This is a story that for me personally is so wonderful it gives me goosebumps to write it. My beloved Ouma died some months back. She was the revered, much-loved matriarch of the family. I haven’t written about her death because I wasn’t ready to do that. I didn’t know how to do that well enough that it would be perfect. It was too personal somehow.
I think I’ve told readers about her before. She was the absolute epitome of grace and loved us fiercely. She was proud of us. She told us that often.
She kissed us like there was no other kiss that had ever existed between a granny and her grandchild. You felt kissed by her spirit when she held your face in her hands and guided you in for a kiss. A kiss was usually a few kisses as a time. That’s how she was. That’s how much love she had. When you were in her presence you knew you were so very loved. She exuded love and she wouldn’t let you forget that. When my Ouma died at the ripe old age of 99, we were very, very sad. We felt her loss because she had always been there. But, she had a very strong faith and a sense she’d be reunited with all those she had loved and lost, and that brought me some comfort for her sake.
I’d visited her a few times in the months before she passed away and spent a morning reading her some poems which was very special. I’ll never forget that day. Rewind now to when the Covid-19 lockdown first closed down life as we knew it. We decided that it would be best for our two day a week domestic worker to sleep overnight at our house to avoid exposure to the virus while travelling to work and back. It also saves her the taxi fare, a not insignificant amount. (The deal means she cooks us all supper on the night she stays over. And boy is that a treat! She’s one of the best cooks I know.)
We borrowed a bed for her and set her up in the garden cottage. But fast-forward to a few weeks ago and the bed needed to be returned to the owner. We were now without a bed for her to overnight in. We were both disappointed for different reasons. Never mind, I told her, we’ll get you another bed as soon as we can. The guy and I went on a serious mission to buy one, but the beds we found weren’t quite what we were looking for. It seems difficult nowadays to go to a bed shop and find a single bed frame and mattress. We didn’t want a base set for various reasons.
Eventually, with our patience running thin after being turned away from numerous shops, I decided to just buy a damn base set and we returned to the first shop we went to, to get one. The sweet salesperson’s answer — now that I wanted to buy his base set — was that it would have to be ordered and the delivery time was at least a few weeks away. I needed one sooner. So, we walked out empty handed again. Eventually, I did what I should have done in the first place. I phoned my dad, the font of all knowledge in things related to furniture. And he knows EVERYONE in the business.
“Pops! Where can I buy a single bed?” I asked, explaining my predicament. “Damn it! I just sold Ouma’s bed a few weeks ago to a second-hand dealer,” he said. What a pity we hadn’t realised that I had need of a bed and he had her pretty bed, with a sturdy wooden frame and lovely mattress, which he wanted to sell. Never mind.
He gave me the number of the person who had bought the bed from him in the hopes he may have another one. This was some weeks ago. Life happened and I had not got around to pursuing the bed problem.
Last Saturday morning, the guy called him and explained what we were after. Yes, I have one bed available at the moment, he said. We went to look at it at his premises. It was perfect, exactly what we wanted and more. Clean, wooden and … strangely familiar.
I asked with a flutter of vain hope if he had by any chance bought the bed from my dad. He had! It was my Ouma’s bed.By some lucky twist of fate no one had bought it yet. I handed over the cash faster than you could say “deal done”, and we loaded it onto the guy’s bakkie, tied it down fast and brought it home. I watched carefully, with reverence, to make sure it stayed on even when we went up the steep, windy Cordwalles Road. When we got it home I was over the moon! My dear Ouma’s bed — it felt like it was meant to be.
I think Ouma would be tickled pink by the story. She had a great sense of humour. As I’m typing this I see her laughing, that beautiful face alight with joy. She’d be so pleased we have her bed.
And, maybe one day I’ll get to sleep on her beautiful bed. I’ll snuggle in there, feel her close and know I’m separated from her only by time. Rest well, my darling Ouma. I’ll love you until my last breath.
• Stephanie Saville is editor of The Witness.