‘Some­times you find strength in the most un­ex­pected places’

Essentials (South Africa) - - YOUR LIFE -

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’

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