Yesterday was the possibly one of the worst days of my life...

Forgive me, but I need a place to air my thoughts. This is not a happy story so if that is what you are looking for, then I recommend you stop reading now.

I am housesitting for my uncle at the moment and yesterday was the day before my uncle left to visit friends in another city. I stayed at the house so that he could give me instructions on what to take care of while he is away.

The family cleaner brought her two year old son to work yesterday. I had only met him once before, but he was a delightful little boy and very bright and inquisitive.

I was in my room getting ready for the day (it was about 09:45) when I heard a blood curdling scream coming from outside. I immediately ran outside to find Gloria (the mom) in an inconsolable fit of anguish. A second later I noticed the shape at the bottom of the shallow end of the pool that was her son. The gardener was also standing there looking quite bewildered. There was no time to think. I immediately dived in and brought the little boy to the surface, shouting at the gardener to take him from me. After calling the emergency number, the operator tried in haste to give me a crash course in CPR. Gloria's ongoing screams made it incredibly difficult to hear clearly what was said but I proceeded to follow the instructions as best I could. There was no response from the toddler. His eyes were open and glazed, an image that has been burned into my memory forever. I was already fearing the worst at this point.

What was probably minutes felt like an eternity waiting for the paramedics to arrive. By now, curious neighbours who had heard the screams were in my uncle's house looking on. A few of them tried to help, one by taking my phone and proceeding to help the operator with directions to the house, while others just seemed to be there to rubberneck.

An armed response unit was first to arrive on the scene and took over the CPR duty from me. At this point things get a little hazy. It all seemed to pass by so fast all of a sudden. The police arrived and tried to control the crowd that was building up, I called my uncle (who is a devout anglican) out of his prayer meeting and he arrived shortly after the paramedics had already taken over from the armed response person. The front lawn looked like a perverse rendition of a hollywood movie crime scene.

In the haze of panic, I remember the point when the paramedics stopped trying to resuscitate the boy. I felt as if I had just lost all my insides. The state of shock had rendered me unable to fully grasp the reality of the bizzare, tragic situation.

A trauma counsellor wanted a few minutes of my time. She told me that I should not blame myself and that I did everything I possibly could. My brain promptly rejected her statement and my thoughts raced around ideas of opening the curtains of my room (which looked directly onto the pool) first thing when I woke so I could have seen the boy fall in and thus reacted sooner. My mind also punished me for not knowing CPR well enough to be sure of myself.

That is when I heard someone saying that it was god's will and there was nothing I could do. I almost punched the person for saying something as perverse and sickening as that. How on earth could a benevolent deity will this on an innocent two year old boy who had a whole life ahead of him. I restrained myself from reacting to this and continued to wonder aimlessly around the house. I heard that a priest had arrived and was praying over the mother and father (who had just arrived). While I know it may have provided some pseudo comfort to the bereaved, I could help but think how futile and pointless everything was now. Everyone seemed to be calling on god at that point, as if it somehow provided an easy distraction from the reality of the situation.

A policemen took my statement and I continued to wonder aimlessly around the house.

I feel terrible for Gloria as she must be feeling even more guilt than I am. Someone offered to take her and her husband home and she came up to me and embraced me tightly, thanking me for doing "everything I could". I don't feel I can take credit for anything. I apologised that I couldn't do enough to save the boy. We continued to embrace and they left shortly after.

It is a day later, and I have had a chance to calm down but the grief is still there.

I have taken comfort in a paragraph of an essay I read a short while ago and would like to paste it here in memory of little Bongesile whom I barely knew, but whom has had such a huge impact on my life.

The essay is called "Stardust" by Ebon Musings.

Compared to the great vastness of the cosmos, the ocean of deep time, my individual existence is a blip, a bubble in the foam on the surface of a flowing river. I am a momentary arrangement of atoms and molecules - an arrangement that lives and moves, to be sure, an arrangement that thinks, laughs, appreciates beauty, dreams, and loves - but a mere arrangement nonetheless, a transient state, an ephemeral gathering. Soon the blip will go out, the bubble will pop, the arrangement will dissolve, molecular bonds released by entropy. My consciousness will cease. But the molecules that once were me will still exist. The atoms that made up my body - iron, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, all the heavy elements forged in the crucibles of dying stars - will remain. Liberated from their temporary home, they will rejoin the rest of the planet, taking new shapes, finding new arrangements, becoming part of other life. I will become merged with everything.

I will become part of the trees that grow wherever my ashes are scattered, joining the ecosystem of the forest. I will be in the slow green heartwood of the trunks as they patiently tick off the centuries, in the buds that burst forth in spring and in the leaves that explode with color in autumn. I will be the sparkle of sunlight on the surface of a flowing mountain stream. I will sink into the earth and mix with the groundwater, eventually flowing back and rejoining the ocean where all life on this planet ultimately began. I will be in the waves that crash on the shore, in the warm sheltered tidal pools, in the coral reefs that bloom with life, and in the depths that echo with whale songs. I will be subducted into the planet's core and join the three-hundred-million-year cycle of the continental plates. I will rise into the sky and, in the fullness of time, become dispersed throughout the atmosphere, until every breath will contain part of me. And billions of years from now, when our sun swells and blasts the Earth's atmosphere away, I will be there, streaming into space to rejoin the stars that gave my atoms birth. And perhaps some day, billions of years yet beyond that, on some distant planet beneath bright alien skies, an atom that once was part of me will take part in a series of chemical reactions that may ultimately lead to new life - life that will in time leave the sea that gave it birth, crawl up onto the beach, and look up into the cosmos and wonder where it came from.

And the cycle will begin again.

The full piece can be found at:

If you have got this far, thank you for persisting and I apologise for the out of character sad post. I just needed a place to put my thoughts and I would consider it a bonus to hear any thoughts from you.

As the days go by, I'm sure I will adjust to this and become a semblance of my happier self once again. When that happens, I will return to write a happier post.

Views: 199

Comment by Doc Feral on February 16, 2012 at 5:37pm

This brought a tear to my eye as the child is close in age to my own. It was bad enough when I lost my father and my younger brother 13 months apart('03 & '04), I can't begin to imagine what losing my boy would be like. 

I always wondered what I'd want read when I pass, and that essay captures things so well. Thank you for sharing. 

Comment by Jon van Rooyen on February 16, 2012 at 5:46pm

Thanks for your comment Rob.

Out of all the atheist writings I have read before, this particular one has stuck with me. I find it a beautiful way to remember someone close who has passed on.

Comment by Ed on February 16, 2012 at 9:47pm

I can hope the mother recovers from her loss and feelings of guilt. My uncle backed over his little girl in their driveway and never was the same person again sadly. 

I believe you will learn from this most unfortunate experience and be a better stronger person for the future as a result. Peace be with you.

Comment by Jared on February 17, 2012 at 10:10am

This was hard to read...  I can relate to the problem with the god's will comments, when I was younger my ex's father died after a very painful death and it didn't take long before you had some jackass who barely came around to help suport his family in their time of need start going on and on about how it was god's plan and there was a reason and it just struck a nerve. My ex started to cry and fall down against the wall while listening to this guy go on about god and meeting his judgment and asking if her father had asked for forgiveness from god for the sins of life because he could be in hell if not. At that point I stepped in and told the guy he needed to leave or I'd help him leave until he could learn how to show a little class and compassion. It was very hard not to just hit the guy as he hurt this girl with all these horrible comments. I can't imagine how anyone who see's something tragic happen to someone for no reason can't even begin to try justify some all powerful god who willed it.

Comment by Geektheist (Rocky Oliver) on February 17, 2012 at 11:39am

This had me crying. A lot. I have five kids, and the thought of losing one - or any other children I know - is simply a dark place I cannot look at.

You're going through the grief process - and it sucks, a lot. I would strongly recommend talking to a counselor to help you resolve and get through these feelings. You won't ever "be OK" with it - that's a fallacy - but you will learn to accept, cope, and move on.


Just don't get down on yourself - you're a good man, and you know it deep down inside. Dedicate a portion of your life towards helping others, in his memory. That may help you as well.

We're all here for you. Remember, you're never alone.

Comment by Jon van Rooyen on February 17, 2012 at 1:32pm

Thank you all for your uplifting comments. It means a lot to me. I'm sorry I made some of you cry.

Ed, thanks for your comment. I am in the process of taking what I can out the tragedy and learning from it. I will be there as far as I possibly can for the parents in this difficult time for them.

Jared, the problem with a lot of people I find is that, when they first meet you, they automatically assume you are of the same faith as them. While emotions were running high, it enraged me on the day. But thinking about it now, I realise these were good people with the best intentions, however ignorant they were. I believe it provided a little bit of consolation to the parents (who were believers) of the child and I don't necessarily think that is bad thing. In the same breath, however, being an atheist, aware of the logical fallacies in their beliefs made it seem rather alien and bizzare at the time.

Thanks for your kind words Connie. I am slowly beginning to accept that the events of that day probably couldn't have transpired any differently given the circumstances. Still a little hard to get my head around but I'll get there.

Lotus, I am seeing a counsellor on Monday to talk through it, so I'm sure that will help. And your advice to do something good for others in his memory is a great idea, one that didn't occur to me but I will certainly look into.

Thank you all for reading.


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