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Old 06.01.2011, 07:27
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A lifetime in 2 years.

I guess I now understand why writers say the first word of new book is the most difficult to write, this is by no means a book but I have spent the last 15minutes trying to decide how to start my little story…

I have never really been the kind of person that walks around with their emotions on show; I think it is something in the way a lot of Afrikaans speaking people of our generation in South Africa was raised but I would like to tell you a bit about how the last two years of my life has broken, rebuild and reshaped me…

Just a bit of background…My Dad got wheelchair bound in 2004, so in 2005 we asked my parents to come live with us so that we could help out more with my dad and the day to day things they needed. They sold their house and we built them a house attached to ours. We loved having them so close and I am thankful every day that I got to spend 4 years with them almost 24/7.

In Feb 2009, my Mom went to hospital for a routine operation to remove a small benign polyp from her colon, she never got over the operation, it was as if they removed all her strength and life force when they took out the polyp. She couldn’t keep any food down; she had to walk with a walking aid and nothing seemed to help.

My Mom – you must understand - was a life force like no other I have ever experienced in my life, she could not sit still for 5 minutes, she baked and cooked made clothes, knitted jerseys and did needlepoint and she never seemed to slow down even though she was 75 years old. Her life revolved around my Dad, they were married for 55 years and she devoted herself to him completely, so we knew something was very wrong.

Mid March they diagnosed her with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, it was only 6 weeks from the day she was diagnosed to the day she died, our worlds came crashing down and I was sure that I would never be able to put the pieces back together again. Looking back now I realize how very blessed we were, she had no pain and for a cancer sufferer that is a gift beyond words. I also got to spend the last years of her live with her every day and that is priceless!

My mom loved gardening, we had two Rhododendron bushes in containers outside our living room window, they only flower for 3 weeks during November with masses of pink flowers, two days after my mom passed away(May), I got up that morning and went outside and there were 2 bright pink, fully opened flowers on the bush! I got a feeling of peace and acceptance when I saw those flowers. I choose to believe that that was her way of letting us know that she was ok. I picked the flowers and pressed them and turned it into a bookmark.

A week after the funeral my husband came to me and said he had something to tell me, the company he worked for , for the last 8 years were closing down and withdrawing from South Africa. They were letting everyone go but they offered him and 4 other people the option of moving to the company’s head office in Zurich, Switzerland!

I was flabbergasted to say the least! He had known about it for about a month but with my Mom’s illness and passing and everything else happening he did not know how to tell me. They were starting to pressure him for an answer and he did not know what to do. We spent a year in Zurich in 2004/2005 when Jaco was on a project and we knew it was a place we would love to live eventually but the timing really, really sucked! We knew it was a chance of a lifetime and to turn it down would be closing a door we would probably never be able to open again.

This news was devastating to my dad, his whole world got turned upside down first with my Mom passing and then with us leaving as well, we asked him to come with but a change like that at 78 was just too big for him to fathom. So we found him a full time caregiver to take care of him, the house and everything else.

So within 3 months we were on our way to Switzerland. We have four dogs and although I knew I could not bring them all I refused to leave my “baby” behind so it was me, Jaco and Coco braving a new world. I honestly think that she keeps me sane, I think if I was alone all day I would have lost it long ago!

We have now been here almost 18 months. Our first winter here was tough for us, as South Africans we are used to sunshine almost all the time, winter or summer. I do not mind the cold it is the darkness that get to you, the sun only rises around 8am and is down again by 5pm, some days the mist never lifts and it is like living in the Twilight Zone! The first time it happened I called Jaco at work to ask if the world outside our little town was still there!

As you can imagine the language thing is a pain in the butt! Swiss German is not really a written language only a spoken one, so learning it is by word of mouth only, very few books or courses. We are getting there slowly but surely. Also, to live in country where they do not see animals as property but as companions that can go anywhere with you, is for us as animal lovers absolutely awesome!

There are a lot of things I miss about South Africa, my family, my best friend and animals of course, my house, the meat (too damned expensive here), the weather, the language etc. Jaco misses Cream Soda Cooldrink the most! Ooh and cheese curls and Flings! Highlight of our year was when we saw salt & vinegar chips in the shops here for the first time!

I am proudly South African even though it is sometimes embarrassing as hell when our government do stupid things like threatening in public to “shut down Twitter”! I will however, always be a South African in my heart but I really do not know if I will be able to live there again. We have now had a taste of what it is to live without burglar bars and armed response alarms, to walk around at night without being afraid for our lives. To have a phenomenal public transport system that makes owning a car obsolete. I wish I could give all my family and friends and every one else, the gift of living like that again in South Africa.

I still have mini meltdowns every two months or so, when a movie or a song or even an advert on TV will set me off. Then I cry (more like howl actually) for a few hours about everyone and everything I miss. But the next day I am good again and after I read News 24 to see what is happening in South Africa and around the world I appreciate again how lucky we are to live here.

So…what have I learned in the past two years?

Whether you are in a hospital cancer ward or on a mountain top in Switzerland, there is no denying the awesomeness of our God!

I am a lot stronger than I thought.

I am married to one of the most amazing people on the planet (Always knew that)!

My best friend is still my best friend, 10 000km did not change that one little bit! (love and miss you Chantelle!)

Meeting new people and making new friends is very difficult.

South African winters are NOTHING compared to Switzerland!

Under floor heating is the best invention ever!

There is no better sound than hearing someone speak Afrikaans in a shop in Zurich!

Look at the pictures to make sure you buy beef and not horse or chicken and not rabbit!

Never take biltong and dried wors for granted! (I have learned to make my own!)

Laughing at someone falling on the ice shows you are an “auslander”

Driving on the “wrong” side of the road freaks me out!

Snow is stunning to look at but not so great to live with.

Finally… We can grow as humans and adapt to anything if we allow ourselves to.
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Old 06.01.2011, 07:50
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Re: A lifetime in 2 years.

What a lovely post, thanks for sharing

It sounds like you've been through an awful lot the past few years but handled it brilliantly!! You should be proud of yourself (I bet your Mum and Dad are!!)
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Old 06.01.2011, 07:57
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Re: A lifetime in 2 years.

Very stirring post, Suz! You had a heap of stuff happen, but sounds like you're still going strong in your faith!
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Old 06.01.2011, 13:02
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Re: A lifetime in 2 years.

Suz, I read your post from the very first word to the last. I just want to say that I am sorry for the loss of your mum. I am not THAT religious but I believe that what God takes, he gives back in some other ways.

You are a rockstar.
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