1 August 2010: 3 years 11 months on …
From Port Elizabeth, the N2 heads westwards towards Cape Town, squeezed in between the coastline and the mountain ranges running parallel to the coast. The section from about Humansdorp to George and Mossel Bay is known as the Garden Route, and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country.
It’s easy to see why. Some of the most spectacular scenery is to be seen here: the Tsitikamma Mountains and Nature Reserve with its Big Tree; Storms River Gorge and Bridge, Blaauwkrantz River Bridge, Nature’s Valley and Otter Trail; Plettenberg Bay with its sweeping beaches, Keurbooms and Bitou River and Robberg Peninsula: Knysna with its forests, elephants, lagoon and The Heads where the lagoon empties into the Indian Ocean; Sedgefield and the Lakes; Wilderness, Leentjies Klip and the Kaaimans River mouth; George with its Outeniqua Mountains, Vic Bay and Herold’s Bay; and then finally, the sweeping expanse of Hartenbos, Klein and Groot Brak, Tergniet, Eselsrus and Mossel Bay.
Almost 400 kilometres of absolute heaven is just here on our doorstep – a piece of Paradise. No wonder the municipality in this area is called the Eden Municipality. Adam and Eve must have swapped their Eden for a darn good apple!
When you’re down and out – feeling small
When tears are in your eyes …
– This is the part of the world you should head to –
It will dry them all…
And so, on Friday afternoon, I headed off for Knysna. My destination was Oudtshoorn to attend Ina Scholtz’s memorial service on Saturday morning. The boys were playing rugby against Framesby (the annual not-so-nice recreation of the Anglo-Boer War!) on Saturday morning and Pera was staying to support them.
I can’t remember when last I have driven that far by myself, and so I was a bit apprehensive when I left, and decided to break the journey by sleeping over in Knysna. It’s just two and a half hours to get there. Physically, I can still drive and when I became ill, to make things easier for me, we bought an automatic car (a station wagon for space for that promised wheelchair!) The biggest challenge is concentration and tiredness.
But I got to Knysna with no problems – just admiring the scenery along the way – and making the obligatory stop at the Storms River Bridge for a cooldrink.
I stayed over with Sally and Hermann Kapp, an ex-colleague of mine from the business days. Hermann was the Regional Produce Buyer and I was the Regional Human Resources Manager.
I remember the day very clearly as if it were yesterday – but in fact almost ten years ago now – in October 2001 when Hermann came into my office to resign. It was the day that I had just returned to work after our family had returned from the USA.
Pera, the boys and I had left for the USA on a three-week holiday just two weeks after September 11 – the day the Twin Towers were attacked in New York City.
Planes had only just started flying again, and we had undertaken a marathon trip of over forty hours of flying, delays and searching from PE via Johannesburg, London and New York to Atlanta, Georgia. There we stayed with my exchange student days “brother” Kevin and Carol Whitley before flying on to Tulsa, Oklahoma and Mom and Dad Whitley at Table Rock Lake in Missouri.
Flying at the time was also like Paradise. Every one was too scared to fly, so in economy class, we were only some twenty people on the Boeing 777 flight from Londres Gatwick to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International. Not only rows of seats to ourselves, but whole blocks of seats, as we flew down the eastern seaboard of the US and over New York City’s Ground Zero, where I videoed the kilometres high plume of smoke that was still billowing up into the sky.
What a holiday that was! But on my first day back in the office, Hermann came to resign. He was going to open his own Fruit and Veg City store in Knysna. (The next day, I was mugged in Main Street and robbed of my leftover dollars that I was taking back to the bank!)
And so, almost ten years later, Hermann now owns and runs not only Knysna F&V, but also Jeffrey’s Bay F&V and the Oudtshoorn and George Butcheries. They have worked really hard and done exceptionally well, and are such hospitable people. Their home, in Eastford Estate, Knysna, is so spectacular and inviting, and always open to guests.
When I arrived, Sally had not got home yet and I went and sat on the front deck of the house, which is in a country estate on the hills north of the town. From there, through the trees, one looks towards The Heads, over the cascading slip pool where the water appears to be running right into the Knysna Lagoon visible in the distance. The only sound was that of the soft wind whooshing in the trees and the melodic call of the Knysna Loeries. Truly, a piece of Paradise!
I left early Saturday morning and headed via George and the Outeniqua Pass for Oudtshoorn. I haven’t travelled that road for years, but used to do it so regularly in my red Toyota CG 18942 when I was at Infantry School in Oudtshoorn.
I recalled arriving there on the troop train, which had come over this very pass from The Castle in Cape Town in January of 1982. But I escaped Oudtshoorn as often as possible during those fifteen months that I was based there (until I was transferred to Youngsfield in Wynberg and later 1 SACC Battalion in Eerste Rivier.)
The escape route was either to the Scholtz’s at Keurbooms or to Dr Hendrik and Mrs Anna du Toit in George (the parents of Gretel (Du Toit) Wust, university friends of mine and whose home we had stayed in when we went down to Cape Town in June).
Now, I was headed away from the sea over the mountain and past the hop farms to Oudtshoorn to be with the Scholtz’s again. We were there just a month ago when returning from Cape Town to PE via the “back road”, Route 61, and I had not thought that I would be back there so soon, if at all!
The minister of the Methodist Church spoke about the paradox of our Faith – sadness at losing a loved one, but the joy of knowing that they have moved on to a Better Place that knows neither sadness nor sickness – the Peace of Paradise.
Death seems to heal all wounds, feuds and fights. And people who avoid each other in life even seem to make time for each other in death. Even feuding politicians find time to attend the funerals of archenemies and then find some good words to say.
The paradox of funerals, too, is that despite the sadness, they also provide great joy when meeting up with people that you haven’t seen for years. In a way, funerals are a sort of forced reunion of families and friends. Between all the tears, out come the memories, the laughs, the happy times, and – if you are dated like us – the photographs, the slides and the home movies!
And so for me, after so many years, it was so good to see again the whole Scholtz clan together: Uncle Piet and Anton and Ingrid (my sister), Leonie (Scholtz) and Jos Smith, Rael and Ruth, Gerhard and Martie, Pieter and Hanneke, and fifteen of the sixteen grandchildren who were there.
And taking the extended family of uncles, aunts, cousins, in-laws etc, it became quite fun to work out who looked like who and who went with who!
Yet, it was quite surreal not to have Aunty Ina there – she had been central to this show for as long as I could remember – whether it was next to the pool at the house in Cradock, body-boarding in the surf at Keurbooms, drinking coffee below the Melkhout tree on the patio of their Spanish style beach house or savouring the exquisite view of the Plettenberg Bay and braaing on the balcony of the Tupperware House of Jos and Leonie up on the hill.
But, what is dying?
A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon
And someone at my side says
“She is gone.”
Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all.
She is just as large now as when I last saw her.
Her diminished size and total loss from sight is in me, not in her.
And just at that moment, when someone at my side says she is gone,
there are others who are watching her coming over their horizon
and other voices take up a glad shout –
“There she comes!”
That is what dying is.
An horizon and just the limit of our sight.
Lift us up O Lord, that we may see further.
All to soon, it came to an end, and I had to head back to Port Elizabeth because we were having dinner with the Stapletons on Saturday evening. But first, I had coffee at the Mugg and Bean in George with Jan Hoogendyk, a preacher, singer and guitarist who works and teaches amongst the under-privileged children in that area.
Two weeks ago, Jan appeared in the Cape Town auditions of MNet’s Idols (South Africa) as Elvis Blue (an ex-pupil of his who died at the age of twelve from HIV/AIDS complications). Elvis brought Mara Louw, one of the judges, to tears with his singing of Bob Dylan’s To Make you Feel My Love and received his Golden Ticket to take him through to the next round at Sun City (and the next round ? … and the next round?) . . .
Those of us who knew her, all felt Ina Scholtz’s love. In Life, as some doors close, others open … thanks for all you do and good luck with your journey and your big dreams, Elvis!