My Story

Chapter 3 – Death, Grief and Guilt

This chapter talks about the confusing time in early adulthood where you are trying to find your place in the world, coping with a parent with a brain tumour and the suicide of a sibling, the beginnings of an anxiety disorder and a spiritual journey into the power of the mind.

Things are so heartbreaking as we slowly watch Ossi disintegrating before our eyes. Chemotherapy is really taking its toll on him and the quarterzone is making him put on so much weight. He doesn’t look the same. He doesn’t act the same. He keeps getting lost when he goes for a drive. He will phone us and have no idea where he is or how to get home. We need to take his car keys away but he gets so angry and is desperately still trying to hold on to what little independence he has left. I offer to drive him around and we go for walks on the beach but I am studying and working full time now so it is hard for me to be there for him during the week. I started studying Travel and Tourism Diploma at Varsity College so I am there in the mornings and au-pairing in the afternoons. I still am not sure how the woman got me to sign up to study tourism when I went there to sign up to do a UNISA Psychology course after my mom and Ossi had talked me out of studying animal behaviour as a job with animals wouldn’t pay enough. Studying Travel and Tourism turned out to be one of the best moves I ever made… I absolutely LOVED learning about the world and excelled, for the first time in my life achieving over 95% for all my subjects. It was really great to know that I could excel if I was really interested in the subject and gave me a new belief in myself. I continued some studies on business communications.

We moved again to a smaller, more manageable house and had to say goodbye to our beloved nanny Margaret who had been with us for nearly ten years.

In September I shared a drunken kiss with one of my best guy friends, and things quickly turned serious. Initially things were amazing in the bedroom, but after a few months we realised there was a problem. A big problem.  I had never experienced this before but any kind of penetration became absolute torture for me. I really cannot recall how it came about but my mom ended up taking me to see Dr Eve / Dr Marlene Wasserman. I saw her for about a year or two to work through my sexual issues, and thankfully this therapy was successful as far as pain and visions.

Fighting between my brother and I had escalated terribly after my sexual issues had cropped up. I confronted him about our childhood years and we had a massive physical fight. His mood swings were still out of control and I gave my mother an ultimatum to kick him out. I refused to live in the same home as him any more but she refused to tell Ryan to leave.

I got mugged on Noordhoek beach with a friend in July 2004. We had been walking from Chapmans Peak side and were approaching the ship wreck when we decided to head back. As we turned around we saw two men who had been lying on the beach get up and start walking toward us. The one man reached behind his back and brought out what looked like a HUGE carving knife. The biggest knife I have ever seen. As they got closer to us, the one man went for my friend while the man holding the knife came for me, I sprayed him in the face with my pepper spray but he didn’t stop and kept trying to stab me as I backed deeper and deeper into the sea. Then he grabbed my hand and dragged me forward onto the beach until I fell to my knees. I was crying and begging for my life, not daring to look up at him, and fortunately he just picked up my bag and ran.  I had nightmares for months after. Every time I closed my eyes I would see them coming toward us, and then me begging for my life. I felt so ashamed at how I had reacted. I always thought I would be tough as nails. Convinced if anyone dared try attack me I would just kick them in the balls. When would I stop feeling scared? I struggled to go anywhere by myself for months, parking at college near Rondebosch Library was a huge challenge for me as it meant a walk under the railway line. I would sit in my car for ages, waiting for someone who looked ‘trustworthy’ to walk with.

The problem wasn’t that my stuff was stolen. It was the suddenness of it. The realisation that it could happen anywhere, anytime, and within just a few seconds that feel like an eternity when you are in the moment. You could be doing anything and suddenly your life could be at risk, without any warning.

Life seemed hard then (doesn’t it always?!). I was often fighting with my mother about Ryan, it was so difficult to see the man Ossi had become, the fighting over the money between my mother and Ossi’s children, and this nightmare I felt I was living in while trying to figure out who the hell I was and what I should do with my life. I had dropped out of College to help my mom with Ossi and now just felt like I was failing at adulting. All of my friends seemed to be moving forward terrifically and I was still in the same place.

Diary Insert 12 January 2006 –Just had another huge fight with my mom. I feel like it is her fault that Ossi got the brain tumour. She never let him forget that he invested the money and then lost it. I don’t know what to feel anymore. Most of the time I just feel so numb, like my body has shut down my emotions. When I don’t feel numb I feel like my heart is going to break into a million pieces and that I will never be ok again. I think my mom actually tries to brainwash us against Ossi. It all feels so familiar, like when I was growing up and she used to badmouth my dad. She says Ossi betrayed us, that he betrayed me for cutting us out of his will, that he was always grumpy.

I don’t know what to think anymore. Maybe I am just angry at her because I need someone to blame? I love him like a father. For a lot of my life he WAS my father. I even took his name. I now have two images in my mind of who Ossi was. It seems like forever since he got sick and now I can’t remember.

Ossi cared about me and loved me. He always wanted to protect me from Ryan’s abuse and I remember years of it being Ossi and me vs Ryan and my mom. She always loved Ryan more and never did anything to stop him torturing me. I remember Ossi always being there at horse shows, we would go for long walks on the beach with the dogs, sometimes having long conversations about life and other times just walking in a comfortable silence. He was always there for me more than my mom; guiding me, supporting me, loving me.

Then my mom talks about the grumpy Ossi. He was always shouting at someone, or on the phone too busy to talk. Moaning about everything. I feel so numb I cant think properly anymore. I miss Ossi. I don’t understand how this all went so wrong.

Diary Insert 25 January 2006 – “Ossi moved out today. I have tried calling him but he didn’t answer the phone. I really don’t know what is going on anymore. It hurts me so much to see him like this. That man is not Ossi.  That man is a child and the Ossi I know would be horrified to see our family now. Everyone is fighting.

Diary Insert February 2006 – My mom seems to be turning into someone I barely know. We are fighting a lot. She is drinking too much and has started dating a guy basically twenty years younger than her, what the hell!  He looks and acts like white trash and I cannot believe my mother would stoop so low, She’s a gorgeous woman and has way more class.  

They have been using cocaine together. What kind of moron tries out cocaine after what we’ve witnessed with my brother’s addiction and the millions of other addiction stories we’d heard over the past few years???”

My mom decided to downscale our house again to try and bring in some money. Our house sold at a complete loss in an auction but we needed the funds so we had to let it go. My mom and I cried for ages in the bathroom together after the auctioneers left. We moved into a beautiful Tuscan style house in an estate called Candlewood Close – definitely among one of my favourite homes! I stayed in a small flat underneath the garage, while the rest of the family, and now my mother’s boyfriend Brendan – lived in the main house. Ryan’s aggression was getting worse and worse, and after a few incidences. My mother eventually asked him to leave after he pushed Nicholas into a glass door during one of his rages.

Ossi went into a coma on 12 June 2006. Carina called to let us know and we went to go see him. He was lying on the bed, looking deathly pale & coughing up spit. I was so anxious in that flat. The energy in the air was suffocating. I was trying to lighten the mood, I don’t know why. It was the wrong time and place but I’ve always been desperate to alter hostile environments. While we were there he died.

His funeral was the first Jewish funeral I had attended, and it was awful. There were no flowers there, nothing colourful to symbolise the light and love Ossi had brought to our lives. Ryan and I were outcast as we were not his biological children, and were not mentioned at all, as if our grief did not count. As if he hadn’t been our father for close to 20 years.

Just under two weeks later on the morning of the 25th June I got a phone call from Brendan between 5-6am. I was downstairs in my flat and was told my brother was dead and that my mom was on the phone to my dad. I couldn’t be sure that I had heard correctly because my mom was crying so much but she said the ambulance wasn’t there yet. If the ambulance wasn’t there then how do they know?  My dad found him in the car. He had gassed himself and he was dead. The ambulance & police had to come because it was suicide and someone needed to declare his death. When we got there he was still lying in the car. It didn’t seem real. Like he would wake up any second. But he wouldn’t. He wasn’t going to wake up ever again.  I hugged him as tight as I could. This cold, lifeless body. I wished he would just open his eyes to look at me one last time. I wished he would smile at me one last time. All I wanted was to see that cheeky smile one last time. It was Ryan but it didn’t seem like it was Ryan. How could this be? How could my brother be gone? My mom asked me to take his necklace off his neck. How could she ask me to do something like that? I will never forget trying to lift and turn his heavy head so I could take his necklace off. He was lying at an awkward angle and if he had been alive, the necklace would have hurt him as it scratched against his skin. That memory is etched into my brain forever.  I had to get away. I went to sit on the curb outside my dad’s house but I didn’t know what to do with myself. My brother was dead. I wanted to speak to Claudie. I wanted my best friend. But she was in Scotland. I phoned Nikki who had dated him for a short while in high school. She knew him the best after Claudia. But even her words of comfort didn’t help. I don’t know why I expected them to.  We stayed at my dad’s house for a short while and then we needed to go to the morgue to identify his body. I wish I hadn’t gone. I wish I hadn’t seen him lying there on that cold, hard table. I wanted to scream give him a pillow! Cover him with a blanket! But he wouldn’t have been cold or uncomfortable… He was dead. I didn’t have my older brother anymore.  I remember my mom falling as they opened the curtain and my dad catching her. But I was strong. I was numb. It felt like I was in auto pilot.

It was around this time I developed a fear of my phone. I hate it when my phone rings, it’s like instant panic attack. For the last few years all it has brought me is more bad news. To this day I would rather get a message and will use my phone only as a last resort.

I dropped out of my interior design course at Boston House College as I felt I couldn’t handle the stress of the course workload and everything that had just happened.  I was overcome with grief and guilt over how I had treated both my beloved stepfather and brother before their deaths. It had hurt so much to see Ossi sick, to see him nothing like the father I knew and loved, to see him physically dependant on others. It hurt. But that hurt did not compare to this shame and horror over how little time I had actually spent with him since he had gotten sick. How little love and affection I had given in the final months. Overcome with self-pity at my family’s disintegration… I didn’t see that I still had them. Thoughts and ideas of all the things we could have done, places I could have taken him, conversations we could have still had, made me physically sick with hatred for myself. Memories of the times I had walked past him sitting on the couch, convincing myself that he was brain damaged and didn’t know better. Justifying my selfish actions to myself. But ultimately you can never hide from the truth. I couldn’t bear to see him like that and selfishly put myself before any needs or wants he may have had. In many ways I turned away from my sick father – because I couldn’t face reality – and more than anything I wish I could turn back time and make this right.

I had less regret over my brother, but still felt devastated that he had been in that dark and lonely place and didn’t feel like he could talk to me. We hadn’t spoken in a few months before he died, we had fought so viciously in the previous months and he had played such a huge role in the misery of my life that I knew my reaction would have been the same under any circumstance. But through this I still recognised that he was my brother, and wished he had been able to come and talk to me about how he was feeling. I know how it feels when death feels like your only option. The best option. I am grateful that we had put aside our differences at Ossi’s funeral, we were always brother and sister when it mattered most. My last memory of him alive was him smiling as he got into my father’s BMW that he had borrowed for the day. It is a very strange thing to lose a sibling. Someone you grew up with that has shared your life. Shared family gatherings and eye rolling at parents’ behaviour or grandparents’ outdated opinions. We always had a good laugh when we would receive a R10 gift from our grandparents for Christmas or Birthdays. Not that we were ungrateful, just that they still thought it was a fortune but we’d only be able to buy one chocolate with it lol. Sometimes I still find myself looking over to catch his eye, except he is no longer there.

After a few months of wallowing, I got an Office Manager position selling personalised wine labels for a company called Buy Champagne. My boss was awesome and thought I was a genius. It was a great ego boost working for him!

It was a few months later that my boyfriend returned home one night with a DVD for us to watch, called The Secret.  I was utterly mesmerised and inspired. Created a dream board and instantly sent out intentions for a horse and successful career. Horse riding had played such a major positive influence in my life and I missed it terribly.

It was the beginning of an incredible new journey for me into exploring the power of the mind, and opening my own mind of contemplation as different books started coming my way – beginning with Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken. I had long ago given up any hope of a God, instead thought such a person (if he existed) must be cruel to have created a world like this. I don’t think before this point I had even ventured out of thinking ordinary things, I was astounded at what I was reading and how deeply Erich had considered these ideas. It was definitely a revelation in that there was so much more to the world and life that I had considered wondering about, and I was suddenly thirsty for more ideas and books. One in particular that changed my life at this time was Mind Power into the 21st Century by John Kehoe.

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