[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
Life is too short to live it trapped in unforgiveness, living with hate and living with regret. In the last week alone I have heard of three deaths. Three husbands who left their wives with the reality that they have to continue alone in this life’s journey. There are children who are now fatherless. There are mothers who are going through the pain of having to bury their sons. These three men may have a shared reality this week — they lost their lives but they are three men who had completely different realities when they were alive.
One was a man who was adored by many — a man who had fame and respect from many fans around Africa. We were all shocked by the death of Gugu Zulu, the racing car driver who was affectionately known as the “Fastest man in Africa”. Gugu was a husband and a father to a little girl who just turned one in June.
In the world of celebrity culture where it is applauded to be disrespectful to women, Gugu’s love for his wife and his daughter, and his commitment to family life was obvious to many.
The leader of the Mandela trek to Kilimanjaro, Sibusiso Vilane said at the press conference, when they came to relay the news of how Gugu died: “It was not meant to be like this”.
Through tears filled with such sorrow; he apologised to Gugu’s family and the nation and kept on repeating: “It was not meant to be like this.”
As a team their goal was to return home beaming with pride at having represented South Africa and brought awareness to the cause of young girls across the nation. It was not to be. Instead of celebration and ululation they came back one man short. “It was not meant to be like this”.
It was not meant to be like this
How many times do we find ourselves thinking this very thought? You might not say it out loud but when you are alone you say it over and over in your head with regret … “It was not meant to be like this”! I didn’t mean the words I said. I did not mean to be this kind of husband and father, a husband and father who is only known for correction and shouting and abuse. A mother who is such a disciplinarian that the only time you interact with your kids is when you are correcting them. According to your children they are never good enough. When they finally reach the age when they can leave home they celebrate their freedom from your loveless home … when it is just you and your thoughts you cry with regret, “It was not meant to be like this”.
When you are served with divorce papers; when your only son is on drugs; when the career that you pursued sacrificing your family in the process does not materialise you live with regret … “It was not meant to be like this”.
Death comes unannounced. Sometimes it is very sudden as in the case of Gugu Zulu. The one minute he is climbing up a mountain with his beloved wife and the next he is fighting for his life. It was not meant to turn out like that.
A wife in her fifties also lost her husband this week through a heart attack. They went to sleep as normal and death, unannounced visited that family and took their father and husband.
The couple undoubtedly still had many dreams. Dreams of seeing their children go to university; dreams of being there when they graduate; dreams of being there on their wedding days and dreams of holding their grandchildren. Death was not supposed to come this early. Now the children will go through all these life changes without their dad to guide them. They will have to navigate this life without their mentor and leader. “It was not meant to be like this”.
In my own life we lost a family member this week — my uncle. In his eighties — many might say that death is expected when you are in that age bracket. He died because of a life threatening disease. My aunt and cousins had the gift of saying goodbye. As much as it was obvious that my uncle’s days were numbered, when death finally comes it is not easy to accept — such finality, such a helpless feeling that it is now over.
Inevitability of death
No matter where you find yourself in life, no matter which stage of life — whether you are starting out in life like Gugu Zulu or you are in your midlife stage as the man who had a heart attack or you are in your final hours of life –no matter where you are you will know that death is part of your life’s journey that can meet you at any time on your way.
When death comes you will meet your Maker. Are you ready for that moment? Would you, if you could, say: “I did not want to die like this! I have so much to do still! I have so much that I want to say to my loved ones.”
Do you have someone that you have not forgiven? Is there someone that you are not on speaking terms with?
When you do a life audit, which broken relationships do you have to repair?
“It was not meant to be like this. I thought this moment would be a moment of victory, of success for what we went up there to achieve and stand for,” said Sibusiso Vilane.
Indeed many of us think that our life will turn out as we planned. We dream of having a successful marriage that will never need the services of a divorce lawyer. We dream of having good kids who will grow and bless and serve the world.
When the unthinkable happens and we find ourselves alone with the label divorcee next to our name we mourn for what was meant to be. We mourn the dream … “I thought at this moment in my life we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, planning, enjoying our old age together. It was not meant to be like this”.
Nurture your relationships
Begin now to fix the broken relationships in your life. Ask for forgiveness where you need to! Life is short! You never know when your loved ones will be taken away from you.
Nurture your relationships and be grateful for the gift of family. Sometimes as human beings we take each other for granted and show a lack of concern and care, but when the day of death comes we mourn and say how much we miss a loved one.
Show them while they are still alive that you care. Make the phone call; go on that trip; lavish love on her where you can. Attend the soccer; rugby and cricket matches. Go to the drama performances. Do the homework with your children. Do not keep a record of wrongs. Be gentle; be kind!
Do not find yourself saying such regretful words: “It was not meant to be like this!” but be like Paul in 2 Timothy 4: 7 and say I have finished the race.
Finish your race strong! Like our beloved fastest racer Gugu Zulu who held many trophies, be found at the end of your race standing triumphant without any regrets; having won over hate, xenophobia, racism, unforgiveness, anger, disappointments and temptations.
What about your race? If the hour were to come tonight like the man who had a heart attack, would you be ready?