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What we learned about life from grandfather’s last goodbye

What we learned about life from grandfather’s last goodbye

He was our warrior and protector, even in his passing.

"Reality had sunk in. My protector was gone. My praying warrior was no more."

He was our warrior and protector, even in his passing

The thought of losing a loved one has always played a few episodes in my mind. As we grow older and carry more responsibilities in our families, we get to learn that the loss of a spouse, child, parent, siblings, or even our grandparents is profound at every age.

It is a journey that comes with a storm of emotions and an unending process.

The death of my grandfather a month ago was unexpected. Too soon. The inflicted pain was worsened by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that prevented us from performing certain rituals, not only on the funeral day, but on days leading up to the burial.

Bestowing a befitting and dignified send-off for a loved one is deeply entrenched, as it leaves an indelible mark on our lives.

Since October 2020, my grandfather suffered a few setbacks. He complained of severe pains on his upper and lower body. In the days leading to his death, medical practitioners had conducted several tests to ascertain the cause of his ill-health.

He took his last breath upon arriving at Brits Hospital on February 19 this year. My brief telephone conversation with my grandmother in the afternoon, just before he was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, simply gave me an indication that my grandfather was unwell.

At exactly 7:30pm, I received the news of my grandfather’s passing telephonically from my sister-in-law. “Sis, papa is no more,” she said in a teary voice.

I was absolutely shattered. Tears welled up in my eyes. Without exchanging any goodbyes, the call on the other side ended.

My six-year-old daughter witnessed the brief conversation. “Are you okay, mommy?” she asked. Words failed me. I quickly walked away as I wiped off my tears.

Reality had sunk in. My protector was gone. My praying warrior was no more.

My grandfather had deep faith in God. As a devoted man of God at the Old Apostle Church, my grandfather served as a Deacon, a Priest, an Elder, and later as an Overseer, following his ordainment in the late 1980s. He served in many communities of the North West, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng provinces.

His house in Maboloka, on the outskirts of Brits, was a home to many congregants who travelled from various provinces to find employment in the nearby mines and farms.

During his days, he was employed in the Madibeng Local Municipality, were he worked for more than two decades before his retirement in the late 1990s. A loving, humble, yet a very strict person.

Without any doubts, we knew that many mourners would want to pay their last tributes, but we had to be mindful that funerals were identified as super-spreaders of COVID-19.

As funeral preparations were underway, the frustration mounted as we were constantly reminded to adhere to government regulations, which only permit 50 people per funeral.

The catering company had indicated that they would cater for 50 people, while the Elders from the church would accommodate 50 people on the day of the funeral.

My grandfather came from a large family. He had seven siblings and is survived by one. His wife, my grandmother, is from a family of eight.

We were compelled to draft a list of those who would attend the funeral service. It was devastating.

However, the new normal life under COVID-19, rescued us from a large gathering ceremony that could have imposed the danger of contracting or spreading the virus within the community. 

Through technology, everyone from near and far, who wished to pay their last respects could do so via WhatsApp and other social media platforms.

For the funeral, we made use of a live streaming service, while Zoom was used to stream his memorial service.

As someone who respected the COVID-19 regulations from the first day they were implemented by the government last year, my grandfather would have wanted us to abide by the law when we bade him farewell.

We can only be grateful to have shared precious moments with a man of his calibre. The tremendous love and support we received during the bereavement period brought us much comfort.

His teachings moulded us in good stead today – good manners, respect, and moral values. This is what the old man would have wanted. May his soul continue to rest in peace.

Kutlwano Olifant

Change expert, Kutlwano Olifant, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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