The ones who go ahead of us

This is an adaptation of a (translated) text I sent to Guillaume… just because I think it captures the raw thoughts and emotions I had while visiting my Oupa Andre and Tannie Marie last night. Oupa is currently undergoing a six-week stint of radiation for a malignant growth detected in his body.

I wanted to tell you about the visit I had with Oupa and Tannie Marie, and how inspiring I found it.

It was one of those times where you set off thinking that you would be the one bestowing grace upon someone else: the young person taking time out of her busy schedule to visit her aging grandfather… but then end up coming off it the more enriched, enlightened and blessed one.

Oupa has been battling Parkinson’s for the past 15 years or so. Last night his whole body was straining under the effort of trying to keep his shaking limbs under control.

Nonetheless there he was, upright and strong and bright-eyed, neatly dressed in a checkered shirt and matching pants, hair combed and ready for guests in the little sitting room of the cosy patient suite they’re calling home for the duration of his treatment… even though the full extent of ‘guest’ list for the evening was only little old me.

We chatted about the radiation and what he and Tannie Marie do for the rest of the day once the treatment – which only takes about ten minutes –  is done.

So, Tannie Marie says: “Sjoe! We’re really busy, actually! We go to Pick n Pay to buy our meals for the day, and sometimes we spoil ourselves to something at the little coffee shop just down the road. Other than that, I knit. Your grandfather reads and sleeps. Oh, and now and then… we dance.”

I giggle.

“You’re giggling, but it’s true!” she says, “Sometimes the radio in the room plays really lovely music. Then I can’t help but do a little jig. And before I know it, Oupa rolls over in his chair, puts his arms around me, and we dance!”

For a moment I sit there in utter awe.

Biting back the tears, I continue conversing, talking about family matters and future plans and all the little ups and downs of daily life.

“You know, we can think about yesterday and worry about tomorrow, but all we really have is now. So we need to make the most of it. We need to make the most of everything we have in these moments,” my grandfather says.

And suddenly it hits me: how lucky I  am to have these two sages, both on the other side of 80, who have been through, pretty much, it all, all to myself for an hour? Peaceful and serene and completely okay with the unfairness of life. Fully armoured and forging ahead of us, fighting for the things that matter most: dignity and health and hope and love. But above all JOY. Because that is the true test of our characters, is it not?

Whether, when the hard times come, we choose to dance to whatever it is the radio plays, or whether we decide to sit it out instead, waiting for brighter days or better tunes or more comfortable shoes.

May we follow their lead, and always choose to dance, no matter how awkward it seems.


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