The Haunting Of South Africa

We dream of taking just one more walk through our lands, cross over our deserts and stroll carelessly along our shorelines. We hunger to climb our hills, saunter below our mountains and barefoot, we are desperate to feel the beaches underneath our feet. We want to rush in underneath a waterfall, paddle through a river, and wade our toes in our oceans. We long to watch the sun set and the sun rise again over our valleys and oceans, and step in under the rain that comes crashing enthusiastically down from our South African skies.

Instead, we emerge from our nights of hiding, reminded that we have reached just one more day to fight, and one more night to survive. Our respite is short-lived when we hear of another farmer dead, another mother lost, another child fighting for his life and another home destroyed. Another family wrecked. Another heart lost. Another soul broken.

We are faced with homes in ruins, some riddled with bullet holes, each telling a story of fear, brutality, anguish, and death. History that has been preserved in buildings for centuries are burnt to the ground, expunging a little more from our heritage and our past. What has stood agelessly now lies ruined at our feet. Our hearts try to bravely recover by telling our minds that it was only a building and that no matter how hard they tried, they could never erase our history from our hearts or from our minds.

Sometimes, we are numb; we don’t cry. Sometimes, we see and we hear, but still, we don’t cry. We simply bend our knees, lower our heads, and thank God that our family was sheltered and are safe, for now. We breathe a little easier and when we hear that another home was brutally invaded, we hold each other a little tighter. We are beleaguered by guilt because it was someone else, and not us. We hate ourselves for the temporary relief of surviving another night, when someone else didn’t. We hate that in the darkness, the ghastliest of nights for someone else, their terrified voices echoed out into the distance, praying and begging their attackers for mercy. In silence, we live their last night. We don’t say it, but we live their anguish, and we feel their suffering. We step carefully into their lives as details of their cruelest night reaches us. We know one thing; we are not as brave as they were. Another family wrecked. Another heart lost. Another soul broken.

Death reaches us all, but how we are reaching our end is grueling. How we end up praying for death to show up, is excruciating. How the pain, torture and barbarism inflicted upon us, is dispiriting, leaving us with no other option or wish other than to invite the mercy of death into our homes. In that moment of torment and despair, we are no longer attached to our lives, our homes, our possessions, our friends, our sanity, our heritage, our culture, our family or the lands in which we have invested our hearts in a country our souls used to dwell in. A thousand different ways before that night, we have tried to count the ways in which we have remained devoted to our country, yet, the magnitude of our adoration for our homelands will never matter again.

For those who have stood at, and walked through death’s door; for those hiding in the night, South Africa will always be our greatest love story; our greatest sadness and our greatest consecration. Our commitment to our God is that which built a bridge between our souls and our country; one that will always be home to us, to our hearts and to what is the very core of us.

We sit and think. Sometimes, too much. Sometimes, too wildly. Sometimes, too overwhelmingly. Sometimes, we are crushed. Sometimes, we want to hurt back; we want to punish those who don’t walk like we do, who don’t believe as we do, who don’t feel as we do, and who would never pray as we do. Sometimes, we just sit and think, and sometimes, we just cry. Sometimes, we are enraged and we want to discard the banner used to conceal the hurt and harm they have caused us and our tribe. We want to fly high our flag again; a cloak once worn by South Africa to remind us of who we are and how God called upon us to be courageous and to love all. One where we could stand stripped and naked under our stormy skies and still be covered and clothed by our flag.

And, as it flutters in the wind, we come alive again. As we stand fascinated by the vision before us, we once again see the symbol of our country’s love and devotion to us; where our nightmares are over, and where our dreams can breathe again. A place where we are asked only to worship our God before our nation, and then, to stand together under our homeland’s cape as it nudges us towards its promises and allows us to take another walk through our lands, across our deserts and along our shorelines.

We don’t know how to ask for help anymore, or where to turn to any longer. Nobody wants to know. Nobody wants to hear. Nobody wants to see. But us. Nobody wants to.

We can’t stand to watch the pain and destruction around us, so, like the strangers we have become, we leave. We walk slowly beneath unfamiliar skies and down city streets that we know, carry no evidence of the lives we had once lived. As deep into the soils as we could dig, the grounds in a strange land would never find the preservation of our footprints we left behind in the grounds when we were only children.

It would never know of us, even if after a while, it gets to know us. We could never love with our soul, for the pieces we have left are barely enough to allow us to breath the air of a country that didn’t raise us.

We hear the way others speak around us, and it leaves us feeling conquered. We listen for the language of our kind, but no matter how desperate we are to hear sounds like ours in a crowd, it remains silent. We search the masses for the faces we love, and the souls that we have left behind. Sometimes, when we find ourselves wandering around aimlessly; we are so sure we hear a voice that we once knew, only to discover that it was no-one at all. It was nothing more than a hankering; a whisper from the soul.

We once used to lay awake at night, waiting for the voices and the shadows of the night to come for us; now we lay awake, haunted by the mutters of our oceans, rains and winds back home. Nothing is the same anymore. The sounds of the rain crashing down on our streets, sidewalks and lands has a rhythm and a song of its own, and the way our skies darkens during our thunderstorms is something we have not yet seen since. Our backdrops, our mountains, our hilltops, our bush, our forests, our thunder and lightning, our sunsets and our sunrises, will always be like nothing we have ever seen, or will again.

These are all the pieces of us left behind in a country we never wanted to leave. The power and beauty; the glory that rests on the strength of our flag and our heritage is not ready to welcome us home yet, back to our homelands. We pray each night that our beloved South Africa keeps our hearts intact until we can come home again.

My beloved South Africa, with love.

Alice VL