She’s Still Sleeping: Mourning Loss

After the long wait here is the story I mentioned in the previous post, almost a month ago. It is at the same time a simple sad. One which tells the story of a small boy and the effects of the sickness which decimated the Eastern Caper area formerly called Transkei.

It all happend a few years earlier when he was twelve years old. He told me how his mother had been sick for a while. How his father had left for the city. How he heard his mother cough at night. Then one unassuming morning his elder sister woke him. “She’s not waking up” she said bewildered. They both went to his mother’s room and tried to wake her. No movement.

As he told his story he tears formed. “We ran into the street just crying and shouting for help. The neighbors came. She was dead”. I cried with him. We cried for those stripped bare by the virus. We cried for a world where there is not enough tents to mourn the dead. We sobbed for those who could never name their sickness because of the stigma. We wept for South Africa and the world.

Later on a wrote a song about the encounter which still brings involuntary tears to my eyes. A lament in Afrikaans but here translated in English:

Verse 1

His eyes fill; familiarity with tears

Although they’ve seen barely fifteen years

Hope holds him on a daily walk to school

On a Cala road where memories loom

Chorus

She’s still sleeping he screams in despair

She’s still sleeping for the virus has stripped her bare

Verse 2

In the low valleys thousand temporal tents

Like reversed tear ducts forgotten how to weep

His shallow stare from behind the bended glass

Poignantly paused his memory still bent.

Bridge

You don’t know how I feel

You can’t imagine how I feel

You can never feel how this feels

His eyes said to me

(His eyes screamed at me)

Author Details

Calvyn du Toit

Calvyn C. du Toit is a PhD-candidate in Christian Spirituality at the University of South Africa (UNISA), and a Research Associated in the Department of Christian Dogmatics and Ethics at the University of Pretoria. He lives in New York City, where he is h(o)us(e)band to Christine, and 6PM Music Director at the Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal).

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