Mother Superior


Eighteen years ago to this day our mother stopped breathing. Her heart stopped beating.

She “left this lonely world of ours, escaped the sorrow and the pain…” Without even looking back over her shoulder. Without a greeting. Without a word. And flew again.

Oh what a void she left. It just keeps sitting there, neither shrinking nor going away. It cannot and will not, simply because she had been the only woman whose heart we had heard beating from the inside. All ten of us.

It used to beat like all the tribal drums of Africa put together: brave and strong and determined and unstoppable. Until the early morning hours of 30 May 1995.

Letting her go was the only option, what else? Yet maybe only two thirds of her life had been lived. Or three quarters. Or all?

As I watch the reeds across the road swish and sway gracefully in the sombre northwesterly wind, a contradiction comes to mind: so, too, was she… as a slender reed, a delicate stem of grass; yet also as  a rock, a mountain, the ocean, the earth. Then gone.

White Linen

In my dreams she is mostly silent. But surprisingly often there! Right there, in our midst. Doing whatever it was that she would be doing in my dreams or in our midst.

My heart still lurches when White Linen or Aromatics Elixir wafts by my nose.

Sometimes I distinctly hear my name called by her – ” Lise…!” and invariably swing round to respond.

Then sometimes a robin boldly, delicately hops up close and looks at me with tilted head and lilts. And goes away just as it came.

I owe her much. Not in coins or precious stones or even words of tribute. But rather in salutes and a fly-past of honour – with flags and banners flying, trumpets sounding. And I know – if I listened carefully – I would hear the triumphant and clear sound of her voice calling from the clouds “All is well, all is well with my soul!”


5 thoughts on “Mother Superior

  1. Beautiful…tears…reliving. I saw pictures all day – Mama roaming her garden with little unwanted twigs and grasses in her hand… Mama in a warm, very stylish winter outfit; a lovely scarf, a remarkable colour and a fitted skirt. I see her pouring tea from a favourite tea pot, steam curling from the cups, and laughing about something someone has said. I see Mama’s statement of earthiness in her colourful outdoor sandals at Marloth, rearranging hoses and watering dry areas. And further back, brushing her hair at her dressing table in the room at the end of the loong passage…ringing the dinner bell in great style; pushing her napkin/serviette through her serviette ring loosely, and tapping on something with her ring going click click, to get someone’s attention. Cutting our nails on Sunday evening with little paring scissors, and saying night night… It was the worst pain and it went on for many years – always there, when Mama left so suddenly. I want to write her beautiful name Letitia Elize Hansen Van der Spuy and look at it – knowing that the risk of loving and being loved, is the risk of having to look back on that love and wonder about it so much – in wonder, and in musing : how much did I realize and register, and how much just gathered in the vast landscape of my life and the lives of each one in our family, the woven strands of loving, raising, prayers, discipline, training, instilling, imparting, modelling, yielding, expressing and exulting. And I turn to songs and Bible verses, poems, photos and DVD’s, tributes and mind pictures, allowing my soul to gaze, perceive, give thanks, remember, love…and quietly continue in this holy occupation of living with the cloud of witnesses cheering us on, Mama too.

  2. Ai, would have loved to get to know ouma better in my adult years, but we’ve been so blessed with the legacy she left behind – thank you mamma, aunts and boetie for sharing little bits of her – memories, lessons and laughs – with us so passionately. Also always associate robins with ouma – they pop up in the strangest places sometimes 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s