‘Sometimes you find strength in the most unexpected places’
Lynette Hundermark, 42, is the co-founder and director of a tech and digital solutions company. She lives in Kenilworth with her husband Greg, 45, son Ryan, 13, and daughter Hannah, 11.
When we moved to Cape Town in 2010, my parents packed up their KZN home and also made the Mother City their new base. At the time I was travelling quite a lot for work and it was a relief to have them nearby to help with the school run and take care of the kids. Because they were able to spend so much time together, my children and my parents developed a close relationship. Hannah and my mom, in particular, shared a special connection, which blossomed as Hannah got older.
The jour ney
When my closest friend died towards the end of 2016, I was reluctant to celebrate my 40th birthday, but my mother insisted on cooking and inviting friends over to celebrate the milestone – I’m now so grateful that we did. It’s the last time I remember us all being happy together as a family. Soon afterwards, my father was diagnosed with stage 1 cancer, and while he was receiving his last round of chemotherapy, that same year, my mother, who was 72 at the time, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
The news came as a shock to all of us, and although I told the kids that their grandmother was ill, I wanted to protect them from the seriousness of her diagnosis, so I didn’t let them know the true extent of how she was affected by the disease.
My mother started an intensive course of chemo but her heart couldn’t handle it and she had to switch to a lighter dose. Over the next couple of months, I watched as she went in and out of hospital while being treated, until July 2018 when her doctors decided to stop treatment because she wasn’t getting any better. There wasn’t anymore they could do for her and they advised us to focus on her quality of life. It was difficult to hear this and to realise my mother would never be healthy again.
That September, my father phoned to let me know that the doctor wanted to speak to all of us at my parents’ home, and I should bring Ryan and Hannah along too. Of course the kids had lots of questions. They’d assumed that my mother would recover and were devastated when I told them it was unlikely.
What I’ve learnt from my dau ghter
When the doctor told us that my mother didn’t have much longer to live, Hannah broke down in tears and held my mother’s hand while I clutched the other. I think she must have sensed how difficult it was for me to see my own mother in her final days, and Hannah refused to leave my side during that time.
When my mom finally passed away, my relationship with Hannah, which had always been good, became even stronger. I think we found comfort in each other after sharing such a devastating loss. Hannah is now more sensitive to my feelings and it’s become easier for both of us to express our emotions. Hannah acted as a pillar of strength for me when my mom was sick, and she often reminds me that my mother’s spirit will always be with us, and that she hadn’t really left us at all.
Although she’s just 11 years old, she had the courage to stand up at the funeral and sing – fulfilling one of my mother’s last requests. And watching her do that gave me the strength I needed to stand up and say a few words that day too.
Hannah’s wisdom and resilience has surprised me and taught me that during the hardest times you can find strength in the most unexpected places. She has been instrumental in helping me cope with my grief and teaching me how to learn to live with this new ‘normal’.
She’s a brave little girl who not only looks for ways to comfort me but is there to accompany my father to church and fill the seat my mother would have occupied. I’ve also learnt to persevere and focus on the joyful things in our lives, instead of dwelling on the sad, and that’s all thanks to my darling daughter Hannah.
Hannah has helped me adjust to my new ‘normal’