Home Affairs

16 March 2010: 3 years 6 months on  . . .

It is often said that living in Africa is not for sissies. Living in many parts of the world, I guess, is also not for sissies. In fact, living is not for sissies.

Philosophers would say that human life is one of tension and in constant ebb and flow. In our country right now, we live in the excitement and anticipation of the Football World Cup in June. But juxtaposed with that, after several years of unprecedented growth and prosperity, there are now financial concerns on a national level. After the euphoria of a transition to the democratic New South Africa, there are now political concerns about where to from here – Quo Vadis?

We see government institutions in decline – health and education services. We see infrastructure falling apart – railways, roads, potholes, water and electricity supplies. We witness the decay of society around us – the decline in moral values; fraud and corruption; crime, murder and mayhem in our cities and on our streets.

Since October last year, I have tried to get a birth certificate for my sister (who is in New Zealand) from the Department of Home Affairs. After six frustrating months, many phone calls – mostly unanswered, many messages – mostly not responded to, seven visits to the local office, long queues and lengthy delays, a letter to the newspaper, three issued certificates (all wrong), I have now sent her an incorrect certificate to enable her to register for her studies. The assistant at the Department suggested that the incorrect details could be attributed to the possibility that my sister had been adopted! Hopefully, the New Zealanders will know no better!

On personal levels, between life’s joys of birthdays and weddings and family and friends, people have financial concerns. They battle retrenchments and unemployment; murder, rape, crime, robbery; they have to deal with inefficient public bureaucracy and even now private corporations. Interpersonal conflict, infidelity, divorce, incompetence and disinterest surround us all daily. Then there are health problems – so many cancer cases, brain tumours, HIV/AIDS, strokes, and all other kinds of weird and strange illnesses that most of us have never heard of – that strike around us and, sometimes, even strike us!

Yes, the business of living is not easy!

But, if the business of living is not easy, then the business of dying is hard.

There are physical things and emotional things. Just last week, during and after visiting the occupational therapist, I experienced both again. Several strange bony knobs have started appearing on my fingers and hands. Not sure what they are, I pointed them out to the therapist. She immediately responded that they were indeed only the heads of the bones in my hands that were beginning to appear because of the muscles that would usually cover them having atrophied. My hands are literally withering away and being reduced to skin and bone.

It’s hard for me to see my body fading away. It’s emotional. And the tears flowed freely.

I cried again when she told me that she did not think it would do me any good to see her again. She can’t do any more for me to improve matters – it’s like the little boy holding his finger in the hole in the dyke – eventually, the breach becomes too severe and the water breaks through. It came as a reality check and a shock.

Afterwards, I realised that she is only trying to help me to conserve the funds for the necessities that will be required sometime in the future when the CBD breaks through with all its might – after all, that’s why it’s called degeneration. And that’s what will happen, save for a miracle. Just last night, I read that doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, are talking about exciting developments in their research. Who knows? God may still give them the miracle cure that will block the hole.

But dying is not just emotional stuff. There are many practical things that have to be done. So whilst it is very necessary to clean out the tear ducts now and then, you can’t waste much of your limited time on it. There is paperwork to be done, things to finalise, things to wrap up, wills to be put in order, legal things, Discovery forms to be completed, insurance policies and funeral benefits to be checked on, things to be filed, files to be handed over, Pera brought up to date on how to handle all these activities of normal life.

Yes, the business of dying is hard.

And then put the business of living together with the business of dying.

Handling the normal things of normal life that still have to be done – the husband things, the father things, the schooling, the academics, the sport, the bills to be paid, the home maintenance, … How is one normal in what has become a very abnormal life? This, for me, is the most difficult to do.

How best do I handle the family things of living against my personal things of dying? I have never rated myself as the ideal husband or the model father – not even when I was healthy. It causes me more anguish now to master this art of family matters than to handle my illness. I hope I can improve. I so much want these times to be special for them. Times they will remember with happy memories.

Harold B. Lee said, “The most important work you and I ever do will be within the walls of our own homes”.  

I agree. It’s the most important work, and for me, it is the most difficult work.


There’s a hero If you look inside your heart You don’t have to be afraid Of what you are There’s an answer If you reach into your soul And the sorrow that you know Will melt away

And then a hero comes along With the strength to carry on And you cast your fears aside And you know you can survive So when you feel like hope is gone Look inside you and be strong And you’ll finally see the truth That a hero lies in you

It’s a long road When you face the world alone No one reaches out a hand For you to hold You can find love If you search within yourself And the emptiness you felt Will disappear

And then a hero comes along With the strength to carry on And you cast your fears aside And you know you can survive So when you feel like hope is gone Look inside you and be strong And you’ll finally see the truth That a hero lies in you

Lord knows Dreams are hard to follow But don’t let anyone Tear them away Hold on There will be tomorrow In time You’ll find the way