Lawrence Twigg
Lawrence Twigg

Dance with your madness

On Saturday January 5 I woke up on a beautiful Cape Town morning and picked up the local morning newspaper. The headline left me chilled. “No parent should ever have to see his child lying on a tarred road.” These words were uttered by Charles Stander, father of Burry. I do not know the Standers but my heart goes out to the family. I have been there, I am there, and I will remain there, perhaps forever.

On May 2 2011 my wife Jenni and I sat on a pavement in Durban North and cradled the body of our son in our arms. He had been killed in a motorcycle accident. He was 18. We waited for two hours for the mortuary van to collect him. There is nothing in the entire universe that can drive one to madness more than to lose a child. The madness comes in many forms. A pain that rises up from within your core and threatens to suffocate you, disorientation, emptiness, anxiety, immense sadness and utter hopelessness. It is the beginning of a life of change, of deep introspection, or more questions than answers and of course, of the madness. No stone is left unturned. Not religion, not justice, not honesty and not even love. Everything is fair game. You have after all, the right to feel this way. You have a sympathy card – that hideous pass handed out to people who have lost a child. So how far do you push the madness? My therapist had said to me a while back that I have to learn to dance with my madness. Don’t we all? There is a bit of madness in all of us, I believe, brought on for different reasons.

The pain never goes away, the anger never dissipates but oh my, how you learn to cope each day with a different attitude to life. The way you feel about things becomes so different. So who cares about the size of your home, the speed of your car, the labels of your clothes, the substance you shove up your nose or down your throat? Who cares which school your child attends or how big your property, wallet or dick is? Certainly not me my mate (not any more). I would happily sleep in a cardboard box for the rest of my life to have my boy back, although I detect stiff resistance from 16-year-old daughter who may argue for a two-bedroom apartment. So why does it take an act as cruel as this to force us to think about the real values in life?

A school acquaintance I saw recently could not stop telling me how much money he had made and how he had done this deal and how big his wife’s new car was. Within two minutes I wanted to run for the hills screaming. And how about the old friends you bump into many years later and they ask “so where is your Sydney at school” and you reply “Crawford” and the answer is “Oh … well you know my Sarah is at St Anne’s and … ” Aaaaargh! Give me a break. Fok, if ever you pray for the madness, it’s at times like this. Let it please spirit you away from village idiots and their inane drivel. As I write this my friend and kind hosts’ father has just had a stroke. They rushed him to a clinic. I sit here and pray that he will be OK. That is important.

Recently a friend fell and knocked his head. He was in a coma for three weeks and although he recovered and is at home, life seemingly will never be the same for him. His crime? He was playing action soccer! I think about him so much.

So does the writing and the dancing help? Yes. In the last seven months I have worked very little, spent an enormous amount of time with my girls making up for the nine years when I worked away from home, helped renovate and make ready our simple beach home named in honour of our son – Twiggy Manor, been far kinder to people, given money to worthy causes and managed to keep my blood pressure down. My anti-depressants help too. Each day I wake up with a smile on my face, talk to my boy and ask God to get me through the day. And I type with two fingers, gingerly.

My journey has been just over 20 months. The Standers journey is only beginning. I pray that they will find strength each day to cope and that they too may learn to dance with the madness.


  • Will we remember Burry in six months’ time?
    • Anne Schauffer

      And your two fingers write beautifully Lawrence. It’s a very moving piece.

    • Busisiwe Macebisile Mphuthi

      5th May 2012 I lost my two year old boy.Nothing is right anymore in my life.I sing a song he liked when he was alive.I feel his presence and we do a head dance with him.I apologize to him everyday.I tell him I wish I could’ve done things differently.I cry any time of day.Without him it is difficult.Nothing will make me forget my boy.

      I no longer remember how I used to put him on my lap.Oh!My God a pain that is not going to end.

    • Momma Cyndi

      As a mother, my heart breaks for you, Lawrence, and for Busisiwe. I cannot even imagine how I would carry on. Both of you have more courage than I can give words to. Every morning that you get out of bed leaves me in awe. Blessings on you both

    • Mariam

      Your words have brought tears to eyes and soul.. Poignant and sad. The memories of your son,and the legacy of change he has left behind, are so beautiful and I pray that with time , it gets easier to smile through the pain.

    • Kotie

      How does one describe the ultimate pain? You have done it honestly and poignantly. That pain is so immense and all consuming that anything anyone says in response is inevitably woefully inadequate. Limited as these words are, I’m very sorry you (and Busisiwe) have lost children. Your essay has helped me cope with losses in my life too.

    • Lorraine Gilmour

      Keep on Dancing !

    • Life…..

      in 1996 I held my only daughter’s hand, and gave her “permission” to “let go”. She died a horrible death – she was 18. It was life changing, and like Lawrence says, everything is re-examined. I too don’t give a toss about posessions and even now there is little in this world that impresses or gives genuine, lasting pleasure. The pain eventually goes away and one can celebrate her life, but the sorrow remains forever. Perhaps it helps not to ask why, but why not? Ultimately I had to accept that there was nothing so special about me (or her) that should exempt us from the realities of life that are suffered by so many others every single day.

      There are multiple layers of loss. One not only loses the child but also her friends and their parents – often “school pals” whom one has known since your child started pre-primary. One’s identity changes irrevocably from” parent” to “bereaved” parent. If the death is not handled properly, it could lead to the break up of a marriage, even a strong one. Mine did. The other children also suffer in various ways and need a lot of attention and support.

      I suffered from undiagnosed post traumatic stress for years afterwards (sometimes I would wake up having a panic attack), until I realised what was happening and got help. My journal of that time speaks of a deeply lonely and sad person – hard to read. But time will weave its healing magic if you allow it.

    • Touched

      Such open, raw honesty. I cried when I read this. I have 2 beautiful children and yes, they drive me mad but the madness without them would be far worse. A human life is priceless. The embellishments we surround ourselves with cannot be taken to the grave (we’re not Pharaoh’s). However, I didn’t fail to miss you have a beach home. I wonder if this is your only home or a 2nd home 😉

    • Lawrence Twigg

      Dear Touched#
      Thank you for your kind words. The beach house is a second home. It was bought because we saw it as a sanctuary and a place of healing. It is quiet, borders sugarcane and watches over the ocean. It is a perfect place to dance with your madness. And oh, we have put our beautiful Durban North house on sale. We have lived there for 11 years. Too many memories or just too much and too big? Does it matter?

    • Kotie


      Thank you for sharing your story. I relate closely.

    • Liz

      Anyone who has lost a child should contact an organisation called “Compassionate Friends”, find them on the web. They know what it is all about.

    • GrahamJ

      The Compassionate Friends are a fantastic organisation for bereaved parents. They are the most expensive organisation in the whole world to join, you have to lose a child to get in.

      But if you qualify to be a member then the compassion and support is the best in the world.

    • Bill Baskets

      Inspiring…Thank you for taking the time to give an insight into your journey.

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