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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.


  • Lawrence Twigg

    Lawrence Twigg is a former retail and banking executive turned consultant and part-time cynical blogger.