Message From Nel
When Peter's mother asked me to say something at his memorial service,
I was honoured.
I thought long and hard about what to say
to somehow try and make sense of it all,
but the words wouldn't come.
In the end I started writing a letter to Peter.
I think it has helped me in the process of saying goodbye
to a friend who has touched my life in profound ways.
I have decided to read that letter here today.
19 May 2000
I'm still getting used to the fact
that I can't just pick up the phone and call you -
or at least leave a message - any more.
The impact of your death is still in the process
of becoming a reality in my mind
although five days have passed
since that telephone call from your mother.
Her voice was raw with anguish
as she cried out the horrible news to me
and I pressed my thumb between my eyebrows
in an uncharacteristic gesture.
I know that you knew how much pain
your decision would cause.
I also know that your despair must have been
even greater in order to go through with it.
Albert Camus said that men are never convinced of your reasons,
of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings,
except by your death.
I pray that you have received that deliverance from your sorrow
that continually eluded you in this life.
A few weeks ago you told me that you wanted to go to Pietermaritzburg
to support your mother during the Comrades.
You also said that you wanted to spend some time
with your father and brother.
I remember thinking at the time that you obviously meant
you wanted to go to where their ashes were scattered,
but now the significance
of your specific choice of words seems striking.
I would like to believe that you have been reunited with them.
You and I often spoke about the love
between you and your mother.
I remember you telling me how awe-inspiring it was
to know that there was someone who loved you
so completely and unconditionally.
You know how proud she was of you
when it seemed as if everything was going to be all right.
I know how tirelessly she was there for you
when things were not going so well.
She truly is a remarkable person
and knowing her has enriched my own life
and continues to do so.
During the past few days I have spent a lot of time
thinking about our friendship.
Although I feel sad at the moment
I am grateful for good memories that you have left behind.
To find a friendship where one can drop all pretences is rare.
And yet those moments when we show ourselves to another being
as we truly are and not as we think we ought to be
are probably the only times in our lives
that we are completely free of loneliness.
Thank you for sharing so many of those moments with me.
I don't know why you decided not to reach out
to somebody on that last night
and I shudder when I think how lonely you must have felt.
But I will never know what was going through your mind
and you and I have never judged each other
so therefore I accept and respect your choice.
That was always our motto: "Friends - no matter what."
Those of us who were fortunate to be close to you
know how hard you tried.
None of us realized though
that it would be a struggle to death.
And in spite of this struggle you always had so much to give.
You were the friend who offered to help unpack when I moved house.
The one who called every day when you knew
that my heart was sore after the end of a relationship.
The one who called me when he heard gossip about me
instead of spreading the gossip.
You were the friend who had the creativity,
but more importantly - who took the time -
to make a birthday card instead of just selecting one from a shelf.
In short - you were the type of friend that anybody is lucky to have.
I'm sorry that you lost sight
of the immense beauty and value that you possessed
for if only you could see yourself like we saw you -
who knows how different things might have been?
But "if only" doesn't bring that much comfort now
and we are left to deal with the way things are.
Your memory will continue to live on in many hearts.
There is so much that we don't understand,
but the following passage by Elisabeth Kubler Ross
presents solace and a positive way of looking at all of this.
Death is simply a shedding of the physical body,
like the butterfly coming out of a cocoon.
It is a transition into a higher state of consciousness
where you continue to perceive, to understand,
to laugh, to be able to grow,
and the only thing you lose is something that you don't need any more -
your physical body.
It's like putting away your winter coat when spring comes.
And now it's time to say goodbye for a while.
And thank you very much.
May you rest in peace, my friend.