OUR TIME WITH SNE, CHERISHED FOREVER
It’s been 2.5 months, and I still battle to talk about her without crying.
Anna has helped our family at home for the past 6 years and we are very close. She is family to me, and I am family to her. A few weeks into lockdown she asked if she could please come back to work. She was bored at home and missed my daughter Ellie. We missed her too, so gladly made a bedroom for her and invited her 11-year-old daughter to come stay too. They lived with us for a few months.
Mark and I IMMEDIATELY fell in love with Anna’s daughter, Sne. I’m not talking about that ‘oh, she’s a sweet kid’ kind of love, but the kind of love that has you thinking up ways to support her dreams and aspirations. Sne became our 3-year-old’s big sister in no time, and the two were inseparable.
We were in the middle of hard lockdown when they moved in with us, with the kids only able to leave the house between 6am-9am to exercise, so we were home all day, everyday. We became a unit! We baked, we cooked, we played, we crafted, we danced. Mark took Sne to buy her first ever bike and they assembled it together.
He adored her as much as I did! She was teaching me IsiZulu words, and I was teaching her English words. She was reading every day, determined to get through the year with As and not allow Covid to interfere with her Grade 6 year.
She was so bright. So dedicated. And SO kind!
Mid-August, Sne got sick.
Anna did EVERYTHING she could to get her the care that she needed. It was difficult to fully understand what was happening. She couldn’t visit Sne and although we arranged a phone for her so that there was contact, Sne was always so upbeat and didn’t ever let on how sick she really felt. She phoned every night to say ‘Goodnight’ and ‘I love you’ to Mark, Ellie and I.
We really believed that she would get better. Trying to get information from nurses and doctors at a Government Hospital is never easy, and I can only imagine that they were swamped with Covid patients. The information that Anna was getting in Zulu and I was getting in English was conflicting and we had no choice but to trust the doctors and have faith that she would get better.
She didn’t get better. She died from an illness that is usually treatable. I’m told that it was due to an infection, but we don’t know all the details and this is something I am struggling to deal with. If you are a white South African, you’ll know why I feel so much guilt and anguish about this.
The morning that Sne died is a day that will never leave me. The sound of sobbing as her sister relayed the news, the sight of Anna lying heart broken on the floor, the hour-long drive to the hospital and all the paper-work and signatures.
A child shouldn’t die. A Mom should never have to experience this kind of loss.
But it happened.
It happened YET Anna has chosen to celebrate Sne’s life.
This is what my message today is about.
In Zulu tradition, the family grieve the loss of a loved one, and then they celebrate. You are encouraged to mourn, but at some point, you are then expected to stop, for the sake of the departed. You see, until Anna rests, Sne’s soul can’t rest. She chooses to celebrate rather than mourn… for Sne. Can you think of anything more selfless? From the time that they heard of Sne’s passing, the work began to celebrate her life and free her spirit.
When Anna and I talk about Sne, I am the one crying. Anna is so so strong. She tells me that her faith has got her through the past two months and that she knows Sne is still with her, and always will be. Sne, along with Anna’s other ancestors, are now her protectors, her guardian angels.
I have learnt SO MUCH about the Zulu culture, about grief, about community, about loss and about celebration.
Anna framed one of the photos that I took of Sne. It stood on her coffin throughout her funeral and they have it positioned in a prominent spot on the living room wall now. A week or so after the funeral, Anna asked if I would print a photo book for her of pictures from the year. I haven’t been able to do it yet. They’re all here on my phone. I looked at them a lot in that first week, but I suppose I am protecting myself from revisiting those feelings. This is something that I’ve learnt about MY culture, and something that I want to change.
I want to do it though… for Anna. And for Sne. And for Ellie.
Ellie talked about Sne every day for about a month. She still brings her up now, but not as often. She has definitely not forgotten about her. When we talk about big girls, or big sisters – she immediately says ‘like my big sister, Sne’.
She knows that Sne is in heaven and that heaven is ‘up there’. On our first really cloudy day after telling her that Sne was gone, she stuck her head out the car window and shouted “SNE! Can you still see me???” – yes… I cried!
No, I did not hide my tears.
We talk about her freely and we have chosen to be open with Ellie about death and sadness. Through this experience, I realised how shielded I was, and that we were doing the same to protect our daughter. It doesn’t help. Death is inevitable.
Sne had a BEAUTIFUL 11 years on this earth. She was clever and vibrant, and her memory does not deserve tears. She deserves smiles and laughter and great stories!!
I am going to create the photo book for Anna, but my plan is to first create a slideshow of videos and sound clips – something that I think will really capture Sne’s fun-loving spirit.
In the meantime, I just want this message heard.
life deserves to be celebrated.
Death is inevitable.
Loss often comes without warning.
It’s a cliche, but cherish every moment you spend with those you love.
And DOCUMENT your cherished moments so that you never forget them and so that their memory may be celebrated.