I lit a candle for you, today.
Only one. If you live right, one light is enough.
Every time the tiny flame sputtered and died, I lit another. It still burns, even now, as I write with the sun almost at your door, and the moon, at mine.
The candle’s light kept me company as I peeled carrots for lunch—I know you’d appreciate that—the spirit keeping vigil whilst the hands are busy with the ordinary task of preparing food for a child. You were always so good at that. Filling tummies and hearts.
Remember how you showed me how to peel a potato so that the peel was almost as thin as tissue paper? Your face a study of quiet pride as your knotted fingers struggled not to yield to arthritis. I remember.
And how you used to walk with me to the other side of town, whenever I came to visit in the school holidays, just so that I could see the museum for the hundredth time. If you only knew the joy that gave me. The escape from the agony that was school. Of not fitting in no matter how hard I tried. Although, I think you do. You, were always my safe place. I remember.
And how you used to lift me out of that ancient cast-iron bath? The water never stayed warm in it. The blazing heat from the gas-heater warmed that small bathroom and small children too, on those icy nights.
Now, the flesh has faded from your bones and you are the one needing strong arms to hold you up and Winter has come, once again.
And I am not sure my heart can ever be warmed up again.
The years have been kind to you. But, time? Time, has been cruel. It has taken so many people that you have loved. And how you loved! I hope that they are all there, waiting for you when you walk through that door.
Do you remember how I loved to play in the shade of the old Cape Rough-skin Lemon tree outside your kitchen door? How I loved that tree. And those lemons. And nobody could make lemon curd like you could. If I close my eyes, just like this, I can taste the sweet tartness on my tongue.
And when you were the first to look cancer in the eye and I gave you a card that said ‘Don’t give up’. As if you would.
And then, when it was my turn to face a doctor’s words, you gave it back to me. ‘Don’t give up’, you said.
As if I would. With your stubborn Irish genes in my DNA.
And now, here I am. On the other side of the world. I picked up my roots like a skirt and stepped gingerly onto another continent. Home, but not quite. I wonder if the women in my bones remember that their blood was once a part of this land. Do they remember me?
I am home, but not quite. Just like you.
And as I give my son his lunch, I teach him about nouns and how they name things, like ‘Ouma’.
We haven’t talked about adjectives yet, but I have so many that walk hand-in-hand with you, my Ouma.
Strong. Brave. Gracious. Wise. Loving. Loyal. Courageous. Faithful. Funny. Beautiful. Kind. Hopeful.
Soon, you will leave this place. It’s ok. I know that you’re tired. It’s been a long, hard season for you, and they are waiting.
They’re all there waiting for you. And I hope that there is a lemon tree. And new, strong bones and blue eyes, bright with new life.
And I shall be ok. It will hurt like hell. I cannot lie. It will be a searing pain that will leave a mark, but I shall be ok.
You know that.
I lit a candle for you, today.
It still burns as I wait.
The moon is here with me and so is the light.
…and I shall wait.
It’s ok, now. You can take off this life. It’s a bit frayed around the edges. You’ve worn it well.
But it’s time to go home, soon.
I’ll see you on the other side.
— Anna, means grace. (It’s time to say goodbye).
© Liezel Graham 2019.