A single meeting leaves a treasured memory

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 18 June my phone rang. It was my birth-mother. Considering that we usually only communicate by text messages, I knew the reason for her call had to be important. I wasn’t wrong. She was calling to tell me that my grandmother had passed away peacefully that morning. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease while in her eighties, this old lady had lived to the magnificent age of 96.

Although I only met her once, she touched a special place in my heart, and the single memory I have of her I will cherish forever. I was very saddened at the news of her passing. I wrote about our meeting in my book, Someone’s Daughter, an edited excerpt of which I publish here, as a final tribute to her…

We met at a delightful tea garden in Durban. I was extremely apprehensive before the meeting. Irene [not her real name] had shown me a photo of my grandmother at our reunion. It was a family group shot, in which she looked very serious. As this was all that I had to go on, I perceived her to be very stern, so I was very wary of what she would be like in person.

We arrived at the tea garden and spotted Irene and her daughter sitting at a table. My grandmother was seated with her back towards us. As we approached, I fixed a friendly smile on my face, but my heart was beating wildly. I greeted Irene and my half-sister with a hug, then turned to look at my grandmother.

As our eyes met, all my misgivings instantly melted away. I felt an immediate connection with her and hugged her warmly without reservation. She was nothing like the sombre person I had prepared myself for. She was beautiful and gentle and loving.

I sat down next to her. As the waiter took our orders, I felt her eyes on me, staring at me intently, as if she wanted to take in every feature on my face. I chatted away to the others, seemingly oblivious to my grandmother’s appraisal.

What is she thinking? Is she remembering the day I was born, or the hour she and her daughter spent with me before they took me away? Perhaps she’s looking for a family resemblance, and it’s taking her so long because she can’t find one.

Unable to ignore her scrutiny any longer, I turned to her and smiled. She spoke, and her words revealed instantly what was uppermost in her mind: “Please don’t be angry with Irene,” she pleased. “We had no money. If her father were still alive when you were born, things would have been different, and we would certainly have kept you.”

I placed my hand on her arm and looked straight at her.

“I am not angry. If I were, I wouldn’t be here today. Everything is fine between Irene and me. Please, don’t worry about it anymore.”

I wasn’t sure if I had convinced her, so I decided to change the subject a little. I was eager to hear her version about my birth.

“Please, tell me everything you can remember about the time I was born.”

She responded without hesitation: “Oh, my dear, I can’t do that. I can’t remember anything these days. I have… Irene, what do I have?

“Alzheimer’s, Mom.”

“That’s right; I have Alzheimer’s. I can’t even remember when it’s time for lunch.”

I had no idea how to respond to this. Perhaps it was safer not to pursue the matter. I waited for the others to turn the conversation to general matters.

All through the afternoon, I was acutely aware that my grandmother could not take her eyes off me. She asked me over and over to forgive her. I tried to reassure her each time that she had no need for forgiveness, but I don’t know whether I managed to convince her.

Eventually, it was time to go, and we all hugged one another goodbye. I felt a terrible sadness when I hugged my grandmother and felt close to tears. I didn’t know when, or if I would ever see her again.

Rest peacefully, beautiful lady.

From this day forward

Dear Keenan and Janine

You have chosen this day, 5 April 2014, to become husband and wife. In a little while, you will stand beside your beloved and promise to love, honour and cherish each other for the remainder of your lives.

Your relationship started out as friendship, soon blossomed into something deeper, and it wasn’t long before you realised that you wanted to marry and spend the rest of your lives together. As a couple, you radiate the love and happiness of two people who are madly, hopelessly and deeply in love. It shines on your faces, is conveyed in your body language, and is just about all you talk about. This brings me much joy.

But my greatest joy today is that you  have chosen to place your marriage in God’s hands. There is no safer place for it to be. As you continue to walk in Truth, never stop striving to draw closer to Him each day, because in so doing you will draw closer to one another.

May the mutual love that shines so brightly in you today never grow dim. May you treasure forever this beautiful gift God has given you, and always rely on His hand to guide you through everything you experience together, whether it be joy or sorrow. May you always be kind to one another, tenderhearted and forgiving. May your marriage overflow with everything that is true, noble, pure and lovely.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face to shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

Forever and always










On your birthday

Miss you so much.
Especially today.
Your birthday.
My favourite gift to give.
These are the words that remind me of you…


Memories of our perfect day

“With this ring, I thee wed.”

Exactly 27 years have passed since Sean and I said these words to each other, but the memories I have of our wedding day are as vivid as if the event took place yesterday. Not least among these is the orchestra of emotions that played out as the day unfolded…

The excitement of the preparations – hair, makeup and finally putting on my gorgeous wedding gown, in which I felt like a princess.

The nervous anticipation as my father and I were chauffeured to the church (in a Rolls-Royce no less), smiling and waving as other drivers on the route tooted their acknowledgement of the occasion…

The thrill of walking down the aisle on my father’s arm to meet Sean, who stood waiting to receive me…

The joy of the happy celebrations that followed the wedding ceremony and the wonderful honeymoon that came thereafter.

But the memory I love to talk about most is the one that began in the week leading up to our wedding.

It rained. A lot. Incessant, pouring rain that continued unabated day after day. At first, the refreshing relief it provided from the heat was welcoming. But when Friday arrived and the skies still showed no signs of clearing I began to feel just a little apprehensive.

A dear friend of mine (who, sadly, was tragically killed in a car accident eight months later) was also getting married on 1 November. He and his fiance had planned a morning garden wedding. Understandably frantic, she eventually telephoned the weather bureau to enquire whether the rain would clear up by the Saturday.

“Cancel your garden wedding. Move everything indoors,” she was told emphatically. “There is a 100 per cent certainty that it will rain on Saturday.”

It didn’t even feel right to pray about it; because when you live in a country frequently afflicted by drought, rain is considered precious and always to be appreciated.

I went to bed that night intending to sleep late the next morning (as brides are wont to do), but I awoke around four – to the sound of falling rain.

Somehow, I managed to fall asleep again. It was around six when I awoke. Everyone else was still asleep. It was quiet. Very quiet.  I got up, opened the bedroom curtains and looked out of the window.

I was greeted by a clear blue sky, without so much as a wisp of a cloud, and a radiantly shining sun. It was as if the air itself was sparkling, it was so bright. There was no sign of rain. My bridesmaid, who by now was also awake, came to stand beside me.

“I can’t believe it,” I whispered. “The sun is shining.”

“It’s beautiful,” she responded. “It won’t rain today.”

And she was right. We enjoyed a perfect, sunny day – pleasantly warm, soothingly tranquil. It was as if the earth had been washed until it gleamed, the colours shimmering in their intensity, the air crisp and clean.

Quietly, I gave thanks to God. To this day, I believe it was His wedding gift to us and, like everything He does, perfect.

The following morning dawned grey, overcast and not a little chilly, the thick, billowy clouds heavy with the promise of more rain.

I could not help but be reminded of the words of the psalmist in Psalms 118:23-24:

This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. 
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

For our Grandpa

Following the recent passing of my father, Danie Fourie, his grandchildren wrote beautiful tributes to honour their beloved Grandpa, which I felt were well worth sharing…

From Keenan

The first memory I have of my Grandpa is fishing at the beach. He would wake Caitlin and me up early in the morning with coffee, and then we would get dressed and go to the beach.  I would hardly ever fish though, because I was too young and too impatient to wait for the fish to come to me. But we would walk along the beach and he would introduce me to all his friends and I was just happy to be with my Grandpa.

When I was older he gave me a lot of fishing gear, and I loved it. My friend and I went fishing and I was so proud to show him all the fishing equipment I got from my Grandpa.

If Grandpa wasn’t fishing then he was in his garage busy making something or fixing something. He had a real talent for carpentry. He showed me all his tools, and how each one worked. And even though I never had the same interest that he did, he never forced me to be like him.

Grandpa had a very good heart, and was a very friendly person, always making friends with people on the way down in the lift. He was always offering to make curry for friends, or make something in his garage for them.

He was well liked at the flat where they lived. When other children who lived there found out that Oom Danie was my Grandpa, they got excited, and said, “Wow, is that your Grandpa!”

We always knew where Grandpa was because he would always make a lot of noise. From stirring the coffee cups in such a way that we knew he was making coffee again, to singing wherever he went.

He wasn’t a fighter, he was a lover. For those he loved, he would do anything, and he loved a lot of people.

The last memory I have of my Grandpa is reading Psalm 23 to him while he was lying in hospital. That memory is one I will always remember. Only God can make the passing of a loved one a special occasion. It didn’t matter how different we were, how similar we were, or the age difference, we shared the same God. Being able to share Psalm 23 with my Grandpa is extremely special, and I thank God that I was able to do that.

My Grandpa will be missed, but I have peace, knowing that God is alive. God is still with me, and Grandpa is with God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

From Jenna-Lee

You’re gone now, gone but not forgotten. And I can’t say this to your face but I know you hear…

I know we are all feeling a little bit sad,

That we’ve lost our Grandpa, our friend and our Dad

Together we have cried an ocean of tears

As we feel so empty and hold many fears.

But Grandpa would want us to know he’s in a good place

And that he’s watching us all with a smile on his face.

As we have made him so proud, as proud as can be

That he has raised such a beautiful and special family.

Thinking back now I really must say

I feel lucky and privileged to have known Grandpa to this day.

For in my life you have played a special part,

The memories I will treasure and keep close to my heart.

For me, I’m glad my little baby he got to meet

And for all of us, be grateful, his life is now complete.

For each one of us he has loved and cared

As a family, be thankful for the good times we shared.

Although he has gone we will always be together

And his spirit will live on in each one of us forever.

When you look to the sky, look for the brightest star

As that will be Grandpa, looking down on us from afar.

And now I’d like to thank the good Lord above

For blessing us with our Grandpa, his kindness and love.

Dear God, if it’s not too much fuss

Take extra-special care of our Grandpa, as he’s very dear to us

Grandpa, if you’re listening, say a prayer for us every day,

Be sure to protect us and guide us on our way.

We know when God called you, you had to go, but we want you to know

Grandpa, we love and miss you so.

Love always, your Little Princess.

From Caitlin

Daniel Fourie meant different things to different people. He was a husband, a father, a brother, an uncle and even a dear friend, but to me he was simply known as Grandpa. And I have been truly blessed to be his granddaughter.

My Grandpa had special nicknames for all his grandkids and my special nickname was Tinkerbell. I will never forget the way he said “Tinkerbell” when he saw me coming towards him; there was a ring in his voice and a smile on face that left no doubt in your mind that, at least for that moment, you were the centre of his world. No matter which grandchild you were Grandpa had the uncanny ability to make you feel like you were the most important kid in his life.

He had a special relationship with all his grandkids and I will always treasure the relationship I had with my Grandpa. Together we shared a love for singing, and whenever he saw me, even in his very old age he would always say “Sing for me, Tinkerbell” and he would join in later and together we would sing for ages.

My Grandpa and I loved the beach and he would take me there every day and he would show me all the little sea creatures, point out all the different shells and keep them in his pocket so that I could take them home.

My Grandpa always had patience and unconditional love for us. He once showed me a bucket of fish he had just caught. When he wasn’t looking I took the bucket of fish, along with all his hard work and threw them back into the ocean. When he saw that all his fish were free he just looked at me, smiled and said: “Only my Tinkerbell would think about saving the fish.” And he took my hand and we walked back home.

My Grandpa taught me what true love meant when he, without fail, would wake me and my granny up with coffee every morning and before going to bed bring the entire family vanilla milkshakes and come and tuck me in; he had a special way of tucking me in. My grandpa and I loved to bake, from cookies to Chelsea buns to different kinds of breads. He would give me the credit when the end product tasted good, but we all knew that he did most of the work and I was there more for moral support.

My Grandpa was very good at making things and he loved making things for his grandchildren. He made me my very own personal oven, a dollhouse with furniture and cot for all my extra dolls.

All my friends admired my Grandpa. I was so proud that he was my Grandpa and I was his Tinkerbell and that will never change. Even though he is no longer with us I know that he is finally at peace and I will never forget all the memories I shared with my Grandpa and the life lessons that he taught me. I will always carry with me.

Love you always,


From Chad

Grandpa, you are my soldier and idol. I love you to the moon and back, and always will do.

Your Chaddy boy

‘Daniel, a man greatly beloved’

DadMy father was not an educated man. Forced to leave school at the age of 16, he joined the then South African Railways and Harbours, where he worked until his medical retirement during his early 50s. My father never wrote his matric exam, nor did he ever obtain a degree or diploma.

But none of this ever mattered to me. As far as I was concerned my father was the best daddy in the whole word. As a little girl there was no safer place than in my daddy’s arms, nothing broken he could not fix, no problem he could not solve.

My father’s life was, and still is, a classroom for me. Not in matters of philosophy, science, or maths. No, the lessons I learned from him were far more meaningful and indeed, precious.

The first lesson my father taught me was God’s Word. As a tiny baby, the moment I began to talk he taught me scripture, beginning with his favourite passage, Psalm 23. To this day, it is one of the first passages I turn to for comfort during times of trial.

My father strongly believed in rightly dividing the word of truth. “Rather err on the side of conservatism,” he would say, “than distort the truth for the sake of liberal appeasement.” He taught me to never be afraid to take a stand for righteousness, especially where the Church was concerned.

My father taught me about generosity. He gave all the time, to almost everyone he came in contact with, simply because he loved to do so. An avid rock-and-surf fisherman for many years, his favourite fish to catch was shad. He would bring it home, clean it, cook it according to his own recipe, and then proceed to share it with as many people as he could find. The kitchen freezer was almost always packed with fish my father had previously caught and he would give it away whenever anyone came to visit, or when he went to visit someone. He did the same with practically everything he cooked and baked, and he cooked and baked often; it was another of his favourite things to do.

My father taught me about compassion. He could not bear to see a woman or a child hurting. During one of his many stays in hospital, I visited him, and took along his favourite snack at the time – two Chelsea buns and a coke – as a special treat. At the next visiting hour I noticed that the food was gone and asked if he had enjoyed it.

“No,” he responded. “I gave it to that little boy in the bed in the corner of the ward. His family live too far away to come visit him. Please, go and see if he’s okay.”

Another time a man knocked at the door of my parents’ home. When my father opened the door the man asked if there was any bread to spare because he was hungry. My father told him to return in an hour and then proceeded to cook the man a hot meal.

My father taught me about service – to God and others. He served the Lord’s Church in many ways from the time he and my mother became Christians in 1956, the year they were married. As a member of Queen Mary Avenue Church of Christ in Durban, he taught the teenaged boys, while my mother taught the girls.

While my brother and I were still very young, he was transferred to Kimberley, where there was no Church. This did not deter my father. He led a worship service for the four us every Sunday. From this I learned the importance of attending Church, even when there were no other saints to fellowship with. After our family moved to Pretoria in 1969, we placed membership with this congregation, where my father was often asked to lead the singing. He loved to sing, especially songs of praise to God. He sang them when he was happy, and when he wasn’t in a good mood, which wasn’t often, he whistled them. So many hymns we sing every Sunday remind me of my father, because he either led them or they were one of his many favourites.

My father loved to work with his hands. He could take a piece of wood or metal and lovingly fashion it into something beautiful and functional. When the congregation purchased the property in Ashlea Gardens, my father helped to build the building. As a child, I remember spending many a Saturday here while my parents, along with other members, worked on the site. I watched this building grow from its foundations to what it is today. The floor tiles my father laid in the passages and classrooms are still there. Years later, he installed little boxes behind the pews to hold the notes for our Loveliners ministry.

My father was happiest when he was serving others. There was no task too menial he would not do, and no time too inconvenient, even if it was the middle of the night. He never failed to respond to a call for help, no matter where or when it came, or from whom.

He was always there for his family, through good times and bad. To my mother he was more than a provider and protector; he was a soul mate. “She is my better half,” he liked to say.

To his grandchildren he was a loving Grandpa who spoiled them with toys lovingly made with his own hands, took them to the beach, played games with them, gave them treats, and even tucked them into bed at night. When he heard of Keenan’s recent engagement to Janine, his immediate response was: “I have become a Grandpa again, overnight.”

During my father’s long illness I received many messages of support from friends, family and brethren in Christ. I could not but help notice the common threat that featured prominently among them all. “I remember when your father did this for me…”; “I remember when your father helped me with that…”; I remember when your father gave me…”.

Even those who only knew him for a short time spoke of his gentleness, compassion and kindness.

These are the godly principles my father taught me. This is the legacy he has left for his family. For this reason, Dad, Grandpa, we are proud to be known as your children, grandchildren and great-grandchild, and we shall strive to carry your legacy forward in our own lives.

I shall miss, so much, Dad, your fish and chips, Chelsea buns and last calls for coffee, but the knowledge that you no longer have to bear the excruciating pain you suffered for so many years fills me with joy, and the certainty that I shall be reunited with you again, in a little while, gives me perfect peace.

You epitomised Matthew 25 – you fed those who were hungry and thirsty, took in strangers, gave to those in need, visited the sick and in trouble. You practised “true religion”, as stated in the book of James, because you took care of widows and orphans. As Paul urged the Galatians to do, you never “became weary in doing good… to all people”.  You did all these things for no other reason than you loved to do it.

Because you did so many things for others out of love, you were loved by many in return. For this reason, I can confidently echo the words of Christ when He spoke to your biblical namesake: “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved.”

Lessons from my mother

“Mom knows best.” Three words I grew up believing with all my heart.

Until I reached my teens.

Then, for some reason, I stopped believing in those words and began relying on my own instincts to make decisions. I entered my twenties, met my wonderful husband, married him and eventually had a son and daughter of my own.

One day I sat on my daughter’s bed, surveying a collage she had created on her bedroom wall. It consisted mostly of pictures of her and her friends, interspersed with magazine pictures of things she particularly liked. I gazed at it for a long time, not wanting to miss anything. That was when I saw it – a little slip of paper close to the edge, on which a simple sentence was written – “Mom knows best”.

That was several years ago. Today my daughter is approaching twenty, and the piece of paper no longer graces her wall. And I’m okay with that. Because those three words are written on the wall of my heart. I have learned that no matter how hard you try to convince yourself otherwise, Mom really does know best. And it took becoming a mother for me to realise this.

So many times I find myself beginning a sentence with “My mother taught me…”, something I remember promising never to do when I was in my teens. Only now can I see how much I have learned from my mom. Some are in the words she said; most I learned by the way she lives her life. They are simple, yet invaluable life lessons that I live by each day and have tried to instil in my children.

These are the ones that stand out the most:

  • Always go to church on Sundays, especially when you are going through a difficult time. The sermon preached that Sunday morning might just be the one you need to hear.
  • Take your babies to Sunday School and church. The sooner you instil in them the importance of church attendance, the greater the likelihood they will grow up to become faithful Christians.
  • When life gets complicated, prioritise as follows: church, work/school, sport, fun, and everything will fall into place.
  • A man who loves and respects his mother and is kind to animals will make a good husband.
  • When visiting someone else’s home, always say “Thank you for having me” when you leave, no matter whether they have shown you hospitality for a few days or a few hours. It’s just good manners.
  • When guests drop by for a visit at short notice, make sure your bathrooms and kitchen are clean, then the rest of your house will look spotless.
  • Take care of orphans – not only babies and children who have been abandoned or neglected by their parents, but anyone, including adults, who is separated from their family for some reason.
  • Never break a friend’s confidence, even if they don’t ask you not to tell anyone.
  • Dress modestly, especially when you become a mother. You have an example to set.
  • Never skip breakfast. It’s the most important  meal of the day.

Thank you for everything you have taught me, Mom. Truly, you do know best.

Happy Mother’s Day.

%d bloggers like this: