WINDHOEK, JAN 26 – On day three, we had walked 72 kilometres, headed from the Messum Crater to Cape Cross Namibia. By then, I had developed an upset stomach and was walking unsteadily (read dehydrated) next to my friend in the middle of the dessert. A strange ‘left-right forward, left-right forward’ takes over your mind. I had finished my boiled eggs packed for the trip and low on water by then, and I asked: “Why am I doing this again?”
The first two days, I practically ran of excitement, but I , Toffee and Ollie (my Doberman Pincher and Yorkie) had a rough start walking in the rain that morning. I clung to them and thought this must resemble the ending of a sad movie.
Weeks before, the hospital nurse called me shortly after midnight to come ‘say goodbye’ after Gerhard’s first, but not last, cardiac arrest. I remember screaming in the parking lot and going home, unable to sleep.
I asked my friends (that are family) to take care of my two children so that I could partake in the hike with a small team of 5 (then) strangers and one close friend. I was petrified knowing that my children had lost their father just weeks ago. But I needed to be responsible, and I had to think about life again and pray and rest to prevent mental breakdown. I couldn’t get the sound of the beeping hospital monitors out of my mind, and I kept thinking about each morning I went to the hospital, seeing another family that just lost their mother, father, sister, or brother. You look back at these details and realise that you were never alone, even when you were lonely.
Like in any bad experience, the routines of life still visit and leave you like on any other day. The waves come and go, and sometimes you wake up just before you drown. When you are your only ‘go to’ person, and you’re carrying the loss and pain in two small warrior’s hearts – it’s impossible not to feel overwhelmed. I had to surrender and trust the God-given process of life. You crave stability and understanding and beg the tears to leave you, but you’re a mess. A messy mess that cannot stop saying “Eina, Eina, Eina” (meaning ouch, basically) for days and nights. And then, one day, it gets better.
Now, seven months later, I realise how much time I have spent thinking about my purpose and relevance. You are reminded that you do not have to be anything other than available and willing for God to use you in a powerful, significant and eternal way. No hashtags or emojis or GIFs will do it for you. None of the labels from the world will stick to your soul if you surrender into purpose with confidence. You do not even have to seem confident or fake – just ‘be’, be present. Convincing yourself to avoid certain opportunities because it is uncomfortable, is the first indication that you need to embrace change.
If we have learned anything, it is that all relationships matter – so make time and spend quality time with those put on your journey, because friends become your walking stick when you need a hand.
Take the time to reflect, reposition, and to ‘walk it out’ without walking out on the challenge because it might just redefine you. You must only be available, and willing. Thinking back there are many funny moments that helped me laugh through the pain. I literally ran myself out of my shoes on the beach the last day’s last five kilometres. I became barefoot again with childlike gratitude streaming down my cheeks and I made the “eina” a “thank you”. We celebrated with wine and ended the trip camping the night at the Spitzkoppe. I do not want to see a “long-drop” again anytime soon, and next time I will not dive behind a bush with my friend emotionlessly looking at my natural disaster. My children cry and mostly laugh with me.
They have had to learn to understand the seemingly cruel and incomprehensible loss of ‘your person’. I look at them and learn. We can all learn from the agility our children had to be born with to fight and surrender in this world. – Natasja Beyleveld, Managing Director, NaMedia