SAAPA country chapters invited citizens across Southern Africa to help weave a quilt in memory of their loved ones. Alcohol-attributable harm is often only spoken of as statistics. The concept of a memory quilt puts a human face to the statistics of children, women and men who have died due to violence, road crashes and other alcohol attributable diseases.
It creates a public platform to acknowledge and mourn deaths due to alcohol. It offers the opportunity for individuals and families to add their voices, to the lobby for more evidence-based alcohol policies that promote and protect lives and not only economic interest.
When I walked the physical journey of first hearing of the tragic loss, followed immediately by police investigations, the culprits not apprehended……I was in a maze.
Then I started walking the emotional journey of anger, inexplicable sadness, and finally, acceptance that my brother is truly gone. And I just thought “if he hadn’t gone out for drinks….”
The ever so jolly, deeply thoughtful and intelligent brother…gone. I got resolved that I would never see him again; never hear his voice again; just because he wanted to enjoy some drinks with friends.
But had my mind and heart accepted the fact? I don’t know.
Being the eldest sister in my family and currently the Chairperson of SAAPA Botswana, I wanted to lead by example and produce the first piece for the SAAPA Memory Quilt in memory of my late brother, Caesar.
A QUILT – who would have thought that sewing pieces of cloth together could stir up such deeply buried emotions? Certainly not me! This seems a painful process all of a sudden, that unearths feelings long forgotten.
Putting these pieces of cloth together first tears one’s heart into pieces that seem as loose as the very ones to patch together. It turns out, this is a necessary process, and a much needed one.
Walking the journey of the quilt has sparked another layer of healing. Buying the fabric, choosing the colour, deciding on what to inscribe, has been a daunting, yet heart-warming process.
Meeting my sisters and bracing myself to introduce them to the quilt exercise, displaying my inscribed piece and inviting them to hop on the healing path, first brought out on each of them an emotion that I thought none of us still had, but proof that the quilt process was needed by all. Suddenly, it turned out to be a sad, sombre moment, some wet teary eyes. My one sister remembers his favourite song: “Thought I had died and gone to Heaven”. Another remembered how his conspicuous laugh that was his signature had gone.
We started reminiscing – each took a piece of cloth, and on these, we all laid our cherished memories, however we wanted to express them. …And in doing this, we realized that healing has come; comfort sets in; anger subsides; closure is finally happening.
On these cloths, that will be sewed together, we all, for the first time, in 28 years, will weave a fabric that will remain a symbol of our deepest feelings and help us to be at peace. As we do this, we want to remember his life, not just his death and make conscious decisions to always choose a different path. Certainly not being given to alcohol abuse.
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