“Do not sit like that – your parents are still alive.”

Yesterday marked a year since we lowered my father’s body into a hole we now call this resting place. When my mother called me in the wee hours of the 4th of June 2021 to break the news of my father’s death, she said,
“Lorato, your dad has left us.”
I responded abruptly and asked her, “whose father?”
She said, “your father.”
I violently shook my husband awake and pushed the phone in his face. “Speak to this woman, she is busy telling me that my father is dead.”
Within 6 months, I had lost an unborn child and my father.
The pain was indescribable.

When I was a child, I used to sit with my face resting in my hands. I sat like this when I was extremely bored or annoyed. I didn’t think anything of this sitting position – or that my sitting position affected anyone but me!

My dad, however, took offence to this sitting position and would immediately reprimand me.
“Moetnie so sit nie – jou ouers lewe nog!” (“Do not sit like that – your parents are still alive.”)
After reprimanding me multiple times, he got tired and instead of verbally reprimanding me, he would just pull one of my hands out from underneath my face.

Me being the rationale human being I am, I asked my mom why dad would not allow me to sit like that.
She somberly explained how that sitting position signaled despair and hopelessness. Literally, it looks as if you are holding the world’s entire problems in your hands. Worse yet, by sitting like that, it was perceived that you were inviting calamities because your hands are open.

Symbolically, your face represents ‘the world’ and when your hands are positioned like that, it appears like you are welcoming the world’s entire problems in your hands Mom explained. For a parent/guardian like my dad, that sitting position suggested that their care, love and protection fell short – that they were inadequate parents.

If I was heavily burdened, they wanted me to share the troubles with them so they could help carry the load instead of suffering under the weight of my troubles alone.

After mom’s explanation, I hardly sat like that again.

The gospel song ‘His got the whole world in His hands’ definitely had a deeper meaning after my conversation with mom!

Low and behold, my little sister liked that sitting position too. One day, after one too many warnings from my dad, he just looked at her and said: “A time will come when you will sit like that – do not invite it”.

Dad was right – like a thief in the night, the time came and we continue to wrestle under the weight of many troubles he carried on behalf of us.

Last year on Christmas Day, we visited my dad’s grave and while we were there, with tears streaming down her aging face, mom thanked God for protecting her and her children.
She said, “God, thank you for making us appear whole yet we are broken”.
I felt that so deeply that whenever I think about that moment, tears well up in my eyes.
Mom eloquently summarized what the death of a loved one does – it breaks you apart but you have to show up as whole because life must go on.

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