Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Goko and Family

Some of the family at Goko's 85th Birthday Celebration in 2007 (I think there's only about half of us here!)

We celebrated the life of my gran, Goko, last weekend after she passed away on the last day of November. I was amazed and touched by how many people were at her funeral. All of her children were there. Her two nieces and nephew were there. All of her grandchildren in South Africa were there, along with their spouses, partners and great-grandchildren. All of the family living overseas were remembered and sent through wishes on the day of the funeral.

At the funeral I spoke a bit about Goks - my sweaty eyes may have got the best of me, but here's what I said for those who may have missed it the first time and family who live far away.

As a tiny tot I remember going to visit Celeni; playing witchy-witchy with my cousins
using the extra-long hose-pipes that Goks used to keep her garden looking beautiful.
I remember walking through the garden with Goks, pulling up carrots and searching for
poppers, then sitting down for tea and crumpets.
When she moved to Golden Pond we would go for walks around the pond, searching
for ducks eggs and fishing for tadpoles. 
When I was in high-school, about Grade 9, Goks came to collect me from school one
day. She zoomed up to the front stairs in her little blue bakkie to collect me. As soon
as I had dumped all my paraphernalia in the back and got into the bakkie, Goks attempted
to zoom away again. However, instead zooming away from the stairs, we found ourselves 
zooming up them instead! The little blue bakkie got lodged half-way up the stairs, with
wheels spinning in mid-air and unable to move. Luckily a bus-load of girls had just pulled
up seconds after we got lodged on the stairs and in a combined effort a bunch of 
us managed to heave the little blue bakkie back onto solid ground. Goks thanked the 
girls for lending a hand and then we zoomed off, with not a hint of embarrasment.

Goks approached and overcame life's challenges like we overcame our encounter
with my school stairs - head first, quick to make a plan and once the problem
was solved, it was forgotten and life as normal carried on.
She didn't suffer fools and I was told on a few occasions to "stop being such a galoot" 
when I was being particularly foolish. She is also the only person I know that called
armpits, "quaps" - I hope that this has rubbed off on some of my family members.

Goko was an incredible grandmother and all of us knew that she would be there for
any important events in any of her grandchildren's lives - from birthdays to weddings
to school grandparents days, we knew Goks would be there. I think the fact that so many of her grandchildren have travelled huge distances to be here today is testament to the love
that each of us received from her.

In her last few years with us Goks lost a lot of the energy and spark that
characterised her and I think the whole family felt this. Goko's death is the end of an era
for our family, however she will live on in our hearts. In mine she will forever be a 
spritely, energetic, no-nonsense, rusk baking, white-haired grandmother
who helped to shape my life as well as the lives of all my cousins, leaving a legacy
that is up to us to continue. 

After the service we all gathered at Anna, my late great-aunt's house to celebrate a special gran, honour her memory and enjoy special family time together in a style that Goks would have been so proud of. That gathering was just like every other family gathering - kids were running around, playing up a storm and exploring the beautiful fairy-tale garden. The grown-ups were chatting up a storm, catching up on family news and enjoying each others company. The only difference between this event and my family memories is that this time I was one of the grown-ups whereas in the past I was usually one of the kids. Whether the past or present, the one constant was the feeling of family and belonging to a group of people who will be there for the milestones in one's life. I hope that as time goes on we can continue and pass down that strong family bond to the generations coming through.

Goko and Anna had such a strong sense of family that my dad's cousins are like aunts and uncles to us and their kids are like cousins to us. I feel so lucky that my family really do enjoy spending time together. We all have our differences and we don't see each other all that often any more, but when we get together we have such fun and share stories that keep us laughing for hours. 

We were taught by Goko and Anna the importance of presence. For important family event Goks and Anna were there. Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, weddings, births, christenings and other events were all occasions to celebrate and come together as a family. That presence allowed us to build our relationships and is the reason that at the time of her funeral, so many of us made an effort to be there. 

I think that many of us began to miss Goks even before she passed away. In her last few years she slowly morphed into someone who battled to recognise family members and spent most of her time sleeping in bed. Her death was a blessed release and now allows us remember her as she is in our memories - a lively old lady and beloved mother, grandmother, aunt and friend.

At Goko's 90th Birthday in 2012 - surrounded by family and friends

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