Editor’s note: I still wanted to…


Dear RNnews reader

I still have four days left of my December vacation.

A familiar restlessness stirs inside me. I wanted to do so much more. My right hand and housekeeper Julia has been walking for days making noises that sound like something between grunting and crying. She can’t clean anywhere properly. In our bedroom are two baskets full of photo albums and loose photos that need to be framed. Behind the dining room table is a box of goodies that I hastily put in a side box while last year we had to pack up first my mother’s, and then my father’s things. It has yet to be unpacked, but I haven’t had the courage yet.

In the kitchen lies a faded file with my mother’s recipes. In the last two, three years of her life, she tried valiantly to organize it so that she could leave it to her granddaughter, but the more the Alzheimer’s progressed, the more confused her attempts at grouping and tables of contents became. I still plan to sort out the whole file so that it can be useful for Isabel. Next to it lies my mother’s body Cook and Enjoy which still needs a new exterior before it completely falls apart.

On our son’s desk is a pile of brackets that we wanted to turn into his bookshelf so that his collection of caps does not lie forever where his school books should actually lie.

In two boxes on the porch table are a collection of genealogies, baptism certificates, handwritten letters and stories, black and white wedding photos, yellowed baby clothes, crochet, a dress pattern, newspaper clippings, testimonials and a horde of other goodies that tell the story of the two sides of me family tells – the Van Vuurens on one side and the Nieuwoudts on the other. Especially on the Van Vuuren side, things got mixed up here in the depression years and it’s hard to find out exactly who was born when, and who was adopted or given away by whom. On the Nieuwoudt side, there are newspaper clippings that tell the tragic story of my mother’s older brother, Frikkie, who died at the age of 14 as a leukemia sufferer in an ambulance accident on the way to hospital. There are photos of Frikkie as a baby on the arm of my proud grandfather, a policeman; two photos full of shadows where he plays on the floor. One of my grandfather in his police uniform, proud and proud of his horse. Another photo of frontmen on Hanover’s town square with a hundred other men on horses, on their way to fight during the Anglo-Boer War, while the women stand aside with their faces veiled by hoods waiting to say goodbye. I still wanted to try to put the pieces of this family puzzle together.

Waiting on my garden table is the packet of basil seeds that I still wanted to sow in the herb garden, and the carrot seeds that still needed to be planted. The plecanthus, which I grew from cuttings, still had to find a place in the shady spot by the front door and I still wanted to train and prune the jasmine next to the pool.

On my bedside table is the pile of holiday books that I still wanted to read (at least I ran through quite a few), and a few magazines, some still in plastic: The brothers of Auschwitz; All the light we cannot see; Time to Think; MER’s biography.

I still wanted to invite the neighbors for a braai and go for coffee with two girlfriends.

But here I am now, with four days left. The things on my to-do list do not seem less to me, because almost every day I thought of new things that needed to be added to the bottom. I know, like every year, for the first few weeks of the new year I will be carrying my notebook with lists with me, firmly convinced that sometime in the evening or over a weekend I will have the energy and time to write some of the items finishing my to-do list; until late one Sunday evening, with disillusionment, I went to store the notebook in my bedside drawer. See you next December.

I think of my mother, who passed away in November, of her “I still wanted to” list. The things she wanted to do, and which she told me about when her thoughts were still a little clearer, months before her death.

She wanted to knock on the neighbor’s door one last time to see if they could become friends after all, even though the neighbor had pulled out all her little plants along the driveway; she still wanted to tell the Muslims beyond the wall that they had not grasped the truth. She wanted to have tea with her granddaughter in the garden one more time and tell her that she loved her, and with her grandsons two minute noodles with red sausages while eating Seventh Avenue look. She wanted to stand one last time with her feet in Margate’s seawater, where she grew up.

The day she passed away, 3 November last year, Isabel, her only granddaughter, and I sat on either side of her bed. She desperately clings to life. Her skin is clammy and cold, her breathing labored. We talk, comfort, hold her as she gasps for breath, rub her wet sweaty hairs out of her face, lift her oxygen mask and drip water into her mouth.

“Grandma,” Isabel whispered to her afterward, her mouth against her grandmother’s ear. “Grandma doesn’t have to worry about us. I am saved. Joshua was saved. Our nephews were saved. Dad, Mom, uncle Mias and aunt Hanneli serve the Lord. Grandpa is waiting with Jesus for Grandma. It’s okay; we are all okay Grandma can go to heaven now.”

“Thank you,” my mother whispered with one of her last breaths.

Today I know: In her last hours, it was probably not her “I wanted more” list that was on her mind, but her “I did” list.

I made sure my children, and later my grandchildren accept Jesus as their Savior.
I prayed every day for my husband, for my children and grandchildren, for my neighbor and for the Muslims on the other side.
I said goodbye to my son and my daughter and told them for the last time that I love them very, very much.
I served the Lord.
That’s why now, despite everything on my “I still wanted to” list, I can go home.

Dear RNnews reader, I wish you a 2024 in which your priorities on your “I want more” list will have eternal value, and in which your “I have” list will be full of items with which you gather your treasures in heaven made. May it be a beautiful and blessed year.

Susan Lombard
CEO: RNews