the horror of their deaths. I once read that 'the well of grief, like that of joy, is not infinite'. This may be so, but at this point in my journey, I have discovered that the well of grief, after losing your children, has to be the deepest there is in our existence. Climbing out of it has to be the most challenging task that life has demanded of me. But then, perhaps this is the due to the fact that the well of joy, whilst sharing one's life with our children, is also the deepest.
In the early days of grief, when the waves of pain would overcome me, I likened it to 'reverse labour'. The intermittent contractions that we experience as mothers giving birth is followed by the greatest of joys. The surges of pain we experience as bereaved mothers is followed by the deepest loneliness and anguish.
Viktor Frankl, in "Man's Search for Meaning" has mapped out how we can find deeper purpose in our lives through our suffering. The late Mr Frankl, a renowned Psychologist and author, was a witness to and suffered the greatest atrocities in the Nazi death camps in Germany for three years, so I believe his thoughts on this subject should be greatly respected. Amongst the many challenges in dealing with this loss, one's purpose has to be the greatest question. Probably because as a mother, I've wondered about my daughter and grandson's purpose.
The following quotes by Viktor E. Frankl have given me much food for thought.
There is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man's attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces.... Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete."
The last of human freedoms - the ability to choose one's attitude in a given set of circumstances."
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked."
What is to give light must endure burning."
When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."
Despite previous painful losses in my life, I have never before had so many troubling questions. There are no answers to 'why did they have to die so young?', it was an accident! They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are no answers to 'why did we have to suffer like this, to have our family decimated, split apart, leaving us to pick up the pieces?' It was an accident, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were not chosen by some vengeful, mystical force. We simply live in an unpredictable, yet beautiful world. The emotions that surged through my being, especially in the early days when the shock and disbelief had me on the verge of insanity, were relentless. Fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, euphoria, despair, apathy, longing, remorse, you name it, I felt it. I have, thank goodness, resolved a lot of these feelings but am now left with a new set of challenging questions, the greatest being, 'How do I live out my days without my precious daughter and grandson? How do I come to terms with this loss? How do I fill this aching void?" The pain is still there, the wound is still pretty raw.
But I know the healing has begun. The thoughts that I am nurturing now are:
I live, with family and friends who love me and whom I love dearly, therefore I have a responsibility to 'live'. Although we will never create any new memories with Pippa and Kieran, my future can still hold new, good memories my son and daughter-in- law, Topher and Nancy, and my other loved ones, if I open my heart to those possibilities.
My daughter was my greatest champion, her faith in me was unshakeable, as was mine in her, even during our weakest moments. She would be heartbroken if I were to give up and allow my grief to destroy me. She had no choice in her dying, but I still have choices in my living.
. There are others out there suffering losses on a daily basis, if I can share my experience with them, and help them hold on for just one more day, then my suffering will have some purpose.
Pippa and Kieran lived full, exhuberant lives. They were both affectionate, kind, upbeat human beings. Pippa was not a quitter. I must carry their legacy like an eternal torch.
I would like to share a story about an incident that touched me very deeply, one which I've related to many friends over the years.
We were living in a lovely apartment in Amanzimtoti when Pippa was 12. We were on the 20th floor overlooking the Indian Ocean. We regularly watched dolphins and whales swimming off the coast and witnessed the most awe inspiring lightning storms way out at sea. Pippa was the type of person who never let the grass grow under her feet.
She was constantly on the go with her school and extra curricular activites. One day she'd come home from school and changed into her track clothes. Off she went back to school for her sports activities. Then she came back home and changed into her dancing outfit and took off to her dancing class. After dancing, she came home and changed into her Girl Guide outfit and asked me to give her a lift to her meeting. I took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes, saying "Pippa, my darling, if you don't slow down you'll be burnt out by the time you're 20!"
I will never forget the intense look in her eyes as she responded 'Mom, life is short and we have to fit as much into it as we can!" It left me with an uneasy feeling. How many 12 years olds have this type of awareness of the brevity of life? Don't you believe at that age that you are immortal? At 21 she informed me she wanted to have a child when she was still young. At 24 she brought Kieran into the world, and it seemed that somehow, she was now complete. The four and a half years she was given as Kieran's mother were the most challenging and rewarding of her short life. She and Kieran adored each other. When I cared for Kieran during the day when Pippa went back to work, we would show her some of the new antics, songs, dances, words he'd learned during the day and she would glow with pride, sometimes to the point of tears. Kieran had such an astounding beauty and charm that one smile from him could melt the hardest heart. He and his Mom travelled together throughout his short life journey and no matter where they travelled, it was home as long as he had his Mom. They were blessed to have each other, and we were profoundly blessed to have them in our lives.
We have had some wonderful moments throughout the past year with family and friends. There hasn't only been tears and sorrow, but fun and laughter as well. Nothing can interfere with the contiuum of our family life. We try to make the most of special occassions. We've welcomed new life, precious babies have been born. Family members have had to deal with illness and setbacks in their lives. These experiences have taught me that I can override the pain that lives constantly beneath my skin and experience good times, as bitter sweet as they may be. I can also focus on others' pain and try to be there for them as well.
One of the many lessons I've learned is that the people in our lives are truly our greatest treasures. I've always appreciated this, but never as significantly as I do now. Forgive the chiche, but 'no man is an island'. We cannot make it on our own. When we share with our loved ones, we add something to their lives and they add something to ours. It's a great exchange of love and life experience.
I've also discovered that creating something, as I've done with this website, is a great outlet for my feelings and thoughts. I do not consider myself much of a writer, but whether or not my words mean anything to someone else, they respresent my heart and soul once I've released them here.
In June I started a new job in a business college. When I started I felt somewhat insecure as I wasn't sure if I was strong enough yet, emotionally, to handle the pressure. As time has gone on, I am realising that this job and the people I work with are my saviours! They are helping me learn and heal and embark on a new journey that is not related to my loss and my grief. I've had a couple of meltdowns and have been very touched with their understanding and patience. They make me feel that my work, my abilities and my personality are greatly appreciated. God Love'em All!
My prayer, as we embark on our second year without Pippa and Kieran, is that all of us who shared our lives with them will bravely march on, carrying with us all that we've learned from knowing and loving them and the strength we have found within ourselves to carry on without them by our sides. Their spirits will fill our hearts forever.
In closing, an old and dear friend, John Ford had read about Pippa and Kieran's death in a local newspaper last year and although he couldn't make it to the Memorial Service, he sent the most touching, heartfelt letter to the church, to my attention, which included this poem he had written.
Saying good-bye is never easy Especially when one is loved so deeply and sincerely. It is only natural to always want them near To dream of the future together, To share each day To cherish, strengthen and love.
And yet, dreams don't always work out, And good-byes, no matter how painful, Are sometimes necessary. But the love once shared is never forgotten; And once cherished, A person lives forever... In our dreams and within our hearts.
Blessings to you All!
The PHOTOS in this movie: 1) Jeremy and Sue recently sent me some photos taken during their last year. 2)Pippa's friend Sharon, an ex collegue at British Airways in Toronto visited them in February 2005 and shared some lovely photos with me. 3) Pippa's friend, Andy, from Hawaai, visited them in January 2006 and took the most exquisite photos of Pippa and Kieran. The photo I have on the home page, Pippa, Kieran and Duma the cheetah, is one of Andy's. and 4) Pippa's South African friend, Kathy sent me some photos. All of these photos were taken during their last year, in Port Elizabeth, where they had settled into a happy, fulfilled home life.
THE MUSIC: One of my all time favourite movies was 'The Wizard of OZ'. Pippa never got to see that movie, but her friend Andy in Hawaai introduced her to this track of 'Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a wonderful World' by the late Hawaain musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and she played it constantly. It brings back lovely memories for me.