Tag Archives: christmas

Family tragedy around Christmas

Coping with loss is never easy, especially around Christmas. I know exactly how this feels. What is it about December that seems to bring boundless joy for some and the depths of despair for others? It probably has heaps to do with the quality of year experienced – and a family tragedy definitely counts towards maligning Christmas. Here’s a coincidental and strange moment that I have to share without hopefully, intruding on one family’s grief.

The day before the family tragedy

Tuesday 3 December 2013:

I turn down the same road on the way home as per usual. The child’s in her car seat in the back. The only unusual thing is the time. At 4:30, we are 30 minutes earlier than normal.

I absentmindedly glance at the house on the corner where I never see anyone.

Not today.

For the first time in eight years I see two little boys. And they stare back silently as we go by. No smiling, no waving, expressionless.

The Fire

Wednesday 4 December 2013:

We’re driving past the same house. Only this time we see scores of people in the street. And police tape. I see scorch marks all around the house. I fear the worst. When we get home my husband says it’s probably nothing, they’re most likely “just investigating the fire”.

But it wasn’t nothing.

The two little boys I’d seen the day before were six and four. The four year old died in that fire. Somehow I was meant to drive past and see him and his brother the day before The Fire. Solemnly staring at the car.

Rest in peace, little one…

Every day spent alive never ceases to bring home how fleeting it all is. So hug your disobedient child. Be kind to that irritating parent. Call that pain-in-the-ass sibling and appreciate that moody spouse. You never know what tomorrow will bring. It shouldn’t take a family tragedy around Christmas or any other month of the year to force you to wake up.

local newspaper article in Afrikaans on the family tragedy

simple gifts for old folk

When my six year old came home with a request for Christmas gifts for the old folk of the community near her school, I reckoned it would be nice to give something a bit more thoughtful than a pair of socks or hankies. Together we managed to come up with inexpensive ideas for four grannies and one grandpa for a total of only 171 ZAR (excluding wrapping paper, crafting and found objects). And they’re also suitable for any other time of the year.

  1. Beautifully-wrapped soap such as Nesti Dante placed into a gift box (it helps if you’re a bit of a box hoarder/recycler) – no need to even wrap!
  2. Inexpensive tin (try PEP or Crazy Store) containing mini biscuits (Pick n Pay has the cutest mini marie, eet sum mor and tennis biscuits meant for kids’ lunchboxes).
  3. Paperback from a secondhand bookstore by a good author in a good condition and suitable for an older person. I chose Maeve Binchy. I made a sunglasses bookmark out of felt but you could make a more traditional one from craft paper or a piece of scrap fabric.
  4. Shop-bought facecloth embellished with crocheted edge. Add a mini soap and place into a recycled gift box.
  5. Shop-bought mary-jane cotton slipper socks (optional – embellish with gingham rose and felt leaves). Place into recycled gift box.

felt sunglasses bookmark

embellished shop-bought slipper socks

Buy Santas or any other mini Christmas chocolates and add one to each of your gifts. If you’re fortunate to have a small, artistic child around, get them to make and illustrate cards from coloured craft paper with ‘Merry Christmas Granny/Grandpa’ in their own handwriting (and if they make a mistake, get them to cover it with pictures from Christmas wrapping paper offcuts). Attach the cards to the gifts to act as a tag.

card collabo’ with a small, artistic child

It seems a shame that the neglected are often only remembered during the festive season but hopefully these simple gifts will make someone smile for more than one day. And you will have taught your child to think of people other than their immediate family. Happy wrapping!