CHAPTER 3 – death, grief, guilt
I started studying Travel and Tourism Diploma at Varsity College in 2004. 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.
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. 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.
Life seemed hard then. 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 so lost in life.
We moved to a smaller, more manageable property in Darling Street on the other side of Hout Bay as finances continued to take a knock. The deterioration of Ossi changed our mother as well. She had been accustomed to her pampered life of nannies, au pairs, cleaners, gym trainers and shopping, but after our dad’s illness had to become an adult, manage finances and take care of her everything without help.
25 January 2005 – 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. My mother is badmouthing Ossi and his children and I honestly don’t know what or who to believe. She is being such a bitch after everything he has done for her, I don’t blame him for wanting to leave. But 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. I miss my stepfather desperately.
My mom seemed to be turning into someone I barely know. We were fighting a lot. She is drinking too much and has started dating a guy basically twenty years younger than her. He looked and acted like white trash and I cannot believe my mother would stoop so low, She was a gorgeous woman and has way more class. I later discovered they had been using cocaine together. I couldn’t believe that she would try out cocaine after what she had witnessed with my brother’s addiction and the millions of other addiction stories we’d heard over the past few years. We’d have endless screaming matches about it and I even told my grandparents about her drug use one day, warning them this is going to get out of hand – but as usual they make like an ostrich and stick their heads in the sand.
We moved again, into a beautiful 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 his mood swings started affecting Nicholas.
Ossi went into a coma on 12 June 2006. Carina called to let us know and we went to Bobs flat to 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. While we were there he died.
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 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 neck. 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 step up – and THIS… will always be my biggest regret.
I had a little less regret over my brother. 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 was him smiling as he got into my father’s BMW that he had borrowed for the day.
After a few months of wallowing, I got an Office Manager position selling personalised wine labels for a company called Buy Champagne.
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.
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.