Grief and Joy |Life and Death: the juxtaposition

The past few days have been about life and death and grief and joy and how they live together and yet separate and I was reminded of again, how the Universe provides me occasion to pause and reconsider the ‘who am I and where am I headed’.

Yesterday was the funeral service of a friend of my daughters’ Nonno.  Her Nonno had been ‘her person’.  And like my own Dad, her Nonno had arrived on the shores of South Africa from Italy looking for a ‘better life’ way back when.

These two men were similar in so many ways. From their devotion to their wives, to their ‘I might be slight in stature but don’ta you mess with me’ approach to life, to the fact that one day they were healthy and talking shit to the grandkids, to literally months later no longer at the Sunday lunch table.

As I held this family in my heart, I cried for that Nonno, for this family and for me.  I cried because I wasn’t able to have a ‘goodbye’ for my Dad, for our Nonno.  It was hard lockdown in April last year when our ‘Nonno’ died.  We were here in Johannesburg and he was 1200kms away. 

Somehow not having a funeral, or wake, or memorial for our ‘Nonno’ has left his death somewhat unfinished.  And yes, I’m aware of how inane that may sound.  He is dead.  And it is finished.

And yesterday’s funeral brought the grief that was still stored in the nooks and crannies of my body, front and centre.  

Grief doesn’t have a start and end.  Grief is. And then it is no more.  And possibly the grief gets painted with colours of joy and after a while it is joy.  

Joy for the person’s contribution to your life.  Joy for their existence.  Joy for the laughter that you shared.  Joy for their crazy ditties like ‘The man from Calcutta’.  Joy for sharing recipes for THE best sugo.  And moelas. Joy.

And again I’m left wondering how I might bring joy to my own life.  Have I really learned about joy? What does joy feel like for me in my own body? How do I invite joy in? And if truth be told, I have to say I play this skittish dance with joy.  Sometimes a little nervous. Sometimes a little afraid.  Of what?  


Death is an interesting advocator of Life.  My Mom was petrified of dying.  In the last 24 hours of her life she refused to close her eyes, telling me that she knew that she would die when she did.  She was right.  When she eventually closed her eyes that evening, she didn’t wake again.  She fought death. Tooth and nail.

My Dad had always spoken of his belief of life beyond this life.  He wasn’t afraid of death.  So he said.  And yet he fought death for an entire day. It was as if the unfinished conversations, possibly the regret, the words unspoken were the battle he fought with Death herself.  The bargaining.  “Let me stay that I may ….”

A girlfriend’s Mom passed yesterday after a week of ‘still holding on, still grasping to life’s ethereal whispers of breath’.

Why now did they so desperately hold on to life? 

I feel more than shaken these past days.

I’m left wondering if I have forgotten about Life herself.  I’ve spent hours asking myself if I am ready to die?  Would I fight death? 

And no, I’m not ready to die and I would fight ‘for another chance’.  

And that is it.  

Another chance.

Now. Today.

Today.  Life. 

Doing the things that bring me joy. That make me laugh.  That I feel alive. Taking the risks.  Telling random strangers how beautiful they are, because they are. Knowing my worth. Making mistakes.  Speaking the shit that happens in my head without fearing the judgement of others.  Saying and doing what I want to say and do, but instead do that ‘reaction formation’ thing. Doing life.  Being alive.


Grief has taught me joy this week.  And death has gifted me life. The juxtaposition of all that is.







Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash