Losing a spouse has to be one of the most traumatic things that can ever happen to a person. Some people never recover from it. thislife is humbled by, and grateful to, Capetonians who have had the courage to share how it feels, and what helps them through…
Loramer Darvel (centre): ‘Life was turned upside down’. | PHOTO: Tonya Hester
Carpenter Loramer Darvel (54) was born in District Six, Cape Town. Forcibly evicted with his family by South Africa’s apartheid government when he was six, he grew up in Grassy Park and now lives in Zeekoevlei. He met his wife Desi (Desiree), a clothing machinist, in 1983. They had two sons, Dorian (32) and Kyle (28). Desi died in 2012.
‘I met Desi through a girl I was dating (not a serious relationship!). I gave Desi and some other girls a lift to a club in Wynberg. It was a time of fuel restrictions, and as I dropped the girls there, I realised I didn’t have petrol for the journey home. I asked for a companion to come with me to the garage, and Desi volunteered. We never made it back inside the club and ended up sitting in the car, talking. We were always together after that.
We married in 1988, and were best friends from the start. It wasn’t like Hollywood, everything moonshine and roses: our love grew with time. We did most things together. She would even phone me from the supermarket to ask me what I thought she should buy. We especially liked going to cricket at Newlands.
Our life was turned upside down when Desi was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in May 2011. She was also diagnosed with anti-phospholipid syndrome, which means your blood thickens at an alarming rate. Then she developed Asherson syndrome, which is basically incurable. Everything happened very quickly. She lost her first leg in July 2011, and the other one three months later, on Dorian’s 27th birthday. Then she had a series of strokes and lost her speech. She died in March 2012.
She had a strong faith, Desi. She always used to say, ‘Loramer, ons moet bid en vertrou’ [we must pray and trust]. When she got sick, that’s exactly what she did. Not once did she become bitter or angry. That gave me a lot of strength. She did as much as she possibly could, even after she’d been confined to a wheelchair. I remember one Saturday morning when she had already lost her speech. I was just about to iron a shirt when she came wheeling past me, grabbed the shirt and gestured to me that she would do it. I went ahead and made breakfast while she took care of the laundry.
Desi died on a Sunday morning. The nurse called me from the hospital. We knew how sick she was, but it still came as a shock: she had looked so much better the night before. Since she died, my sons have been amazing. Kyle still lives with me today and Dorian lived with me for a long time before he moved out. My mother, brother and sister also really show their love − my brother doesn’t live in Cape Town but calls regularly − and it’s a great comfort to know they’re all thinking of us. Usually I don’t like being fussed over, but now I’ve come to appreciate it. Another thing that helped was a Griefshare* course I did at St John’s Church in Wynberg. I’d recommend it to anyone who has to deal with the loss of a loved one.
Nothing could prepare me for life without Desi. Our house was always full – we loved entertaining. Now it’s empty. I suppose friends don’t visit us because they don’t want to talk about Desi! I soon realised all the things she did in the house despite us theoretically ‘sharing’ chores, and my finances took a spin: I tended to overspend on luxuries in an attempt to console myself and the boys, and put on a lot of weight but have lost a bit now!
One thing I didn’t like was the kind of thing people say at funerals, such as ‘She’s in a better place’ and ‘It’s God’s will’. You know they’re just running out of clichés and that they’re not being genuine. Those people haven’t come around since the funeral to find out how I am or how the boys are doing.
But God has shown me in so many little ways that He always takes care of me. One day I really needed my car, but it was on the blink. The mechanic had said it needed to go in for testing. But I prayed, fiddled with the fuel injector pipes, and the car started. I believe God helped me out that day.
Six weeks before Desi died, they broke into my place. My video camera, my laptop, all my photos of her – gone. I believe even that’s a good thing. If I had them now, I’d be sitting around watching videos of her. Now I’ve one photo and that’s enough. I’m on my own for now and happy with that. I’m very connected to my church, which helps a lot. I visit Desi’s grave often. She’s still telling me to bid en vertrou.’
* Griefshareis a recovery support group offering help and healing for the pain experienced when someone you love dies. Run by St John’s Parish, Wynberg. Contact Klaus and Barbara: 021 671 4732, 082 453 9392 or email@example.com and by Connect Church, Meadowridge. Contact Sue: 021 712 1218 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sally Prins: humbled by support from family and friends. | PHOTO: Leigh-Ann Cooke
Sally Prins was born and educated in KwaZulu Natal. In 2000, she met her husband ‘Chucky’ (real name: Jurian), a structured lender in private banking, and they married in 2004. He was killed in a car crash when she was pregnant with their second child, Leah, and their son James was 21 months old. James is now five, and Leah is three. Sally is a content specialist at an asset management company in Cape Town.
‘I met Chucky at a party in London. A few days later, he asked a mutual friend to organise a dinner where we chatted all night! We kept in touch via email after that, and when I decided to move back home a few months later he phoned and said, ‘If you ever come back to London, call me!’ After a few months in South Africa I decided to spend another year in London, and, on one of my first nights back, I ran into him in a pub. We became friends again, and after a year or so we got together. We married three years later.
Although I never imagined I’d marry an Afrikaans boy, I couldn’t have been happier. I was blessed with the most remarkable husband, soul mate and person for eight years. No words will ever do Chucky justice. He was the most balanced person I’ve ever met. In our marriage I felt supported and treasured, and I knew there was nothing in the world he wouldn’t do for James and me.
The news of his death came as a complete shock. It was a Tuesday morning and Chucky had left early for a meeting in Somerset West. He never made it back. It was raining heavily, and on the way home his car skidded and hit a tree. He died instantly. I was at home that morning and didn’t think anything of it when Sollie, his business partner, rang the doorbell. When Sollie told me what had happened, I refused to believe him. I could get my head around the fact that there’d been an accident, but I couldn’t believe Chucky was actually dead. I kept asking Sollie if he was sure that Chucks had died.
My greatest challenge has been single parenting. Telling James that his ‘Pappa’ was never coming home was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Another was bringing my beautiful baby girl into the world alone. On that day, Chucky wasn’t there to hold my hand, and it brought home the reality that he would be absent from our lives forever, and that wonderful happy moments would forever be tinged with sadness.
I’ve been truly humbled by how friends and family have rallied around me. My parents, two sisters and their husbands have been incredible. I’ve never had to face any part of this journey alone. My mom, who lives in Natal, spent more time with me in the first year than back home with my dad! My family have been here for birthdays and milestones, and any time I’ve needed them. When they couldn’t be here, I’ve felt so supported through phone calls, emails and SMSes.
My ‘other family’ down here in Cape Town has been just as amazing. For the first couple of months, our fridge overflowed with all the meals people brought us, while others took James out to give me a break on a Saturday, walked our dog or did ‘handyman’ jobs for me. Author Verdell Davis writes, ‘Loss is a hole in our heart. But it is a hole that calls forth love and can hold love from others’. I will be forever grateful to all the amazing people who have filled my ‘hole’ with so much love!
My faith took quite a knock as I struggled to comprehend how a loving God could allow this to happen. Chucks was such a good person, such an amazing dad – why did he have to die? Leah and James would never know their dad and that was the most difficult thing for me to face. I could deal with my own loss, but my heart broke for my children.
I made up my mind, right at the start, to see a counsellor. My worst fear was waking up 10 years later and realising I’d never dealt with my husband’s death. I saw Jodi once a week for about a year. It was good to take an hour out of my crazy life to sit down and talk with someone about what I was going through. Life was so busy with two small babies that there often wasn’t time to be sad, but these weekly sessions allowed me to assess where I was on this journey of grieving.
Initially, I found it very difficult to see the world around us continuing while ours was turned upside down. I had such challenges, heartache and exhaustion. But with time, I grew to realise that the only reason we’re still standing today is because of God’s grace and His love. Despite the sadness there is also much joy and so much to be thankful for.’