Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

In family lies strength

Yesterday I drove  Oupa to a family funeral – 400kms (give-or-take) round trip, for a short service and a short chat between various family members, most of whom had not seen each other for a long time.

The whole thing brought a few things to mind. One of these was the value of family, something that is close to my heart already. For us, Mum and Dad established such a strong base, with so much love, that the importance of family above all is something we all hold dear very close.

Then, of course, there was the question of the motivation for travelling long distances to attend the funeral of someone who will not know you are even there. Well, as much as we know. And it was absolutely apparent to me that to do something like that is always the correct thing, the good thing if you can. We do not travel those distances for the person who has gone, so much as for those left behind and for ourselves.

‘Family’ is an entity and a unit that is maintained by differing degrees of activity and engagement. And emotional investment. Especially in a large family, it is not always possible to be close together, or to see one another, or even to come together as a unit. The bond between the different individuals is something that underlies all we do and is something we cannot deny. We do need, though, to make those efforts – phone, text, travel – to keep the literal and human contact alive. That is where the reassurance and affirmation lie.

Throughout the whole cancer thing, a large part of my pain and my strength were based solely in questions of family. Losing Mum – and the memory of losing Dad – was something that still echoes through every step along the way. Being surrounded by everyone with their love and support, gave so much strength to take each of those steps.

Even now, as things seem to be moving towards a more even keel (although I am completely sure that there will always be ups-and-downs and effects that linger), it is those moments of family that give everything a solid base and a referral point.

Whether we travel 100s of kilometres, or just send an sms, the reassurance that that person, who belongs to us in a very special kind of way, is there and will understand speaks to our souls. And gives us so much as we go forward.

This journey called life is not always easy. There will be small bumps, then there will be mountains. All of these are easier to negotiate with at least some of our family along on the ride with us.

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