HELLO THERE, HEY. Gee, I just wanted to tell you my story, too. It’s not really a long one. There’s not much to tell. It’s quite simple really.
I was going off to see a girl friend of mine one night, down in Benoni, and I was burning it up a bit. I didn’t see the booms on the railway crossing — well, not until it was too late. It was one hell of a moment 1 can tell you. I broadsided the bike but it was too late. You know, I hit that boom so darn hard with such an almighty impact!
One moment I was all hale and hearty and the next moment I was — well, all hale and hearty. There I was standing, at least I felt I was standing, about ten feet above the crossing.
There was the bike right on the far side. It had gone across the track and up the other side. Ha! And there was me, or what was left of me, half wrapped around a boom and half on the ground. What a mess! You know, I took one look at that and thought, “Dirkie, you’ve had it, man.” Only, then I thought: It can’t be you, there was no pain, you felt nothing. But wait, man, you’re alive. Yet there you are — and here you are. Then this ou beside me, he said, “Well, welcome home, Dirkie.”
I looked around. “Man, but who are you?”
“I’ve been sent to fetch you.”
“Been sent to fetch me?”
“Yes,” he went on, “we knew you were coming. You ride like such a damn fool. If I could get grey hairs here, I’d have had them long ago.”
“But who are you, man?”
“All in good time you’ll find out who I am. But I’ve had my eye on you for a long time and I’ve been trying to take care of you. So many times I’ve succeeded, made you go one way and not another.
Made you slow down when you were speeding, or made you speed up when you were going too slow. And every time, you’ve been alright, but this time you wouldn’t listen. So now, here you are.
You’re right here where I am. I’m out of a job now because I don’t have to keep my eye on you the whole time. But now I can really get down to the job I’ve been trying to do, and that’s to educate you.”
“Am I really dead?”
“Yes,” he said, “as dead as you’re ever going to be.”
“I’ve got to get back. I’ve got to tell Tessa.”
“No, not now. Now is not the time. You can see her later.
Now you’ve got to turn your back on that and come with me.
Now, come on, we’ve got a long way to go, so let’s get cracking.
There is no going back there for you. That’s finished. You can see that with your own eyes.”
I looked back. By this time there was a crowd of people, and there were police, and in the distance I heard an ambulance coming that wouldn’t be needed. While I was looking at all this the scene began to fade and I was moving away from it. Suddenly we were in another place. We hadn’t really seemed to move, or to stay either. But there we were.
“Alright,” he said, “now, take hold of me, hold my hand.”
I felt a bit silly holding his hand, but I did.
He explained, “Here in this place, it’s a bit of a struggle for you to move forward unless there is someone to help you along. You see that patch of light over there? That’s where we’re going, so you stay with me.” And we went off, stumbling along.
At least I stumbled along, but he didn’t seem to.
We came out into this open patch, into this light, and as I looked I could see other people coming into it. It was like a park. There were trees and bushes and grass. A hell of a klomp of people were milling around but they didn’t get in each other’s way for they all seemed to know where they wanted to go. I saw people meeting them and then they’d stand talking in little groups. Then suddenly someone else would stumble in and be met. I was looking around, most intrigued by all this lot.
This ou says, “Yes, Dirkie, this is an arrival point. They all come to some point or other and this is your place.”
“But where are the people here to meet me?” I asked.
“Well,” he said, “I have met you. You’ve not come through the mist belt alone.”
“No, no I haven’t come through alone but some of the others have. Why wasn’t I alone?”
“Well, it’s like this. You’ve been a bit of a hell-raiser, and you’ve had your share of ups and downs and not doing things you were told to do, but basically you are just a young lad, full of the exuberance of youth, so nothing is being held against you, nothing at all. And to have let you come through there on your own wouldn’t have been exactly fair, so I was with you all the way. The others, too, haven’t really been alone for there are helpers working in there who’ve given them a hand.”
“But, man, where’re the people who’re coming to meet me?” I repeated. “You know, other people, like those meeting people just over there. Friends or whatever.”
“Have you got many friends here?” he asked me.
“No, I suppose not. One or two people I know.” Then 1 heard a voice behind me, a voice I’ll never forget.
“Dirkie, what have you been doing, hey? Always I told you, always you wouldn’t listen. You wouldn’t wash behind your ears when I told you. You wouldn’t eat your food when I told you. You wouldn’t come inside when I told you. You wouldn’t put your shoes on when I told you. And now look what you’ve done. You didn’t take notice of what I told you, and now here you are with us. Welcome home, my seuntjie.”
Ja, it was my Ouma. There she was, and she had come specially to meet me.
“But Ouma, how did you know? How did you know I was coming here?”
“We know.” She nodded her head. “We always know. The message came.
“Do you mean you got a telegram?”
“Of course not. Now don’t you start your nonsense here because it won’t go down. You’ve got to behave yourself.” But there was such a wicked twinkle in her eyes. “No, Dirkie, we send messages other ways here. You’ll learn all about it. The message said you’d arrived, and I wanted to be the first to meet you,”
“You’re not exactly the first, hey, this ou’s been with me right from the time it happened.”
“Yes,” said Ouma, “but you didn’t know him. He’s not one of yours. I am. You see, you’re one of mine and I welcome you home. But you’ll find things different here. Things are not all what they seem at first glance.”
And you know what? While I was watching her she seemed to change. It was still Ouma, but not Ouma anymore. Right there before my eyes she grew younger.
“There,” she continued, “if I’d come to you like that you wouldn’t have known me, would you?”
“But this is how I am here.”
“But . . . you’re beautiful.”
“And another thing,” she said, “1 think it’s time you started calling me by another name, and not Ouma, because here we call one another by our true names.” Then she gave me her name, but 1 won’t tell you. We’re not permitted to do that. It’s not right, you see, that people know our spirit names. And you know something about that name? It fitted her so perfectly. Yes, it was really her name, it belonged to her.
“But what’s my name?” I asked.
“All in good time,” she replied. “Now you must come with me because you are going to stay with me for a while.”
“But what about Ma? I must go and see her.”
“No,” she said, “you are not going there. Not yet. She knows. She already knows. And it’s not good for you to see her like that. First you’ve got to come here to my place and rest.”
Well, I went with her and when we got there it was a nice place. A little house, all on its own, tucked away behind some trees.
“But, Ouma, you know. . .
“No,” she interrupted me, “no more ‘Ouma’.”
“Well, anyway, Ouma,” I said not taking any notice, “this is the sort of place you always wanted, hey?”
“That’s right, and that’s the sort of place I got. And here you’re going to stay with me and you’re going to rest a bit.”
We went inside. Man, it was beautiful!
“Now, you lie down there and rest a while. There’s a friend coming here, a little later, who will talk with you.”
Well, I lay down and very soon I fell into a deep sleep, but it was suddenly, very suddenly, ended. I was standing there with Ma and Eileen, my sister, and they were crying something horrible. I was in my room at home, and they were just sitting there crying, crying.
“But Ma, I am here, right here with you. Don’t cry, I’m not dead. I’m alive.”
But they didn’t hear me. They couldn’t hear.
Then Ouma was there again and my friend, beside me.
“No, it’s no good. You can’t talk to them. You must come back with us now.”
“But why am I here? I was sleeping.”
“Yes, you were sleeping. But they are grieving for you, and they sent out their true love and it found you. It brought you back. And while they grieve so will they keep calling you, keep waking you. You see, there is nothing we can do to stop love when it calls. Love calls you back.”
“But, man, I want to tell them I’m alright. How can l tell them?”
“No, that you can’t do. They will not hear . . . not now. We will try later, in a little while. But now you must come back.”
Well, this happened three or four times. 1 went to my own funeral. Man, I never knew so many people liked me, hey. They were all there, friends and neighbours, a whole klomp of people.
Never did I know they liked old Dirkie that much. But my Ma . . . she was so sad. And there were others, sad too, others I really didn’t know they thought that much of me. And there were some I expected to be more upset, and weren’t.
Man, that funeral was an education. But I was so saddened and upset that I had caused all this. I had a very bad time. And all these friends here, they gathered around me to try and help me. But what could they really do? There it was in front of me: my doing.
I was taken back again to Ouma’s place, and again I slept.
After the funeral it was easier.
There wasn’t so much of a pull.
It gradually grew less, for long periods. And then Ma would have one of her sessions again, and the pull would become strong and back I’d go.
But by this time I wasn’t sleeping any more. I was beginning to get around, to meet people, old friends, some people I’d never known but who knew me.