Tag Archive: graeme broster

QUESTION 2:  [Graeme Broster]

I don’t believe we can even begin to discuss issues of race, reconciliation etc before we begin to discuss and answer the issue of identity. Not sure if it’s clear but give it some thought

Race panel question: When, if ever, will it be OK to be “over” apartheid? If possible put a number of years to your answer.

[Brett: Hot question i know but i followed it up with Graeme to get some clarity]

Graeme: When, if ever will the issues we have with race become class issues instead?

Brett: That one may not go down well but a great question – can you define a little more closely what you mean by “over apartheid”?

Graeme: In the sense that the white privilege set say “it was 20 yrs ago, I didn’t vote for it, etc, why can’t we just see people #nocolour and so on”

There must come a day when the enforced inequalities of apartheid are soooooo distant that they cease to be relevant?

Brett: One would hope…

As I was typing thus it occurred to me that there may be a parallel with the grief journey where some linger on their loss much longer than others. When does it (if ever) become OK to say “let it go”?

And now some answers, thoughts and ideas from our panel:

Caley Daniels:

I don’t think anyone is in a position to put a number of years to forgiveness and healing because everyone is different and has experienced hurt differently, and perhaps some have been through too much to ever truly be “over” it. I firmly believe in the power a testimony has to inspire life change. Melody Beattie said, “Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls.” If we mourn forever the horrors of the past would have been in vain.

Busi Ledibane:

I understand why people get frustrated and say that we should let it go. Letting go is good, letting go is freeing but we should be careful to say let it go with things like apartheid. Because really, what do we mean?

I think that people who are still harbouring anger over apartheid need to let it go because it’s crippling but I also think we should take a minute to remember that apartheid was forty years long and twenty years later, its legacy lives on. You still see evidence of the Group Areas Act. We still have white areas, black areas, coloured areas… It’s in our faces everyday. The poverty of the majority of the country is a result of having been denied quality education and fair opportunities by the oppressive system that was apartheid.

The question we should be asking is how do we move forward? And the answer cannot be as simple as letting go because the scars of something like apartheid need a while to heal. It was a big deal and it’s not something that we can just let go but we can learn from it and swear to never let it or anything similar happen again. But that kind of thing doesn’t just take a few people, it takes the effort of every South African. It requires mind sets/attitudes to be transformed. 

We think we have talked enough but we haven’t and that’s why it still hasn’t been let go. As long as we are afraid to talk about what happened and race in general, we will never truly let it go.

John Scheepers:

To be able to declare that we are over apartheid would firstly require that we are able to define what it would look like for us to “over apartheid.” I am not confident that we are yet able, if ever, to do this. One could argue in a technical aspect that the law books are clean and that apartheid is gone, as do the “twenty years already” squad.  But apartheid was so much more than a legal system designed to favour whites.  Apartheid was a total system targeting everything from geography, to education, to romance to economic ability to religion.  Just a cursory glance at the geography of most South African cities should be enough to tell you that the spirit of apartheid is far from dead. The lines of legal code that have successfully been removed from our law books are but the formal implementation of a bigger system of oppression and racial control, which has a far longer history than 1948 and I sadly foresee having a far more extensive future than twenty years.  

If, however, there ever does come a time when we are “over” apartheid, it will not be the place of us white people to decide when that is. Does an adulterer get to decide when the spouse should be “over it”?  Does the rapist get to decide how long is enough for healing to have taken place?  Does the extortionist get to decide how far reaching the consequences of his greed are in the lives of his victims?  Why does it work differently when the perpetrators are privileged white people? 

When will race issues become class issues instead?  The nuances in our society between these two are infinite and we must recognise them as both intricately intertwined and yet not synonymous.  So while a middle-class black woman might face the same set of racial prejudices that a poor black woman from a township might experience, she will probably have greater access to economic assets than her counterpart will.  Both have deep roots in apartheid policies and apartheid mindsets.  I am not sure we will ever be able to separate race and class in South Africa.  In truth, I am not convinced there are many, if any, other places where the two are wholly separate.  The only difference is that in most other places, it is the minority groupings that often occupy the poorer classes.  In South Africa it is the minority white populace who mainly consist of the middle to upper classes.

Tasha Melissa Govender:

I think we need to remember that our democracy is still young. We’re still learning to cope with this new found freedom to be who we want and live how we want. And like a child with no defined boundaries I think at times it’s simple to go overboard. Having said that I don’t believe reconciliation is a fantasy, it’s an amazing ideal that we should all work hard to strive for, daily. I do acknowledge that there have been many who have been hurt amidst apartheid and within the years of freedom that has followed.

The one thing I feel we should strive to move away from is generalization. As much as it can be said “the blacks control and the whites still suffer…” we must remember that the majority of the ‘black’ population live below the poverty line and whilst BEE may be seen as reverse racism it really is a system, if implemented the way it was intended, that works well.

The only way we will be able to move past the hurt is to forgive. I’ve heard horror stories from my parents and grandparents concerning things that happened to them during apartheid- friends of my parents going into exile, many we’re killed and my mother being arrested whilst she was pregnant for me purely because she wore a shirt that held an image of the Black Panthers. My family has adopted the stance of forgiveness, it is a core pillar of our faith and I believe it is the only way for us to move forward and find a way to be released from the sins of the past.

[To return to question one that the panel looked at, click here]

[To read the post where i introduced the members of the panel, click here]

a little while ago [well, a month it seems] i started a series called Taboo Topics where i wanted to look at some serious issues in life that deeply affect people but that rarely get spoken about. The first one, losing a baby, was something that had been on my heart for a long, long time because of knowing some friends who had been through it and having a glimpse of how devastating it must be, especially if you are carrying it along and feeling like you are the only one… an old friend of mine, Graeme, boldly stepped forward and shared their story from his perspective and a lot of people read it and were encouraged and it is now my privilege to share the same story, but from his wife Nicole’s perspective. Thank you, Nicole, for the strength you show in sharing this with us:

As you can see, it’s taken me a whole month to work up the courage to read this blog…. When Graeme told me that Brett had asked if he could post our story, I was not in a good head space, so told Graeme to go ahead, but that I couldn’t do it. Now, with Zoe’s 5th anniversary behind me, I feel I’m in a better space now, so I thought I’d head on over here and read all the stories he’s posted so far. Each of them broke my heart…. I know the pain hidden under the words each of them uses.

As with all couples, even having experienced the same event, my journey has been different to Graeme’s. As a mother, you connect with your child physically and emotionally long before it’s born. When I heard the news initially, that the doc couldn’t find a heartbeat, I was so sure it was just faulty equipment. I went into denial immediately. But after half an hour, the reality finally hit me. I was so devastated, and crying so hard, I nearly vomited on the floor. When the doc told me that it would be better for me physically, as well as emotionally, to go through natural labour (Zoe was 37 weeks), I wanted to hit her. I thought for sure she was joking. Yet, in retrospect, she was absolutely right.

We were given a private labour ward, with a dedicated mid-wife (so no extraneous staff wandering in and out, or noise from other labour wards to bother us), and at the end, our minister and his wife were allowed to join us, so we could wash Zoe, dress her, and hold a short ceremony for her immediately. I still remember the sound her body made as it slipped from me…. a dull thud followed by silence….

We didn’t find out until later that the name Zoe means life.

Something that gave me (and continues to give me) tremendous comfort was a vision that one of my friends had in which she saw Jesus take Zoe into heaven cuddled in his arms. To know that she’s loved, and cared for, and is in the best possible place…that is a great source of comfort to me.

I don’t believe that God made this happen. I don’t believe that God even allowed this to happen. Something as evil as killing an innocent, unborn child on the cusp of life could only come from the pit of hell itself. For the longest time though, I blamed God for failing to take action, for failing to save Zoe’s life.

Now though, I have Nathan (his name means ‘Gift of God’). There’s no way he will ever replace Zoe – not in a million years. But I know that if she had not died, he would not have been born. Right from the get-go, when we dedicated him, we asked that God would use him to heal and bless, and to bring joy into the lives of those he touches. God has honoured our prayer, and Nathan has already brought such healing and joy into ours.

I still don’t know ‘why’ Zoe died. I don’t know why we were targeted in this way. I don’t for one minute believe that Zoe’s death was part of God’s plan. Yet, I know that God has redeemed what Satan intended for evil. For both Graeme and I, our faith has been tested in the fire. The dross has been (and is being) burned away. Although we’ve still got a-ways to walk, I know that now our faith is real in a way that it never was before. We’ve also been able to comfort others with the comfort we have received – through Born Sleeping (our support group). Plus there is the blessing of the child who would not have been – Nathan – if not for his sister’s death.

As Graeme said, the grief is never far from the surface, but that doesn’t mean our lives are joyless. We have simply learnt how to tolerate indescribable pain, to allow it to wash over and through us, until we can breathe again. We have learnt how to live and love and laugh despite our pain. Having said that, please don’t think I’ve got grief taped, or that I have all the answers. If I were to go through this again, as Sandi & Mike, and Debbie & Bruce, have had to do I think I’d probably fall apart just as much, just as quickly, and take just as long to be put back together.

Losing a child…. it really is one of the hardest things any parent can go through, and unless you’ve been through it yourself, with the greatest respect, I don’t think you have a clue what it’s like…. which is probably why so many people don’t like to talk about it: everyone else says such banal things, insensitive things, the platitudes that are like a dagger in your heart and a slap through the face. Which is why Brett’s blog is so important. We need spaces to talk openly about our pain, and about how the pain makes us re-evaluate our lives, our values, our beliefs, our faith, our hopes, our dreams, our plans. And others need to hear it, to learn how to deal with us, and to help us grapple with issues of faith.

So thanks, Brett, for having the courage to open the lid on on this can. I just hope the worms turn into butterflies sooner rather than later.

Nicole [Nicole Masureik and Graeme Broster]

Born Sleeping Website – http://bornsleeping.wordpress.com/
Born Sleeping Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Born-Sleeping/150344014978601

if you would like to read the other stories that were shared, click here.

My second daughter, Zoe, was stillborn at 37 weeks on 24th March 2007 in London, UK – we had no warning, one day she was well, with a strong heartbeat, head down, ready to come into the world, and two days later, she was dead. It turns out that Nicole has a blood condition that pre-disposes her toward clotting, and the best guess is that there must have been sudden clotting in the placenta/umbilical chord which starved Zoe of oxygen. We didn’t know this until after Zoe was born but because our first daughter, Janel, had been premature, Nicole had been under closer observation than a normal pregnancy, including specialised prenatal care, so there was nothing more that could have been done under the circumstances. Nevertheless, you plague yourself with “what if” questions – what if I’d taken Nicole the emergency room the night before when she first commented that Zoe wasn’t moving regularly, what if Nicole had noticed earlier that something seemed to be wrong?

The church community we belonged to were amazing and really rallied round, providing us with meals, doing laundry, taking Janel out so we could be alone. We were put in touch with a charity called SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) who invited us to a meeting of parents who had lost their children. It was just incredible to meet with other parents who had walked a similar path to us and who could tell us that there was some light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long and dark it might prove to be. When we returned to South Africa, we looked to find a similar support group, but saw that none existed. As a result we started Born Sleeping and have had the privilege of supporting, and being supported by, many couples both in Cape Town, where we live, but also around the country via email and Facebook.

The issue of my faith in relation to this experience is a difficult, complicated, and ongoing one – in the weeks after Zoe’s death, we felt God’s love and comfort expressed to us by his people and we truly felt that, somehow, it was all going to be alright. As a bloke, I was in full strong-man support mode for Nicole, we had a 18-month old daughter to take care of, I had a job to go back to after a couple of weeks, we were preparing to move home to South Africa, etc and although I had the opportunity for some counselling, I don’t think I was able to fully engage with the enormity of my grief and its impact on my faith. When we moved back to Cape Town, we struggled to find a worship community where we felt comfortable – going to church itself was not a happy experience, when you have deep questions about the goodness of a deity who would allow a child to be created only to take her back before we could know her, it is not easy to be surrounded by people singing His praises. The best advice we were given in this time was permission to miss church, to stop feeling duty bound to attend if it was damaging our relationship with God. In spite of this respite, for many months, I would go through phases of truly hating people who had an open, easy faith, because they had what I no longer could claim to be my own.

Truth be told, my relationship with God had been on a downward trend for some time before Zoe died, but the questions that her death raised for me became stumbling blocks which I couldn’t overcome and although we settled in a church and joined cell groups and I even began to lead worship again, my personal spiritual life was essentially dead. Matters came to a head one Sunday morning when God, through one of his children, lovingly confronted me and said that I could not continue like this, struggling on my own and hoping that things would improve, that I needed to seek help. And so I re-entered counselling, and have made progress – Zoe’s death has become the scalpel God used to cut through layers of tradition and habit to uncover fundamental flaws in the way I view God and how I relate to him. There is much work to be done still, but I have hope again that at some point in the future I will be restored as God promises, I will be able to say with Spurgeon “Oh Blessed Hurricane that drives me onto the Rock of Ages” and mean it.

Next month it will be 5 years since Zoe died, and although we have been blessed with a son in that time, I still think of her often and am surprised by how close to the surface the grief remains. In writing this, I have been reading through some of the messages we wrote and received at the time, and the tears have flowed freely again. You never “get over” a loss such as this, but you learn to live with the pain. You never ever quite work out how to properly answer the question “How many children do you have?” but you stop feeling guilty when you say 2 instead of 3. There is life after stillbirth, but it is never the same as before.

Graeme [Graeme Broster and Nicole Masureik]

Born Sleeping Website – http://bornsleeping.wordpress.com/
Born Sleeping Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Born-Sleeping/150344014978601

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