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The Day My Clocks Stopped (part 1)

Updated on June 6, 2012
Mockingbird in sunny South Texas
Mockingbird in sunny South Texas | Source
Sunflowers near Oso - Corpus Christi
Sunflowers near Oso - Corpus Christi | Source

Fifteen minutes after returning from a day sitting at a show house in Corpus Christi, Texas, my cellphone rang. As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew that my beloved Dad, living in Johannesburg, South Africa, had died. I am so thankful that I spoke to him earlier in the day on Skype. When I saw his face, I knew that he had taken a turn for the worse. As our conversation reached an end, the doctor walked into the room. I greeted him and asked him to take care of my Dad, and he did. The last words I said to my Dad were those with which I always ended my calls: "I love you, Dad. God bless."

Dad died around 9 p.m. that Friday night. I launched into action. With the help of my friends, Shelly and Ed, I booked flights for the following day and fell into bed, exhausted. I was up at 4:30 a.m. to pack my cases and Shelly and Ed picked me up and took me to the airport to get a rental car. I had no connecting flights to and from Corpus Christi and Houston, so I drove.

GPS

Navigation tool
Navigation tool | Source

George Bush Intercontinental Airport

IAH
IAH | Source

On the road

I got to the rental car, put my luggage in the trunk and got into the driver’s seat and plugged in my GPS. It could not find a satellite. I then looked at the “key” for the ignition and tried to find a place to insert it. There was none. I looked around the console and tried to figure out how to start the car when I noticed a button that said “start engine,” but when I pressed it, nothing happened. The GPS was still searching, and so was I. Eventually I tapped the brake and noticed a message on the dashboard. It told me to step on the brake (or was it the accelerator?) and press the button to start the engine. Thank heavens the car started. I checked my GPS which still would not find a blinking satellite. What to do? I had NO idea how to get on the right road to Houston, never mind navigate Houston and get to George Bush Intercontinental Airport. I had allowed plenty time to get there ahead of the flights, thank goodness.

A stroke of insight had me use the GPS on my cellphone. It got me going. I finally found myself on the right road to Houston and pulled over to the side as my GPS had now found a satellite and worried about the charges on my cellphone if I navigated all the way to Houston – a four hour drive. I tried to type in Houston International Airport. No luck. I typed in George Bush International…. No luck. I tried to search – no luck. Eventually I found the way the GPS system had input George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and clicked GO, relieved, but grumbling about the search function on the system!

I listened to the rich, deep voice of my GPS navigator. Once I had arrived within the city limits in Houston, I engaged my cellphone GPS system again, as during the drive, I had lost the satellite signal a number of times and was feeling leery of Garmin. I had both of them on. As I approached the Sam Houston Tollway, my anxiety shot to a high as Garmin told me to take a right and my cellphone GPS told me to go left!!! I made a split-second decision and veered left as I had more confidence in my cellphone. Two tollbooths and much anxiety later, I pulled in to the rental car area to drop the car off. What should have been a car hire of $125 turned into $175 as I had not been able to refill the gas tank and the car rental company do so at a premium!

Delta Airlines - Good Job

Dad as I want to remember him - enjoying the sunshine on his porch surrounded by flowers
Dad as I want to remember him - enjoying the sunshine on his porch surrounded by flowers | Source

Late Autumn at the retirement village

Autumn leaves still on the trees at the retirement village at which my parents resided
Autumn leaves still on the trees at the retirement village at which my parents resided | Source
Bee visits ballet-pink rose in my Dad's rose garden
Bee visits ballet-pink rose in my Dad's rose garden | Source
Mousebirds sit atop the Pin Oak tree near my parents' cottage
Mousebirds sit atop the Pin Oak tree near my parents' cottage | Source
Sparrow reflecting on the pond at the retirement village
Sparrow reflecting on the pond at the retirement village | Source

Summer to Midwinter via Delta Airlines

I needed to lug my baggage up to the next floor and get on the bus to the actual airport. Once there, I checked in and waited for the flight. I used the time to send some much-needed emails, including one to my lovely high-school friend, Gillie, to ask if she would pick me up from the airport once I arrived in Johannesburg. Luckily she answered immediately from her Blackberry and said she would be able to do so. I charged my cellphone while I waited and then put my laptop and phone away and boarded the flight to Atlanta. There was only an hour between arriving in Atlanta and boarding the flight for South Africa. I had angels on my shoulders all the way and things went smoothly. This time, I took a tablet which allowed me to sleep on and off for short periods of time as I endured the 15½ hours flying time to Johannesburg. It did help that all my connections were with Delta, so I did not have to dash madly from one end of a huge airport to the other and I didn’t have to worry about my luggage. I did not know whether I packed well as I was going from summer to almost midwinter in the southern hemisphere, but I would just have to make do.

The flights, thank goodness, were all trouble free. We touched down a little early and thankfully, my baggage was not the last to appear on the carousel this time. I exited the doors of the airport and found my friend, Gillie. It was so good to see her face. She delivered me safely to my Dad’s cottage where my brothers and sister-in-law were waiting. In the meantime, they had arranged for me to stay right next door, with my Dad’s neighbor, who has been an absolute blessing to me. I stayed with Cynthia when I spent time in Johannesburg in January, after my Dad had been hospitalized twice. I thought that he was going to die then, and discovered once I got to the hospital that he had been resuscitated the second time. One of my brothers stayed in my Dad’s cottage whilst the other stayed in Hyde Park with his wife.

Although I left Texas early on Saturday morning, because I was traveling from West to East, I lost time and arrived on Sunday night, quite exhausted. My Father’s funeral was on Monday morning. Mourners assembled at the cemetery. I was so grateful that a group of my friends managed to attend. My friends, both old and new, came to show their support and pay final respects to my Dad. The weather was unusually warm for May in Johannesburg. We all followed the coffin to its final resting place, pallbearers given the blessing. As my brothers intoned mourners’ prayers, two of my friends, Gillie and Karen, came to stand with me and both of them held me up. Gillie, who had recently lost her mother, whispered words of wisdom and love into my ear. As my brothers dropped earth into my Dad’s grave, I closed my eyes and was aware of the sun on my face and hues of red behind my eyes. I knew that my Dad was not down there, but lifted my face towards the sun, up to where my Dad’s spirit had flown, as he joined my departed Mother. A breeze sprang up and lifted my hair and caressed my face. My friends – Gillie and Karen – were like angel wings, holding me up.

It is so comforting to see familiar and caring faces when we bury our loved ones. Twenty-one months earlier, my precious Mom had died and I was unable to go to her funeral. I was completing my 18 month course of study, and was preparing to sit my Physics registry. Had I left, I would have been unable to continue my studies. I listened to my Mother’s funeral over the phone and I grieved alone. This time, I was in the company of my brothers and was blessed to have Cynthia’s love and care as I retired to her cottage for the night. Friends came by to offer their condolences and bring food to help us through the week. The company kept by caring family and friends is the greatest blessing of all.

Beauty of the Eastern Cape

Sunrise - leaving Johannesburg for George - Eastern Cape before sunrise.
Sunrise - leaving Johannesburg for George - Eastern Cape before sunrise. | Source
Cloudscape from above - on the way to George.
Cloudscape from above - on the way to George. | Source
Atlantic Ocean washing onto the beach at the Wilderness - Eastern Cape.
Atlantic Ocean washing onto the beach at the Wilderness - Eastern Cape. | Source
Autumn Leaves Linger - close to Knysna.
Autumn Leaves Linger - close to Knysna. | Source
Breathtaking beauty of Plettenberg Bay with  the Outeniqua mountains in the distance.
Breathtaking beauty of Plettenberg Bay with the Outeniqua mountains in the distance. | Source
Strelitzias provide nourishment for thirsty sunbirds - Plettenberg Bay - Eastern Cape.
Strelitzias provide nourishment for thirsty sunbirds - Plettenberg Bay - Eastern Cape. | Source
Pink Hibiscus in full bloom at Judy's retirement village in Plettenberg Bay.
Pink Hibiscus in full bloom at Judy's retirement village in Plettenberg Bay. | Source

Quick stop to see my Cousin in the Eastern Cape

By and large, the company was extremely welcome. I must say, however, that it is honestly not helpful for people to arrive and sit there discussing matters concerning business or any other stressful event. It helps to be calm and sensitive to a mourner. Hugs and condolences and often also, peace and quiet, is really helpful. It is good to see friendly faces. The week passed by in a flash. I felt a pressing need to see my cousin who is like a sister to me, and also a group of very close friends who live in the Eastern Cape. My brother graciously arranged for me to do so.

I flew out early the next day, then drove from the airport in George to beautiful Plettenberg Bay. Another rental car, and the concentration to drive on the “other” side of the road. When I got in, I inadvertently got in the passenger side, and half embarrassed, half amused, clambered over to the driver’s side. This car was not automatic and I had to consciously engage the clutch to use the 5 forward gears. I tried to reverse as I left the parking bay. I could not do so. I tried to engage the gear far left and up… no luck. I maneuvered enough to be on my way, and then had to stop a while later, once I saw the Atlantic Ocean washing up onto the beautiful beach in the Wilderness. An old feeling of excitement welled up like an old friend in the pit of my stomach. I pulled in to a parking area, leapt out of the car and put my feet onto the sand. I took some photos and breathed in the ocean air and felt tension dripping off me as I stared at the sea. Luckily there was a young man there who discovered a button on the underside of the gear-shift. Once pressed, the gear pushed far left and up, allowing the car to engage the reverse drive! What quick lessons in advancing technology and thank goodness for that!! I resumed my journey and arrived in Plett an hour later.

As I pulled in to the retirement village, I saw the beauty of all the aloes and other plants that graced the grounds. A sugarbird alighted on the aloe to feed upon its nectar. I was not at a good angle to get a photo and lost the opportunity as the bird flew off. I parked and found my Cousin Judy’s room. I knocked and walked in and found, to my delight, that my special friends, Mike and Ros, were already there. Thankfully, they had come from London to spend time with our group of friends in Plett. It was so good to see them and to see Judy and get hugs from all. We chatted with warmth and depth until it was time for lunch. The four of us had lunch together and then Mike and Ros left and Judy and I had more time to catch up. Later in the day, Judy went with me to Veronica with whom I would stay overnight. It was so good to see her and her two lovely cats and beautiful German Shepherd/Wolf dog, Silva. Veronica has always been kind to me, and after her usual thoughtful hospitality, I slept really well that night.

The following day, I picked Judy up and we went into the small town to run a few errands. Then we treated ourselves to cappuccino and a grilled cheese sandwich. The day passed by all too quickly. I took Judy back to her place then went back to Veronica, who was kind and generous and gave me a wonderful back and neck massage. When her hands touched my skin, I was overcome with gratitude at the love and healing given to me, and the tears began to flow. Thereafter, we all convened at another friend’s house. There is synchronicity here, too. The names of these friends are the same as the names of both my parents-in-law. The whole group of old friends arrived at Tom and Viola’s house for dinner. The fireplace was lit and it was wonderful to all be together again and chat as we did over a decade ago. It was priceless and a wonderful gift. The time passed by way too quickly. The following morning I spent with Judy and after lunch, when we both felt drowsy, I had to drive back to George to get the flight back to Johannesburg. Everything went smoothly.

Magic on Kulula Airways - a brief respite

Much cloud cover had sprung up in George. I was flying with Kulula Airways for the first time. It is somewhat similar to South West Airlines in that Kulula is informal and the cabin attendants use humor to address passengers. It was delightful. As the plane flew up above the first bank of clouds, I looked out the window to the right of me to see clouds reflecting light in pearly shades of pastel colors. Aquamarine blue, pearly pink, various grays and white light spread out in broad rays and I caught my breath. The sun was beginning to set in the West, on the other side of the aircraft. I had used up all the space on my camera capturing beautiful images of the Eastern Cape in winter. I was terribly frustrated that I could not photograph the most beautiful cloudscapes from above the cloud banks. I watched as the tops of the clouds looked like waves on the ocean and then I could see what looked like adorable heads of skipping lambs. As I watched, I was graced with a view that is probably very rarely seen. I shouted excitedly to my fellow passengers: “Look at that!” I pointed out the window. Let me try and describe the vision that I saw:

As the sun lowered westward, it shone directly on the airplane. On the right hand side, the part of the plane in which I was sitting and gazing out of the window, the plane cast its shadow on the puffy cloudbanks. Imagine Batman’s distress signal being projected out into the night sky, the dark shadow of the bat encircled by a ring as it beams through the darkness. In similar fashion, the sun bathed the plane on its left side and on the other side, clearly visible against the cloudbanks of pearly hue, was the shadow of the plane flying. Not only was the shadow clearly visible, but there was a circle right around the shadow…. in colors of the rainbow! I caught my breath in absolute wonderment and my memory banks clicked and clicked as I stored the image in my mind’s eye. I only wish I could have taken a hundred photos so that I could share!!

Believe it or not, I found a similar image on youtube! :)

Kulula Airline Humor

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    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Gypsy Rose Lee: Thank you so much for coming along that journey with me and I sure do appreciate your votes and kind comments. Yes, I feel happy for my Dad - he is in a far better place - but I miss him very much. That's life! I hope to pop in to see your hubs soon. :)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up and interesting. Enjoyed this hub very much and took that journey with you. So glad to hear that you got to say good-bye to your dad but you know he is and always will be with you. Thanks for sharing.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Dear Fennelseed: Thank you so much for your loving comments - I appreciate the feedback. I also am grateful for the votes and all your good wishes. My best wishes to you, too. :)

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 5 years ago from Australia

      I am so sorry for your loss. Your parents lived in a beautiful location and your stunning photos provide visuals of your poignant journey. I especially love your dear Dad's pink rose. Thank you for sharing your loss and this very difficult journey. My votes and best wishes to you.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Richawriter: Thank you so much for your beautiful comments and votes - they are greatly appreciated. The image that I saw was even better because the shadow of the plane in the circle was constant as the clouds were properly banked for some distance! It was incredible and I wish my camera had not been full, but this video sure does the trick! I am so glad you accompanied me on my journey, Rich. I loved your question about energy. I'd say we were on the same page. :) God bless you, too.

    • Richawriter profile image

      Richard J ONeill 5 years ago from Bangkok, Thailand

      Thumbs up and beautiful!!

      That plane image against the cloud is astonishingly beautiful! I'm so glad I got to see it because I'm going to be spreading the word about it next week to my South African buddies here in Thailand.

      That was a wonderful story and you wrote it as if you were reliving it, I could feel that in your writing. Very nice little journey I just took with you.

      Thank you for that Suelynn.

      This made me think of my question about the energy. We all go back to that source, back home, our true home. That's what heaven really is.

      Take care and god bless you! :)

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you so much for saying, Docmo - I greatly appreciate your comments. You've made my day and I am grateful. I will look forward to reading your hubs too.

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 5 years ago from UK

      This hub so brings back my experiences with my own mum - I've written a similar hub about my loss. This is heart rending, heart warming and at the same time a celebration of life. You are a wonderfully warm writer who is able to share your outlook through these words. I am honoured to be able to read these moments of your life.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Malcolm, thank you for such an uplifting comment. It is greatly appreciated...

    • profile image

      Malcolm... 5 years ago

      You know that your process of mourning has been immesurably helped by your ability to document everything so elloquently....Thank you for sharing it...

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Dear Orly, thank you so much! Your comments and wishes are greatly appreciated.

      Dear Janice, thank you, too. I am thankful to have your prayers and many thanks for your comments also.

      Good friends are a great blessing and I express my gratitude for all of you.

    • profile image

      Janice 5 years ago

      So good to read of your journey, Sue-Lynn. Again, we are so sorry about your loss, and you are in our prayers. You did a terrific job of writing so that we felt that we were almost there along with you.

    • profile image

      Orly Mayron 5 years ago

      You managed to transport me with you through your writing and pictures. Wishing you long life.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you so much, Lesley - I greatly appreciate them. Love and hugs right back. xx

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Sue, I was so very sorry to hear of your loss, thank you for sharing your story, I'm sending love and hugs to you - Lesley x

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Aviannovice,thank you so much for saying. I am the more grateful and I thank you. xx

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for allowing me he pleasure of being with you during all this. There is nothing like good friends at times like this when they are most needed. Thank you.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you, Shirley...from the heart for sure.

      Hugs to you. xx

    • profile image

      Shirley Roth 5 years ago

      Beautifully written Sue - from the heart!

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you so much, Jenny Shofer! I am exhausted and don't know why I can't cry... guess I am feeling numb at this point. Hugs to you and see you there soon. xx

    • profile image

      Jenny Shofer 5 years ago

      So beautifully written Sue. Understand you must be feeling lonely, but there at at last 160 people waiting to chat to you on you know where. Take care.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      True words spoken, Vellur and thank you for the comments, they are appreciated.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Sorry to hear about your great loss. Friends are the one's who catch you when you fall and are there to comfort you in troubled times.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you so much, Daisy Mariposa. It's been a rough ride and I'm feeling quite lonely today. xx

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Susan,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I was so sorry to hear of your family's loss.

      I'm glad you had such a wonderful support system in place.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you for saying, Sunshine625. While the GPS can be incredibly useful, it can also be so frustrating just when you need it!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thank you for sharing your journey Susan. It seems like you had the best support. You are a lucky lady.

      I still haven't used a GPS. I just get lost on my own and that way I have nobody or nothing to blame.

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you so much, Sue. When we share the feeling, it makes the understanding so much more powerful. Lots of love to you. xxx

    • profile image

      Sue Feldman 5 years ago

      Thank you for your experiences - I read it with tears, as I know about the loss of loved ones and the beauty of SA. Much love xxxx

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Dear Susan,

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. Isn't that video amazing?? I am so glad you feel the heart of my writing.

      Love to you. xx

    • profile image

      Susan 5 years ago

      What a charming announcement upon the landing! And the pictures of the plane's shadow were exactly as I pictured it from what you wrote. Good job!

      What a sensitive and thoughtful report. How wonderful that you had so many friends with you and around you.

      Thank you for taking the time to write it down. ???

    • Suelynn profile image
      Author

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Pollyannalana. I greatly appreciate your feedback. xx

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

      Voted up. A very sad but interesting and beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. Gorgeous pictures.

      Polly