My daughter Yin and I were on our way to the recording studio recently, where she is doing backing vocals for one of my tracks. We pulled up outside the studio and were about to pay the parking attendant, who said she just gave this man his ticket and he said he wasn’t feeling well. She said he had a strange smile on his face, started rubbing his chest and then, just like that, he was gone.
We had to walk past the scene to get to the entrance of the building. I held Yin’s hand and we both looked. He was behind the steering wheel and had a small blanket covering his face and upper body.
It was one of those moments when time stood still. We were both really quiet but Yin squeezed my hand and asked: “Mom, is he actually really dead?” And I said: “Yes, he is.”
We went into the studio but I felt so shaken, so we had a moment of silence. Just to honour this man, whose spirit had just flown from his body.
It was a moment when you realise you only literally have this. The next moment isn’t guaranteed. At all.
And then I look around and see how we continue to engage with each other in this dishonouring way, you know? How we fight with each other, being resentful or holding on to stuff that doesn’t serve us any more. We have this absolute disregard for the cycle of life and the fact that we might not be here tomorrow. And it comes for all of us: that moment of departing.
Just seeing that man there, dead, outside of the usual environments — a coffin or a funeral or whatever — was strange. It shook me, and will stay with me for a while. — Ernestine Deane, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian