In the years af­ter his fa­ther’s death, South African au­thor found his grief trans­form­ing into peace

Sunday Times - - LIFE -

first, it is a howl­ing storm of agony, rage and fear. Loss is what we call this thing, but it is a many-lay­ered in­escapable hell that we have to nav­i­gate. We have to bal­ance it with our other life, the one of hope and busy­ness, of ca­reer stress and fi­nan­cial bur­dens, of ill­ness and fun-filled din­ner par­ties, or of sun-soaked hol­i­days and some­times un­happy chil­dren whom we must guide to self­ac­cep­tance and growth. Grief doesn’t stop for real life. through the hur­ri­cane of grief. I heard it first in the still empti­ness of my dad’s work­shop. It was filled with a life­time’s col­lec­tion of his much-loved tools and halffin­ished projects.

He was an en­gi­neer and loved work­ing with his hands. He did wood­work, fixed cars, and came up con­stantly with ideas on how to im­prove rub­ble col­lec­tion, the trans­port of sugar, even the rail­way spikes that hold the rails to the sleep­ers.

He was a poet with ma­chines, it gave him to do these things taught me to do the same with words. They too need care­ful pre­ci­sion and ac­cu­rate as­sem­bly, and when I do that prop­erly I get the same sense of joy I did while watch­ing him all those years ago.

Weeks af­ter his death I stood alone in his empty work­shop, a place where no one would ever work again.

Sad­ness welled up in me, and yet, at the same time, I felt the first faint stir­rings of an un­fa­mil­iar joy. The gifts he had given me through his love of tools and work were how he lived on in­side me. I had al­ways loved him, very deeply, and I had feared and raged against that loss while he was still alive. But now he was gone, and in the half-light of his empty work­shop, I un­der­stood that I had learned a new way to love him.

I’m not gifted like he was with tools, but over the years of my youth he taught me enough to look at prob­lems around the house: a drip­ping tap, a light switch that doesn’t work, a drain that is blocked, and have a pretty good idea of how to fix it. I cer­tainly can’t fix ev­ery­thing, but what I can achieve is be­cause of him.

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