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Someday soon

I haven’t written for a while. I haven’t really felt up to it. But today marked three months since my grandfather’s passing. Oupa Marais. He used to say: A Bester always scares forward. When he died, an old friend from the US said of my Oupa going home to be with the Lord: “No worries, Chris, we will get there someday soon - in the meantime let’s try and be half the men Oupa was.” If you could picture the Big Friendly Giant in human form, that was my Oupa. Not only in stature, but in spirit, too. Once as a young man in the early 1950s, he drove a tractor 500kms over three days from Port Elizabeth to Molteno in the dead of winter. Driving on a mountain path another time, the road gave way under his Land Cruizer and it rolled a couple of kilometers down the mountainside. Momentarily trapped, he pushed himself out from behind the wheel and walked home. Bruised and bloody, he walked in and sat down, asking my Ouma only for a cup of tea. At the age of 79, he rode his last endurance race on horseback. The whole way he felt something in the back of his chest. Turned out later it was an aortic aneurism. He finished the race, nonetheless, and beat the aneurism too.

He was a skilled hunter, an accomplished rider, an award-winning farmer. But most of all, he was the ultimate family man. Married to my Ouma for 63 years, he embodied loyal love. After they found that aneurism, he had open-heart surgery. Not one to ever exaggerate or tell tall tales, he only once after told through tears how he saw a great light, a vast crowd across a river and heard a warm, strong voice welcome him home. “I can’t leave her just yet,” he begged. And woke up to live on another 12 years with Ouma. When my dad died, my Oupa walked in and said: “I’m your dad now”. And he lived up to it. He asked to see our school reports, he put us through university, he was at our graduations. He taught us how to drive, how to saddle up a horse, how to work hard. He loved watching rugby with us, telling us about the history books he’d been reading, hearing about our travels. He was there for us in every sense, even when we weren’t around. At the age of 80, having never touched a computer, he bought himself a laptop and learnt to use it, just to stay in touch with family.

His loss didn’t sink in until I went home recently. I drove up and he didn’t come out to greet me and ask me how my trip was. He didn’t invite me in for a cup of coffee and a rusk. He didn’t gently squeeze my elbow with his larger-than-life hands. But the air hung heavy with his legacy. I could see it in my Ouma’s eyes. She was frail and the tears were never far away. “The longing is ever-present,” she said. But under the surface, there’s an equally ever-present joy in her. She’s got immense spunk in her own right. I came to visit to encourage her, and there, she flipped it all on its head and gives me pep-talk after pep-talk. I can’t help but think my Oupa would be happy to hear it. He loved her so well. The size of the hole he’s left behind is a monument to his love for us all.

“Heavenly Father, hold us in the hollow of your hand,” my Oupa used to pray. I can’t help but picture my Oupa’s big old hands when I pray that now myself. As fathers go, he was a stellar representative of our Heavenly Father. Of course, he wasn’t the complete parent, as no one is. But despite the difficulties, the droughts, the disasters, he kept on in faith, hope and love. He had walked with King Jesus. And King Jesus had walked with him. I’m still tracing their footsteps, and probably will be for a while. I do hope to be half the man he was. The King, I mean. My Oupa wouldn’t like to be put on a pedestal like that.

Walk with the King… someday soon He'll wipe away all the tears.

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