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The Waiting Game: lessons in surrender

My brothers and I are currently engaged in the worst-ever version of The Waiting Game. I feel like we’re being given daily lessons in surrender. But when will we learn them? When do we get to go to the next stage of the game? I don’t know…

It started as a routine hip replacement surgery. I flew to Durban to check my dad into hospital, and the plan was that a few days later I would check him out of hospital and into the stepdown facility where he’d have intensive rehab before coming home. My brothers and I drew up a plan for who would be in Durban when, and how we’d all take turns helping my dad as he re-learnt to walk.

Big plans! Shiny plans! Plans cast in stone.

And all I have to say about that now is: haha.

Because, first of all, surgery took an hour longer than usual (apparently the hip crumbled as it came out, it had deteriorated so extensively). And then my dad was rushed to the trauma unit and then to ICU late one night because he couldn’t stop vomiting and something was up with his lungs – they suspected pneumonia.

We got through that and he rallied, transferred to a general ward and then to the stepdown facility. I flew back to Cape Town, started going on long walks and doing extra yoga to complete the stress cycle, and looked forward to things in the future – like my book being released! (The Grief Handbook is out on July 13th!)

And then Tuesday. Woke up to a message from my brother saying my dad had been rushed back to hospital in the early hours of the morning and was back in ICU. Heart failure. Pneumonia. Fluid on the lungs. The doctor’s phrase was “critically ill”. Doctors don’t use those phrases lightly.

And now it’s Friday, and we are stuck in this strange limbo where he’s slightly better, but still very sick. He’s on 40% oxygen now, down from the 90% he’s been on till yesterday, so that’s good, I suppose? But he’s still on oxygen. His cardiac blood tests have improved from the day before’s cardiac blood tests so that’s good, I suppose? But they’re still really serious. And he’s still in ICU, and likely to be on oxygen for another two days, and in hospital another week.

So here we are in a very long Waiting Game, learning lessons in surrender. Because there is literally nothing we can do but wait, and hope, pray and send him love. What’s so weird about these lessons in surrender is that I literally don’t know what’s going to happen. (I suppose that’s why it’s a lesson…)

Maybe they find the right antibiotic and he gets much better in a few days! Maybe they don’t and he stays in hospital a few weeks.
Maybe the cardiac failure doesn’t progress and didn’t do much damage! Maybe it does, and it did.
Maybe this is a blip in his health chart, and he recovers fully. Maybe it isn’t, and he doesn’t.

Honestly, who knows?

In the face of this Grand Not Knowing, I am breathing deep. Walking in nature as often as I can. Realising that we never really know what lies ahead in life. And recognising that, given the options of imagining the worst and feeling hopeful, I choose hope.

I hope to be updating this blog soon with happy news… In the meantime, one of my favourite meditations.

the grief handbook

The Grief Handbook

The Grief Handbook is out on the 13th July 2021!

You can find out all about it, and where to buy it, on

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