Dying is a lonely journey. Not only for the sick person but also for the family. As hard as we may try to avoid death, the truth is that we do a lousy job of it. Science and medicine will certainly postpone it, even staying healthy might seem to delay it, but the harsh reality is that death does not wait for you, it does not ask you, and it does not listen to you. Death ignores your feelings and wants; you do not matter to death…Death is the only certainty in life! We need to remember that our existence here is fragile, and we never have as much time with people as we think we do. If there is someone or someones out there that you love, don’t neglect that and don’t put off engaging with them because waits for no-one… Vic's Journey ended on 18 January 2013 at 10:35. She was the most courageous person in the world and has inspired thousands of people all over the world. Vic's two boys are monuments of her existence. She was an amazing mother, daughter, sister and friend. I will miss you today, tomorrow and forever my Angle Child.
I am writing this through my tears. A dear cyber friend of mine is dying from congenital heart failure. She is a wise and terribly brave person. She posted this today…
“so here it is and then i am off to sleep. when my sister was here we started talking about cremation. of course she is the only person in my family that i would have this discussion with. may i add we laughed although not all would find this humorous. when cremated how do they separate the human remains from the ashes of the container used? if no container is used why do they charge for it? i have looked online for the answer and didn’t find it.”
This post jerked me back to Vic’s death bed. The memory of Vic sitting in her bed with an open file on her lap was burnt into my mind…. The folder – “My Funeral”
“Mommy, these are the hymns I want for my funeral…”
“Amazing Grace” and “How great thou art” were Vic’s hymns of choice…
“Mommy, do you think I can have candles? Lots of candles?” Vic asked.
In May 2012 Vic asked whether I would deliver her eulogy… She asked me to thank Jared for taking care of her and Jon-Daniel for making her laugh.
“Remember to make a list of everyone that we need to thank Mommy. I would hate for us to leave out anyone… “
On the 2nd of January, 16 days before she died, Vic double checked with me whether I remembered which hymns had to be sung at her memorial service. She cried when she (again) named her pallbearers; she requested that her minister be called to administer communion.
“Please don’t let me lie in a refrigerator for a long time Mommy…Let them cremate me as quickly as possible”
I still feel the despair I felt then knowing that death was on the forefront of my child’s mind. I felt her fear of death; her terror of the unknown. I felt her desperate sadness and her reluctance to say goodbye… On the one hand her pain filled, little body was so diseased and weak. On the other hand,her will to live was so strong!
I was helpless. I was praying that Vic would die – that her suffering would end. I was bargaining with God to spare her. I tried negotiating with Him – my life for hers.
I still feel the madness that I felt then.
My dear friend is going through the same fears and emotions that my precious child did. She is making the same decisions. I wish I could reach out and hug her. I wish I could grab her from the claws of death.
I am thinking of you tonight my dear friend. In my thoughts you are well and safe. I wish I could spare you this journey. Lots of love and hugs.
When my brave daughter planned her memorial service she specified these words of wisdom to be in the funeral letter. It was a personal note from Vic to us. I wonder how many people actually realized it?
Reason, Season and Lifetime …
People always come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do. …
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed outwardly or inwardly. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, or to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally, or even spiritually. They may seem like a godsend to you, and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. …
Then, without any wrong doing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. …
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they just walk away. Sometimes they act up or out and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and it is now time to move on. …
When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow, or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it! It is real! But, only for a season. And like Spring turns to Summer and Summer to Fall, the season eventually ends. …
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway); and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas in your life. It is said that love is blind, but friendship is clairvoyant.
Thank you for being part of my life.
When I read this the first time I categorized people in to the Reason; Season and Lifetime categories… I clearly remembered and recognized the “Reason” and “Season” friends… I found that the “Reason” people were people who crossed my path early in my life… I almost felt that it was old work colleagues, school friends, childhood neighbours. Character defining people who either moved on or were left behind by me.
A “Season” can be defined as an hour, day, week, year, or several years. Maybe even part of a lifetime, but it will at some time fade out and for no real reason. The “Seasoners” will bring you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it. It is real. But only for a season. The season relationship is not something to force or cling to… It dies naturally and through no fault of either person.
Lifetime friendships offer not only good times, but also survives bad times, offers times for growth and challenge. The friendship grows over time, and a deep abiding bond develops – a love which sustains both people in the friendship. They become members of your family. They may be people with whom you’ve grown up or met yesterday, but they will be there “until death do us part”.
I stood in front of the church flanked by my grandsons when I delivered my precious child’s eulogy. I looked at the people and recognised the “Reasoners, Seasoners and Life timers…”
I saw so many Life Timers who truly loved Vic until death saved her from more pain and suffering. Friends that never abandoned her, patiently waited for a good day to see her… Friends quietly crying tears of deep sorrow and loss….
I remembered why Vic chose this poem, in 2003, to be in her funeral letter. She wanted to thank each and every person for the role they played in her life. She wanted people to know that she clearly saw and accepted this truth. She felt great sorrow when someones time with her ended. It’s only natural when we come to love someone to want them to be there forever. Vic clung to relationships and friendships way past their “expiry” date. She mourned her losses.
Vic did however learn that very valuable life lesson – to be grateful for whatever time she was granted with those she cared about. Vic clung to life to extend her time with the “life timers”…
Death had to pry her fingers from Life and her Life Timers…
Today was a particularly bad day. For the first time since Vic’s memorial service I attended a Church Service. I dreaded the arms of comfort and gentle words of sympathy that was inevitable. Danie went with me. As we walked into the doors the arms were there…hugging and patting! Our entry caused a little stir among the congregation..
Danie took my hand and led me to our old place in the pews. People actually got up from where they were sitting to come and say “Hello” and “I am praying for you”…. Tears just ran down my cheeks and I COULD NOT stop crying! All I could see in my mind’s eye was my beautiful, precious child’s coffin in the front on the church – surrounded by white candles and St Josephs lilies.
The worship team started singing, and I could not even see the words on the screen through my tears.
As the service went I calmed down. I kept telling myself to “get a grip” which I eventually did.
After the service I cried in the embrace of my minister, church friends and acquaintances.
This evening I opened my emails and found a beautiful email from Jane@ http://johannisthinking.com/. I wanted to post some of it with the beautiful picture and went into her blog to copy her blog address when I found this amazing poem that I am going to share with you.
Jane’s writes in her Email:-
You are NOT alone—-there is LIGHT all around YOU! When I found this…I thought….Yes, this is Tersia! …and your daughter is surrounding YOU with love and light! BELIEVE it!You deserve to live in the LIGHT…..and it is NOT wrong to be happy….Vic is at peace and living in the LIGHT……and one day you will find her again…….until then…be gentle to YOU…..what would you tell her to do IF the situation was reversed? What if you were the ONE who had to leave this Mother Earth ? What would you say to your daughter? You say you “two are ONE”—-and I do believe it is true——— so speak to your inner child as you would speak to her! WE ALL NEED YOUR VOICE!
I cried again. I am so grateful that the goodness and the light that surrounded Vic and radiated from her, is seen by the world. Thank you dear Jane for telling me. Thank you for your words, your poetry and above all the Angel of Light. Thank you for caring!!
Dedicated to Tersia Burger***between the deep sighstears fall one by one
ridding the pitchblende
ever so slowly they formquietly…silentlydescendwater tearscascading
will they ever endwater crystal healersnature taking care of youhelping you transcendfreeing youuntil…you find yourselfhome again…
ice-kaleidoscope (Photo credit: JeremyO\K)
So, today was emotional but healing! I was surrounded by love and compassion. For the first time in a long time I did not feel isolated in my grief.
So to every one who comments and emails; I thank you for your love and support in my journey of mourning my child. For many years I have had a fear of allowing people close to me – I truly fear that they will betray my trust and friendship. I KNOW I must allow people close
to me. Blogging is allowing me see that there is kindness, goodness and unconditional caring out there….
Today I read a very moving eulogy that Denise, one of my blogger friends, posted. It is a eulogy that she wrote and presented at her beloved son’s funeral.
I identified with her emotions and every word she wrote. I would like to share Denise’s words with you and also my eulogy with which I honoured my brave child.
Denise says:” I’ve added a page with Philip’s eulogy. It was my last gift to him. As I wrote in the introduction, I’m posting it so you can know him a little better. I’ve just re-read it, and I remember reading it out loud, with Phil and Natalie beside me. I remember that I’d spent the last two hours in my chair, non-stop sobbing. I remember my cousin Maria leaning over and saying, “If you don’t stop crying you won’t be able to read.” I remember my voice clear and strong. And when I was done, I remember being told, “I feel better because I know you’re going to be all right.”
Me and “all right” didn’t belong in the same sentence. But there it was. And here it is; I hope you’ll take a look.”
Much of the days, immediately after Vic’s death, is now a distant memory. The emotions that I did record are hazy now. I floated on a herbal tranquilizer cloud… I cannot remember who all was at the funeral. I remember who wasn’t… I looked at the January 2013 photos this week and saw that her second eldest sibling did come and say her goodbyes. I now vaguely remember her little girls being here, but I actually don’t remember!!
When Vic planned her memorial service she asked that I deliver her eulogy.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Vic died I cried and was unable to think straight. I wanted to do the handouts myself but by Sunday evening I knew I would not be able to do it in time. My mind was blank, and I could not get Microsoft Publisher to do what I needed it to do… At 8.15pm I texted the undertaker and asked them to do it. I would send them the content, and they would format my information.
I prepared a wonderful slide show of Vic’s life. All the fun bits and the people she loved were in it with her. All the highlights of her life were captured in PowerPoint. “Never Alone” as performed by Jim Brickman and Lady Annabella would play as her coffin was carried out of the church. “If tomorrow starts without me” would play before the start of the service. The slide show would loop from 15 minutes before the service and again 10 minutes after Vic left the church for the last time.
The eulogy and thank-you’s would be done by me.
Strangely the “thank-you’s” was far more difficult to do. There were so many people to thank that had loved, helped and supported Vic and the family over the years…
I actually don’t know whether I blogged on the service as such before, but if I have either forgive me or please move onto another post.
When I stood up to do the thank you’s and eulogy I thought “It is the 3rd eulogy in 18 months I am doing…”
As I stood up Vic’s boys got up and flanked me. They bravely and stoically stood next to me supporting me as we paid our last respects. I could feel their bodies tremble and occasionally I hear a stifled sound as they suppressed their tears.
We stood on the stairs below the pulpit. Three steps below us Vic lay in a casket. More than a hundred candles burning; her St Josephs lilies on the casket and a beautiful framed photo of her… I so wish someone has taken a photo…
Like Denise I was surprised by the clarity of my voice. It was as if my voice belonged to someone else. The steadiness of my voice belied the physical pain of my heart.
I said the following:
Where do I start? How do I begin a farewell when I still can’t believe you’re gone? How do I say goodbye to a part of my soul?
The day you were born I experienced this UNBELIEVABLE rush of love. I was smitten from the first second I lay eyes on you.
You came into my life and changed me forever. Over the years people have complimented me for being a good mother but I truly cannot take credit for that. You were born good, and great and amazing. You were the one who taught me lessons in life. I believe you are an angel God sent to teach me.
You taught me love. You taught me honesty. You taught me to love unconditionally. You taught me how to forgive and how to be strong. You are the strongest person I have ever known. You gave me strength when I was weak. When times were sad and tough you reminded me to be grateful for the small things in life. You taught me how to be myself. Most of all you taught me about life and how to live.
When you were diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta at the age of 18 months and the doctors told me I should wrap you in cotton wool and wait for you to die, you taught me it was more important to feel and grow like any other child than to have me hide you under my wing. It was so important to you to live. And that you did. You gave birth to not one beautiful baby but two! You mothered the boys the way you lived life – with a passion.
You are the bravest person in the world. You rewrote medical history. You defied death for so many years… You mocked bad news and a poor prognosis…
You made me so proud. You have always been my greatest pride and joy. At school you excelled as a pianist. As a mommy you were an example to all. As a dying person you were brave beyond words.
I’m not sure how I can live this life without you. You worried about me just as much as I worried about you. You told everyone how worried you were that I would not cope without you. You fought so hard to stay alive. You fought until you gave your very last breath. You did not want to leave your boys. You lived for your boys.
You often said you were scared people would forget you…
No-one will ever forget you. You made an incredible impact on the world. You left two monuments of your love and mothering skills. Your sons will honour you every day of their lives with their actions.
Your dream of a Hospice for Alberton has been realised in Stepping Stone. Thousands of people will benefit from your dream and compassion in years to come. It is ironic that you were Stepping Stone’s first death…
Two weeks before your passing you started seeing angels. You saw Gramps, Uncle Dries, your father and Auntie Marlene. Then a week before your passing you said “My whole room is full of angels” You fought to stay alive every single day of your life. Eleven months ago you called a family meeting and told us that you had decided enough is enough. No more surgeries. No more hospitals.
Over the past 11 months you made your final wishes known. You planned your memorial service. You spoke to the boys about what was important. I personally got a long list of do’s and don’t’s.
Just before Christmas you said you were worried about me. That you could see I thought you would bounce back again…You said you were dying…You could feel the changes in your body. But like 95% of the people in this church today I honestly though you would bounce back and defy death once again!
The day you were born you filled my entire life. You were always my first and last thought. I feel numb and as if I am in a bubble. You will be happy to know that we have been surrounded by love and support. But it still feels as if the world should have stopped because you left it.
Vic, I miss you so much already and I don’t know if I can take this pain anymore. But then I think, how can I be sad when I know you’re in a better place? How can I be sad when you brought me so much happiness? How can I be sad when God is already working miracles through you? How can I be sad when I feel like the luckiest person on earth to have been chosen to be your mother? How can I be sad when God gave you to me for 14,019 days, 20 hours and 15 minutes? I thank God every day for the time we shared together.
Baby, I promise you today we will be the support system for the boys you wanted. We love them so much. No-one in the world can ever take your place. We promise we will keep your memories alive. We will honour our promises to you.
So now we must bid you farewell. It is your time to run, free from pain and suffering. We will always love you. We will never forget you.
I am at a stage where it feels as if it is impossible to recover from the pain of losing Vic. I am told that the grief will gradually get better and become less intense as time goes by.
The first few days after Vic died was so intense. Family and friends cried, and we comforted one another. The house was busy with people coming and going. The planning that goes into a funeral and the writing of the eulogy took a lot of time. My grief was raw and incredibly intense. My heart physically ached. I experienced feelings of anxiety, panic, sadness, and helplessness. Yet it is actually a surreal feeling… it felt as if we were removed from the world. It felt as if I looked in from the outside. I heard myself speaking and reacting mechanically…Old school friends phoned and I rushed to get through their words of condolences so I could ask them about their lives. I did not want to discuss Vic’s death. They must have thought I was crazy.
People said “you are so strong…”
When a loved one dies at home I think it is harder afterwards…There is a “mystique” to the room of death. The smell of death lingers and the room is littered with medication, blood pressure equipment, thermometers and syringe containers. Bedpans and vomit-dishes are still in the bathroom…
The planning of Vic’s memorial service actually helped me get through the first days after her death. Friends and family spend time with us talking and sharing memories about Vic.
Many times, people show their emotions during this time of ritual. Overwhelmed by Vic’s death we actually did not show emotion right away — even though the loss was very hard. We stood amongst our friends and family at the reception after the memorial service smiling and talking. To the world it must have appeared as if we were strong and accepting of Vic’s death. Being among other mourners was a comfort; it sort of reminded us that some things will stay the same.
But the time came when the far-away family left, friends went back to their lives and the steady flow of visitors stopped. In a way it was a relief. We were forced to stop and come to terms with the reality of the situation….the pain of the loss and the enormity of our grief.
Within a week we were back at work and school. People were and still are wary of us – they do not know how to handle our grief. We quickly learnt that other people are not interested in our grieving process…We stopped talking about Vic’s death…But although we no longer continuously talk about our loss, the grieving process not only continues but intensifies.
It’s natural to continue to have feelings and questions for a while after someone dies. It’s also natural to begin to feel somewhat better. A lot depends on how your loss affects your life. It’s OK to feel grief for days, weeks, or even longer, depending on how close you were to the person who died. I was told yesterday by someone who truly loved Vic that Vic’s death is only a reality when they are in our home. When they leave it almost becomes a distant memory….
The loss of a child is different to the loss of a parent. The boys’ grief is different to my grief… I will go further and say that the grief of a teen is different to the grief of an adult child who lost his aged parent.
Vic’s death has been a devastating, distressing experience in the life of the boys. Although the boys have spent the majority of their lives in our home their sense of security and stability in the world has been turned upside down. Vic’s death has become the defining event in the boys lives. The boys have begun to define their lives into two categories: “before Mom died” or “after Mom died.”
The boys and I have experienced a sense of relief, ambivalence; guilt and regret after Vic’s passing. The boys have categorically expressed their sense of relief that Vic’s intense suffering and pain is over. I prayed for Vic to die. This sense of relief has however brought on more guilt!
Jon-Daniel was the first of the boys who had to cope with the realization that Vic would not be around to celebrate rites of passage; Vic slipped into a coma the day Jon-Daniel received his school’s honours award for academic achievement…..
The boys are battling to cope with Vic’s death. Their grief is intensifying.
On the 8th of April they will meet the Hospice Psychologist. On the 25th we are flying down to Cape Town for 13 days. We need a change of scenery. We need to grieve without being told to “let Vic rest…”
I make a point of telling them that I miss their Mommy too. They light candles for Vic. I cry in my pillow.
I know that the boys will eventually move on. It is the way it is – children bury their parents. It is normal. But a parent should never have to bury their child…
For 38 years my beautiful child was the centre of my life. I lived for her. Now I merely exist.
I hear her say “Mommy I love you” and I whisper “I love you more than life angel child…”
Tuesday morning arrived. It had been a very long weekend. I battled with the eulogy and my broken heart. Everybody kept looking at me to make sure I was okay… Patting my hand and saying: “It is going to be okay!”
It is never going to be okay. Nothing can erase my child’s suffering and death from my mind. In time I suppose I will learn to live with the pain and longing, but it is NOT GOING TO BE FLIPPEN OKAY!!!!! EVER!!!
I have slept in Vic’s bed since her death to “demystify” her room. I also feel close to her. I can smell her in her pillow; I spray her perfume before I go to sleep.
After Vic passed and before the undertakers arrived I lay next to her lifeless little body. I spoke to her non-stop.
“Sweetie, If your soul is hovering in this room I want a clear sign from you that you are still with me…”
I woke early and prepared for the lousiest day of my life. I started chewing “Rescue” tablets. It was the only way I was going to get through the memorial service without making an absolute fool of myself. The boys looked so handsome! Their mom would have been very proud of her boys!
At the church the hearse was parked at the front door. Vic was already inside the church. A huge photo was on an easel and at least a hundred candles were burning around the casket. The flowers were beautiful. Vic would have approved.
I sat in the pew with tears running down my face. I could not believe that my baby girl was lying in that casket! That I would never see her, never hold her again, never hear her voice again. Sitting in church I could not remember her pain and suffering only my own.
The service was beautiful! The minister spoke from his heart and shared his memories of a brave young woman with almost 200 people. He said that not many people are ever prepared for death but Vic was to such an extent that she had planned her entire memorial service. He wiped a tear from his eyes where he spoke of Vic’s journey.
As instructed by Vic we sang “Amazing Grace” and “How great Art Thou”. I managed to sing – not a pretty sound though! My voice was all over! Vic would have giggled and told me that I sound like my mom!
I did the eulogy with the two boys standing on either side of me. At times my voice wavered and at times even I could hear how strong I sounded.
And then it was time to carry the coffin to the hearse for the FINAL part of Vic’s journey. I could hear the boys quietly sobbing as we carried Vic on her final journey. I felt my face contort with grief and tears.
The coffin was so light! I remember thinking “I wonder if Vic is really in the coffin….”
We lay single roses on the coffin. The two boys’ red roses and the rest of us pink…. Kari and Simone (Vic’s nieces) came up and stroked the coffin. They sobbed uncontrollably. I could hear people crying.
The minister said a final prayer, and it was time for Vic to leave.
The undertaker solemnly hugged me and closed the rear door of the hearse. It opened…. He pushed the coffin into position and relocked the locking mechanism. He closed the door again. Once again the door closed and opened!
“Vic is here and she is telling us she is going no where!” I said
People laughed nervously….
The undertaker unlocked the lock and pushed the coffin into position again. The undertaker locked the locking mechanism for the 3rd time. He closed the door. This time it remained closed. Vic had gotten her message through to me…I received my sign.
I sense a loneliness of the heart in Vic. I cannot imagine what it feels like to be aware of the fact that you are facing your last months of life, planning your funeral….No matter what we do or say – this is Vic’s journey.