The worst day of my life

By on Mar 19, 2018 in Autumn, Blog Posts, Cancer | 8 comments

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Last week my surviving son, Chris, handed me a piece of paper with the following essay printed on it. I'm both heartbroken and proud of how he is able to articulate sibling grief:

Happier times.

Photo: Eve Smith of ESP Productions.

The power was out on Wednesday when I arrived with my aunt from a plane trip. I was nervous for my first day of school the following morning. The first day of school without my mom or dad. My mom and dad were still in Zinkwazi at a beach house taking care of my sick brother. My brother, Josh, wanted so desperately to go on the school camp with his friends and he nearly didn’t because he wasn’t well the week before. That weekend with my family at the beach house where we went to every Christmas before Josh got diagnosed was awesome. It was such a happy place for me, so many good memories and good times, I loved it.

I packed my new schoolbooks into my bag, I didn’t know what class I would be in nor the books I should take so they all went in my bag. I had a shower with a lamp (power by the generator) to see what I was doing. I got into bed feeling nervous but excited. The next morning, I woke up to the gentle guitar alarm playing on my phone. The power turned on. I got into the shower, put on my clothes, brushed my teeth and was ready for the day.

I was lying on my bed thinking about what class I would be in. I hoped it was the same as my last year’s class. The house phone in my parent’s room rang. I ran towards it hoping it was a call from my mom and Dad. I picked up the phone and it was my mom, she sounded worried. She said, “Hello Chris, would you mind putting me through to Aunty Phil?” My aunt was never good at answering her phone. I took the handset to her and went back to the bedroom. My aunt came to the room and handed me the phone. I thought I knew what was about. I never wanted the call to be made.

My mom sounded like she was crying, and she said, “I’m so sorry Chris. Joshie passed away this morning, he had no pain. I am so sorry my boy.” I froze right where I was standing and tears rolled down my face. “I didn’t want the teachers to tell you at school. I’m so sorry. Here is Dad.” My father was also crying, I had never heard him cry, my dad is a very strong man.

“Hello Chris, I am so sorry my boy. He had no pain he was happy until the last moment.” I asked my parents if I could call them back. I hugged my aunt and cried. I didn’t believe what had just happened. I picked up the phone and called my mom, she told me that my uncle was coming and I just needed to wait. I didn’t want my uncle; I wanted my mom and dad. This was the worst way it could possibly happen. After 30 minutes my uncle arrived he too had tears in his eyes, he hugged me and told me he was sorry for what happened.

I closed the door behind me when I went into the study, I wrote down a speech I would say at the funeral.

I think back on Zinkwazi and how it has become a horrible place and not the happy place I remember. I don’t think I would like to go back.

I have some important words to say: Fuck you Cancer


  1. Karen Dodo

    19th March 2018

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    Well done Chris, it’s rare as rocking horse s**t that guy as young as you are can open his heart this way and let the words and emotions take so freely to the page, and that will be your savior, it is so important not to keep sadness locked inside. I hope that a time will come where Zinkwazi will become a happy place for you again, a place where you will enjoy happy memories of Josh and your family.

    • Janet

      20th March 2018

      Post a Reply

      So sorry for your older son. There is this comment that to ‘lose your child is the worst thing ever’, I disagree. Your life partner with whom you shared the most special relationship. Together with your partner, one moves on. Sometimes it breaks the relationship however or it makes it stronger! There is nothing like the unity of a partnership. Lost my husband last April and 1st born 34 years ago of congenital heart disease. We worked through the loss as a couple, his loss is on my own. Have done the Grief Share etc.
      Whishing you all the best.
      Love your blog

  2. Lee van Loggerenberg

    20th March 2018

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    Chris — you write honestly and well, just like you did in your speech for Josh, and just like your mom. I’m so sorry for the loss of your brother Josh, for that day, and for your pain Chris.

  3. Frieda Marie

    20th March 2018

    Post a Reply

    Chris, Penny and Shannon, I continue to be in awe of the power of your words and your abilities to locate and articulate your feelings, pain, grief, anguish and LOVE. You are fundamentally changed by not only Joshie’s death, but the years preceding his passing. BUT the fact that you can write this down and broadcast it means that you will find your new normal, and it will be rich in emotion, experience and LOVE. It wont feel like it now, it feels like it should never be like this. But know that he remains with you, in your very DNA, and the pain will fade, but the feelings never do. LOVE and Light.

  4. Rian Reyneke

    21st March 2018

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    A release – like a scream, a holiday, sex, birth, death – is always the ending of one thing and the beginning of another. However, the boundaries between the ending and the beginning is so often blurred, that one only realise afterwards what you ended and what you began. I’m in awe that Chris managed to start the release of his pain, questions and understanding so early and so young. Amazing maturity. Stay strong on the journey, Chris!


  1. Why I'm not in therapy - My Garden Crush - […] Josh will still be dead. […]

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