Dear Sylvia

I’ll try not to make this post too soppy because I know you wouldn’t approve. I can hear you telling me to just ‘get on with it.’ That was your way of dealing with things. You also hated it when people said, ‘passed away’ instead of ‘died.’ So fine, I’ll say it then. Sylvia died in the early hours of this morning, at the ripe old age of 95. I wanted to share the news with all of you because many of you have witnessed my journey with her, and I’m so grateful to my friends for the love and support over the past two weeks.

But let me go back in time to tell you how it all unfolded, and how I came to be her live-in carer. I left South Africa for good in December 2018. I had made the decision to do that in November, but I had no idea where I was going. Things weren’t working out for me in Cape Town work-wise, and I knew I needed to do something drastic before my funds ran dry.

One evening, between packing boxes, I found myself on Facebook drooling over my friend Tina’s photos in Bali. It wasn’t long before I got the ‘hit’ in my soul – it’s a feeling that I’m so attuned to now after years of practicing ‘going with the knowing.’ There’s no logic to it, just a ‘hell yes!’ It takes an enormous amount of trust in life, but it’s the most thrilling feeling in the world.

This was my actual text message to Tina: “Hello you intrepid traveller, you. I was asking about your travel plans because I myself – surprise surprise – am about to embark on an adventure to…I’ve no idea…ha ha. Life is kicking me out of the proverbial nest yet again. All doors in CT have closed and I’m forced to literally sell up and leave, so I wanted to know if you felt like a travel companion to wherever you’re going to next.”

And that, dear friends, is how I ended up going to Bali for a month and hanging out with the fabulous Tina Romer and Quinn Tarantino. And wait, oh wait, until I tell you one day about the WILD synchronicity that occurred at Singapore Airport. You’re going to pee your pants, I really mean it. But you’ll have to wait for my book to come out with all my weird and wonderful stories. The book that I keep saying I’m writing, but really, I’m just descaling the kettle.

Back to the story. One armpit-soaked afternoon in Ubud, I received a phone call from a care agency in London. It was an agency I’d worked for when I took care of Angela in Cambridge the previous summer. ‘Kelley, there’s a job that’s starting in January in the UK. Would you be interested in doing care work again?’ I considered all my other options (none) before answering Ollie. ‘I guess I could do that for a little while, just until I find something else…’

Now one of my greatest challenges in life, as a Gemini, as an Enneagram 7, as someone with Peter Pan syndrome, is that I live in a perpetual state of ‘until I find something better.’ It’s exhausting to me and everyone around me. You see, my greatest fear in life is boredom. I’m terrified of dying of boredom one day. So, imagine the Universe’s twisted sense of humour when it sent me to Sylvia as her companion for two years and ten months, and for most of that time she and I stared out of the conservatory window watching the grass grow.

In my first week I recall Sylvia turning to me in her armchair and declaring: ‘You can stay with me forever.’ I remember thinking, God I hope this isn’t some kind of curse she’s placed on me. But it was. I was under Sylvia’s spell, and I couldn’t leave if I tried (believe me, I tried a few times). Friends, this is when you know you have a soul contract with someone, and hard as you try you cannot release yourself from your karma until the time is right. And I don’t mean karma in a bad way. Karma gets a bad rap. It’s not that at all. I knew that Sylvia and I were brought into each other’s lives for many different reasons. Firstly, what my soul needed more than anything, was a safe haven.

While Bali was the gentle embrace I craved after leaving my home country, Beaconsfield was the loving home I needed to restore my weary soul. I was bone tired. I was achingly lonely having spent the past twenty years trying to heal from trauma that I’d carried since childhood. Life is wise that way. It knew that the very thing I needed was to slow down, and to allow a different kind of healing, the kind of healing that comes in a home where you are loved, accepted, and appreciated.

It must be something innate in my feminine heart, but my love needs to go somewhere. I know that my happiness comes from another person being open to receive my love. One of my most painful wounds that I carried from childhood was that I was never able to connect with my parents on a deep emotional level.

I grew up thinking that so much of my pain was from not feeling loved as a child, but it was also the other way round. I never felt as if my love could be received by them, and that was devastating to my heart. I had no idea the damage this had done. What a gift it is, then, for another person to allow us to love them. And dear Sylvia, you let me do that, you let me pour my love into you.

Was it a perfect time together? Hell no. I got frustrated. I got bored. I wanted to leave many times. I hated the monotony. Sometimes you had an edge in your voice that triggered me. I felt drained. Many times, I felt as if I was reliving my codependent relationship with my mother. Which is exactly why I needed to be there. I know that now. Our time together brought me the healing I needed.

I’ll miss seeing you in the kitchen every morning, as you announce: ‘It’s a dull old day, isn’t it?”

I’ll miss watching you out of my window as you go for a poddle with your walking stick in the afternoons.

I’ll miss Saturdays with Clare and Lee eating chicken korma.

I’ll miss you coming down in your nightie with your hairnet on, looking so damn adorable that my heart would just melt.

I’ll miss watching Morecambe and Wise with you, and dancing around the living room trying to bring you sunshine.

But I won’t miss repeating myself a hundred times because you refused to wear a hearing aid.

And I’m sorry I ate the last slice of carrot cake on your birthday.

Thank you, Sylvia. I love you. Rest in peace. xx

(Kelley, Lee, Tina, Clare, Sylvia)



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