I want to be an eagle


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My late father was pretty advanced in his journey with Alzheimers when I read that AD patients respond well to animals.  We got my Dad a little Maltese Poodle and it was love at first sight.

My Dad absolutely adored Tiger.  He carried Tiger everywhere and Tiger sat with him, ate with him and slept with him.

One day my Dad and I were chatting and I asked him: “If you could be any animal what would you be?”

I fully expected him to say a Lion – he loved the magnificence of lions…I love eagles.  I don’t think Dad quite understood what I was asking and said “You go first…”

“I would want to be an eagle…” I said

“Why?” he asked

“I want to soar high above the sky and experience that total solitude and quiet…” I replied

“Oh” Dad said.  “I would want to be this little guy”

Dad did not remember the name of his beloved dog but he knew that the dog was loved, nurtured and spoilt!

I have always equated the turmoil of teenage and parent relationships as an “Eagle” relationship.  The following is an extract from a site –  http://www.eagleflight.org/cyberstudies/actions-and-attitudes-of-a-growing-church/157-with-eagles-wings.  I have changed some of the headings and removed text that is not relevant but basically the content below belongs to http://www.eagleflight.com

Location is very important to the eagle and it’s young. If possible, eagles build their nests on the face of cliffs. They don’t build a nest in a tree unless they absolutely have to, because a nest in a tree can be easily accessed. They don’t build it on the top of the cliff, either, because on the top of a cliff it can be violated, too. Eagles build their nests in some inaccessible place.

The nest is built with consummate skill—not using little twigs, but great branches woven together in an immensely skillful way. If somehow an eagle’s nest is loosed from its moorings and falls, it rarely comes apart. In fact, eagles’ nests are so big, they have weighed in at half a ton! They’re comfortable, too. Their centers are carefully lined with feathers and leaves, and the eggs are placed there. When they hatch, the mother begins the process of feeding the babies.

After the eaglets get to a certain size, or maturity, everything changes! One day the mother eagle comes back from being gone, but this time there’s no food in her beak, and she doesn’t land on the edge of the nest. Instead, she hovers over the nest.

You may not know this, but an eagle can do almost what a hummingbird can do. Even though they are great birds, they can remain almost motionless in midair with those great wings just undulating in the breeze. They do this about three feet above the nest. I’m sure if little eagles could talk to one another—and maybe they can—one would certainly say, “My, what strong wings Mommy has.”

Why does the mother do this? She is demonstrating that those curious appendages on the babies’ backs have a useful function. Eagles, of course, were meant to fly, but they don’t know that. If we take an eagle and separate it at birth from its parents, it will never learn to fly. It will just grovel around in the dirt like a chicken. It might even look up and see eagles soaring overhead and never guess that it was meant to soar in the heavens.

Eagles have to be taught, and that’s the mother’s job. So first she just demonstrates.

The next thing she does is come down into the nest and surprise her young. One can imagine how warm it must normally be for the little eagles to snuggle with their mother and be enshrouded with her feathers, but this time she puts her head up against one of the little ones, and pushes that little one closer and closer to the edge of the nest. (“Hey mom, mom, what are you doing?”)

All at once she pushes the little one out of the nest, and the eaglet falls down the face of the cliff, surely to be destroyed. But not so! In a flash the great mother eagle flies down, catches the little one on her back, and flies up and deposits it in the nest. (“Whew! Mom, that must have been an accident.”) But it wasn’t an accident. The mother bird pushes the little one out again, and again, over and over.

Why would a mother do that to her young? Does she hates the little one? Not at all. It’s just that those little birds were made to fly, and they don’t know it, so she is going to push them out of the nest. She never lets them hit bottom, but she does let them fall, because they have to learn something they don’t know.

The next time the mother bird comes back she decides to clean house, and so she stands on the edge of the nest. The first things to go are the feathers inside; she drops them over the edge. Then the leaves go over the edge—heave ho! While this is going on, she’s not very talkative, either. (“Mom, what are you doing?”) She pays no attention. Since she built the house, she knows how to take it apart.

Next she decides to take the sticks out of the middle of the nest, and with her great strong beak and feet, she’s able to break them off and stand them straight up. (“Mom, it’s not comfortable in here anymore.”) Then she takes certain key sticks out of the nest and throws them over the edge. (“What are you doing, Mom? You are wrecking my room.”)

She seemingly pays no attention to the concerns of her young as she prepares to pull the nest apart, for she is determined that those little ones will fly, and she knows something they don’t. She knows they will never fly as long as they remain in the nest.

That is why teenagers and mothers fight…so they can learn to fly and “escape” home!

We all go through this stage with our teenagers.  Most of the time we don’t even realize the process….  But Nature is great and takes over from us.

I was never able to let go of Vic.  I wanted her close where I could hear her breathe.  The movie “Terms of endearment” shows a mother who walks into the nursery and climbs into the cot to make sure that her baby is breathing.  When the baby starts crying she promptly climbs out, marches out and says “That’s better…”

That is the mother I was!  I mothered (smothered) my precious baby until her last breath.  I do not regret that she never learnt to fly.  Hell, she never even learnt to ride a bike!

As a parent we can only do our best.  We love and nurture and then we set them free…

I just feel so lost and empty.

My Mom is a Survivor


P1100704This poem may have been written by my precious Vic….

She used to worry so about me surviving her death.  Our domestic helper has worked for me for the past 18 years.  Bettie is part of the family.  Over the years we have shared tears for our children…

Bettie went on her annual leave on the 18th of December 2012.  She tells me that Vic asked her to keep an eye on me, after her passing, as she would not see Bettie again…

Vic knew she was dying.  I knew she was dying.  I prayed for her to die!  Why is it so hard now.  I want to scream my anger and pain…I want to lash out at someone and just punch them…

Bettie returned just in time for Vic’s memorial service.

My Mom is a Survivor
My mom is a survivor,
or so I’ve heard it said.
But I can hear her crying
when all others are in bed.
I watch her lay awake at night.
and go to hold her hand.
She doesn’t know I’m with her
to help her understand.
But like the sands upon a beach
that never wash away…
I watch over my surviving mom
who thinks of me each day.
She wears a smile for others,
a smile of disguise.
But through Heaven’s open door,
I see tears flowing from her eyes.
My mom tries to cope with my death,
to keep my memory alive.
But anyone who knows her
knows it’s her way to survive.
As I watch over my surviving mom
through Heaven’s open door…
I try to tell her that
Angel protect me forevermore.
I know that doesn’t help her,
or ease the burdens she bears.
So if you get a chance, call to her
And show her that you care.
For no matter what she feels,
my surviving mom has a broken heart
that time won’t ever heal.
~K. D’Ormeaux

Happy birthday Mommy! 3.8.2012


Until death do us part….

My tiny, petite little mom was born on the 3rd of August. She died on the 3rd of June 1997 from septic shock. My earliest memories of my mother are that she was a career girl. My Mom worked before it was fashionable for women to work. She loved having a career. I remember how proud of her I was as a little girl. My Mom was the “Bookkeeper” at a large German company. I used to love walking to her office after school.

My Mom had the tiniest little feet. She wore a size 3 shoe. But boy, could she put that tiny little foot down!

My Dad was fiercely protective of his wife. They were absolutely united against us kids. When Jared was a couple of weeks old we went to Bloemfontein to show him to my folks. My Mom played in a Bowls competition that Saturday afternoon. When Mom got home she was on such a high. Her team had won and she had a brilliant game. Mom sat on Dad’s lap; their faces were close together when she told him about the game. At one stage she threw her head back and they laughed….. Deeply in love, committed to one another, united in their love.

Mom died 3 months later….. Dad was absolutely devastated!

Today it is my Mom’s birthday. I wish that I could sit and have a cup of tea with her and just chat. I wish I could apologize for thinking it was absolute rubbish that she could not pluck her own eyebrows because she could not see that close….. That she had started losing her hearing in her late 50’s…

Muslims have a saying “Paradise lies at your mother’s feet”. At the feet of my mother I learnt all the values that I hold dear in my life. I wish I could thank her for the example that she set for us children. I wish I could thank her for teaching us the value of family, loyalty and unconditional love. I wish I could thank her for being this absolutely amazing grandmother to Vic. I wish I could thank her for supporting me through all my mistakes, troubled times, heartaches and joys.

I know that Mom held onto life until we as a family, one last time, confirmed her love of us to her….. We were standing around her deathbed and her time was so close! Yet she would not let go. Johan, my baby brother, said to her”Mamma, it is okay to go. You know we all love you. We know you love Daddy, Tes, Lollo and me….” Within seconds her battle against septicemia ended….

My Mom was such a brave warrior. She suffered ill health the last 20 years of her life. Mom had this amazing ability to bounce back after surgery. She too suffered chronic back pain. She adored Vic. Vic spent so much time with my parents. She was the beginning and the end of my mom’s life. I truly believe that Vic got her fighting spirit from my Mom. I often look at Vic and see my Mom. Some many of the little things that my Mom did Vic does….. Where blood does not run it gushes!

My Mom was very close to her Mother. We were very close to my gran. Mom was absolutely heartbroken when my Gran died. I think she never truly came to terms with her mother’s death. It took me 5 years before I could speak of my mom without crying. We have a family legacy of close mother and daughter relationships…

A Mother’s Love – Author unknown

A Mother’s love is something
that no one can explain,
It is made of deep devotion
and of sacrifice and pain,
It is endless and unselfish
and enduring come what may
For nothing can destroy it
or take that love away . . .
It is patient and forgiving
when all others are forsaking,
And it never fails or falters
even though the heart is breaking . . .
It believes beyond believing
when the world around condemns,
And it glows with all the beauty
of the rarest, brightest gems . . .
It is far beyond defining,
it defies all explanation,
And it still remains a secret
like the mysteries of creation . . . 
A many splendored miracle
man cannot understand
And another wondrous evidence
of God’s tender guiding hand.

. Happy birthday my dearest Mommy. I love and miss you! I know when Vic’s time comes; you will be one of her angels guiding her Home!

For some dying is hard work. 18.7.2012


Jon-Daniel, Jared, Tersia, Vic, Dad
Less than one month before my Dad died.

“Hope provides us with the psychological and emotional energy to accomplish what those without hope often considers the impossible.”

The journey of dying has many stages – I have heard it called check-in stations.  I know that some people bypass some of the stages/stations.  Some people take their time and linger.  Some people die quickly and easily, like my beloved Dad and best friend Marlene.

My dad suffered with a terminal illness called Alzheimer’s.  It was dreadful seeing that proud, dignified man’s brain slowly degenerate.  He lived with us for the last 18 months of his life.

After a year we decided to employ a full-time caregiver to keep Dad company and to assist him with daily tasks such as showering etc.  On the 28th of April we had a wonderful day with all the kids – our annual Easter Egg Hunt.  Dad played with the little ones and at the end of the afternoon abruptly got up and walked off.  We let him be – he got tired of people and confused after a while.

An hour and a half later we walked one of the kids to their car and found Dad on the little bridge outside his flat.  He had fallen and was unable to get up by himself. I remember thinking that I would have to move the bridge.  Obviously my Dad’s balance was deteriorating.  I also remember thinking that it was such a pity about the bridge – it was such a pretty feature in the garden…

On the 2nd of May 2011 Dad’s eyes are clouded over and he slept all day.  He recognized no-one and his legs no longer received the walk commands…  Every time he got out of bed he would fall.  I was sleeping on the second bed in his room so I could hear him get up.  I would put my arm across his chest so I would wake up when he moved.

On the 4th of May 2011 Vic was admitted to hospital for operation number 80.  On the 6th of May Vic spent 6.5 hours in  theatre with her colostomy reversal.  The first time ever Brendon Bebington did not use the dreaded words – “I am cautiously optimistic”  However in true Vic form Vic went back into theatre on the 7th of May for another 3 .5 hour procedure.  Richard, the anesthetist, inserted the needle into the wrong vein when they mainlined her… Vic had asked him to try and avoid getting her hair all elastoplasted.  Even the pain of the Elastoplast in her neck is too much post-op.  Apparently it is not a common error but it happens.  With Vic’s blood clotting problems is was a dangerous little exercise getting the needle out of the artery…

By the 9th of May I was absolutely exhausted.   I had been unable to spend any time with the boys.  And they really needed me.  Between Vic/hospital/work/ Dad and the boys I was absolutely torn.

That night I did not hear my Dad get up during the night.  He fell again.  We managed to get my Dad back into bed but at 12:30 the next day Dad fell again and this time he was hurt badly.  Dad was admitted to hospital and due to the need for 24/7 care was admitted to ICU.  Whilst Dad was being admitted I had a phone call from my best friend Marlene’s mother saying that she found Marlene in her room, she thought Marlene was dead.  Thank God Danie was with me and he stayed with Dad when I rushed off to Marlene’s.

My dearest friend was dead.  She had simply had a heart attack and died!  I had tried to phone her from the hospital to tell her about my Dad whilst she was dying herself!

The next day I met with the medical team.  Dad appeared to be in a coma.  The physician said that Dad had pneumonia.  The Neurologist confirmed that Dad was in the Severe advanced stage of AlzheimersThe Specialist surgeon wanted to operate on my Dad’s aneurysm.

I made the heart wrenching decision that there would be no aggressive treatment of the pneumonia.  There would be no operation.  The Physician agreed with my decision.

On the 13th it was my dearest Marlene’s funeral.  The next day I discharged my Dad from the hospital and brought him home.  We had received the Hospice bed and Hospice had evaluated and accepted dad as a case.  On the 16th Dad had a lucid visit with Ester and Yuri and Hospice started administering Morphine, Dormicum and Serenace subcutaneously.  Dad battled to swallow and I was pretty distressed about his liquid and food intake.  Dad’s core body temp had dropped to 34.5 degrees C.  Hospice said that Dad’s body had started shutting down and not to worry about his food or liquid intake.  On the 17th my beautiful father cried during a lucid moment because he could not articulate his thoughts and he was mumbling …

I played his favorite classical music and tried to keep him comfortable.  I treasured every moment that I sat and listened to his labored breathing but I was at peace.  There was nothing unsaid between the two of us.  Yet I was so sad…I did not expect it to happen that soon.

On the 20th of May my Dad lost his battle against Alzheimers when he forgot how to breathe.  Twenty three days after his first fall…

Why the detailed timeline in this post?

Some people take their time and linger. Some people get it over with quickly. For some dying is hard work.  But all of us are heading towards the same destination. Passing through our physical stages of dying.  Into death…

For a long time Marlene wanted to die.  She did her best and yet only when it was her time did she go.  Not on her timing, terms or conditions.  But when her time came it was quick and hopefully not too painful.  Marlene wasn’t ill.  She was sick of life!

If I could ask my dad I think he would have been surprised at how quickly he died.  Do I regret my decision to not allow aggressive treatment?  No!  I hope that if ever I am in the situation that my Dad was in someone would afford me the mercy to allow nature to take it course!

Vic has lingered for 10 years…  It is really hard work for her…