We start again….


I had this notion. I was going to pick up where I left off with my fiction writing a decade ago, before my brother died. With that as a goal,  I joined a writer’s group and attended my first meeting in April this year. Two weeks later on the 1st of May, I walked into the hospital emergency room with my mother. We both thought she had a chest infection that had gotten out of hand. But we were wrong. I’m only grateful now that at the time I was completely unaware what the next few months would bring. I think I would have gone mad. Occasionally, It’s a blessing that life can only be lived one moment at a time.

First there was surgery for the life-threatening hernia, then post-op infections, more surgery, ventilation, a feeding tube, bed sores, more infections. For months it seemed like a never-ending nightmare that I just couldn’t wake up from. Then slowly, ever so slowly, she turned a corner. First, she regained consciousness,  then she was able to come off the ventilator and breathe on her own. She started to talk again and soon after that she could eat, just a little, but it was something. I was so damn relieved! She was really getting better. Still, I was incredibly worried about what would happen when my mom came out of hospital. I was sure she would need full time care, for a while at least, she was so frail. Should she come stay with us? Would I have to quit my job?

The truth is though –  my mom never came home.

The afternoon I got the call I had just been to round to see her. I was preoccupied during the visit and my mom could see it. She said to me, “What’re you thinking about? Is it that article you wrote? You’re worried they’re not going to like it aren’t you?” She was right, that’s exactly what I was thinking! I replied with a laugh, “No one knows me like you mom.” She smiled and said, “You’re a part of me and I’m a part of you, we’re the same.”

40 minutes later, I arrived home after picking my son up from school. “Hi is this Helga? I’m sorry to say Mrs Cronje has passed away…”

2 months and 23 days. I had visited her or stayed with her for every one of those days except two. I realise now it was a vigil, I was keeping my mother company as she moved on from here to whatever comes next. But when I heard that she had died, it was damn hard to accept. It was exhausting, it was emotionally damaging and one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

Through it all, I still went to my writer’s meetings once a month and kept in contact with my growing group of writing comrades in real life and online. For me it was a glowing light in the darkness. If I could just focus on this one thing, this one good thing that had nothing to do with the hell of my real life – I could carry on and keep doing what I had to do.

If it wasn’t for the writing and the people I met because of it, I really believe I would have slipped into a bleakness and depression that there may have been no coming back from. So I owe a serious debt of gratitude to all the people like Ian Tennent, Melissa Delport, Tallulah Habib and Cath Jenkin…as well as too many others to mention. To all the other creatives and writers who have stood with me and kept my mind occupied with friendship,  books and writing (my favourite things) when I felt so lost and overwhelmed – THANK YOU. Thank you for being the light in the dark and showing me how to carry on.

One chapter ends and another begins, whether we’re ready for it or not. So I’ll start again —  and just see where this next chapter takes me.


Helga Pearson is somewhat embarrassed by the fact that she has FOUR cats. She should really be embarrassed by her tendency to overshare about the books she is currently reading. She occasionally writes as well - but she's not sure yet if she should be embarrassed by this.

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