The problem was – quite obviously – that we had known it would happen. It had to. She had been ill for some time and all the signs were there. But still, it is the holiday season and Christmas is only a few days away. Some of the family hoped for just one more Christmas together, others were kind enough to wish that release would come soon.
The reason for these diverging wishes isn’t hard to determine: she was much loved, respected…even revered. During her lifetime she had achieved many goals, met thousands and thousands of people, loved her husband and cherished her children. And everybody – without exception – adored the way she drew them into her world. A fiercely independent thinker, she had been blessed with many gifts, amongst which her compassion and sense of humour stand out as beacons for her family and friends to follow in the years to come.
But there had been something else that made her unique: despite the serious nature of her professional career, she never lost the fun-loving imaginary world she had created for herself and those close to her. She crafted upside-down worlds for her children and made them marvel at the wonders of the universe – which she didn’t hesitate to populate with amazing characters.
Author, artist, academic, connoisseur of wine and expert on many other subjects, she loved being the perfect hostess – making each and every guest feel that she was there just for him or her.
And that is why her memorial service was maybe the most memorable of all the events she ever attended.
After passing away quietly four days previously?
Of course! In her world everything was possible. Every problem had a solution and every obstacle had a way around. Wasn’t that what she always said? Her world – her universe – didn’t have to obey the laws we take for granted. She looked – no, she lived – beyond the known margins we accept as physical or mental horizons.
And that’s why I sat there, listening to her brother and children telling the stories of her special life, and realised I have to rethink the concept of death. You see…I felt her presence. Somehow, when the wind fluttered the yellow streamers attached to the branches of the trees forming a canopy over the gathered people, I saw her smile.
Yes, she said, champagne! Snacks! Music! Lively conversation! Laughter!
And so it was – just the way the perfect hostess would have done it. A sunny day, a beautiful garden, a delightful gathering of people – everybody swapping memories and stories. Oh, there were tears and the occasional wobbly smile, but everyone who attended felt that she was there, especially for each of them.
So, sadly, we can’t wish her to rest in peace. With that overused and hollow cliche, we greet the departed to go on with our lives. But not with her. She may be at peace, but she won’t rest. The way she became part of our lives, demands that her gifts of laughter, joy and beauty be nurtured in the lives of those she touched. She will be there in our future days, answering questions we have no answers for, She’ll encourage, soothe, be the beacon. And she’ll remind us not to take ourselves so seriously – this life is far too much fun to spoil it by worrying about trivial matters. Her knowing smile will be the rich reward when we discover she had been right all along: that our apparently insurmountable mountains are, in fact, only mere molehills.
That, after all, is what is meant when we say somebody enriched our lives. Such a person didn’t do what we’ve come to accept as the norm in society: to grab, to take, to see what to skim off the top for ourselves. No, to enrich a life, you have to give selflessly. You have to take a humble step backward and empower somebody else to achieve the seemingly impossible. It is, in a nutshell, her enduring legacy.
I left the memorial service in the picturesque town of McGregor – situated amongst the most beautiful mountains of southern Africa – with some sadness and much joy. Sadness, because there is so much I still wanted to talk to her about; but joy, knowing her voice hasn’t been silenced.
Lets listen to a wonderful bit of music she loved so much. During the service, Karen Zoid delivered an unforgettable rendition of the song. While listening to the words, one glimpses – once again – the magic of Reinet Crause-Nagtegaal; the woman who doesn’t have to be around to grace us with her presence.