i am rhonel

This blog shares my sacred journey through tragedy.  I was called for audacious hope whilst grieving a living loss.  And I had to choose – will I be better or bitter? 

I have told this story many times since it happened. And every time I am newly overwhelmed by the emotions; the harsh truths; the confusion and the pain of that day. It is as if it is burned into my mind, a movie I can select and recall in infinite detail.  I am sure that it is a subjective recollection, as my experience of the day is filtered through my eyes as a mother. She was only three years old, my beautiful daughter, Juneldè. And this is the story of the day she drowned. 13 January 2013.

It was a Sunday and we were driving back from church. It was the start of the new year and we were happy to see our friends. We wanted all to catch up some more and decided to meet up for a barbeque later at our house. It was a casual affair and some of the older kids wanted to swim.  The men opened the pool; rolling up the heavy solid cover. The fire was lighted and the kids were playing in the shallow end of the pool. Us mommies were sitting on the patio, keeping an eye on the children.  I was asking questions about ballet classes, as I planned to enroll Juneldè the coming week. Soon Juneldè was standing next to me, shivering from cold, pronouncing her hunger. I took her inside, gave her some pre-lunch snacks and dressed her warmly.

Time passed through easy conversation with treasured friends. In the meantime Juneldè has decided that she wanted to change back into swimming clothes to join her friends again in the pool. I helped her into a dry set, kissed her and laughed with her. Soon the food was ready and we all moved inside.

My eyes fell upon the open pool, feeling restless, contemplating whether we should put back the cover. It was however a tedious task and the men wanted to cool of in the pool after lunch.  At that moment I made the worst decision of my life, I decided that I will sit at the table in a spot where I am sure I can keep an eye on the pool. I kept quiet about the unrest I felt. Juneldè came to get a piece of sausage from me; she sat next to her friend and was chatting away. She came to me again, asking if I would wash her hands.  I saw she still had some sausage left over in her hand, and promised to help her soonest she finished her food…

That was the last time I heard her voice calling me mommy. The last time I saw her wide open smile.

She went back sitting next to her friend again. I smiled with endearment at her animated ways. I looked down, I looked up and engaged in conversation. I looked down again and dished up more food. I looked up…And she was gone.

I was immediately irrationally concerned. My eyes fell on the open pool and I felt cemented to my seat. My head reprimanded my overreaction. My heart telling a different story. I asked my husband: “Where is Juneldè?”  At exactly the same time he uttered the same question.  I asked him to look in the pool. The urgency in my voice surprised me, but propelled him from his seat.  I didn’t understand my angst, as I could see the tranquil pool from where I sat.  My husband walked slowly towards the pool, until he reached the deep end corner. He exclaimed: “O no” in a tone of voice I have never heard from him before.

He jumped into the water and our miniature maltese started barking hysterically.

We can never be sure, but from collaboration we estimate that it was only two minutes since we last saw her until she was found.  Two minutes too long, two minutes too late. Two minutes that changed everything.

I wrote this following  piece at the fourth year anniversary of that day.  It touches on the subject of time. The clock that is ticking down our seconds, moments, our hours and years of everyday borrowed time:

Time has a way of not asking permission before moving on…4 Years, 4 YEARS! How can it be? Years filled with tears, pain, anguish, anger, grief; so much grief. Also years filled with healing, hope, grace and love, so much love. I am forever changed by that day, that moment your dead body was lifted out of the water. I am no more. And yet I have become so much more…My voice have become softer, my determination to speak out quieter. This life is so fragile, our souls so easily wounded, yet our Spirits are strong, resilient and utterly connected to Him who gave us life. I cry for what happened to you and our family that day, 4 years ago. Yet I praise Him for granting us more time with you. Your body is broken, but your essence fills our house! We live on borrowed time…4 years…4 YEARS!

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18 thoughts on “Two minutes too long

  1. Madre Smith says:

    Wow……..jy en jou gesin is vir ons n inspirasie!!!dankie vir die deel…ek weet dit vat guts….bly ek kon julle ontmoet xxx

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    1. Ek hoop ons kan julle weer November maand by Sondela sien!

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  2. Lenie Lubbe says:

    Wat ‘n inspirasie!! Hoop ek kry die geleentheid om jou te ontmoet!! Was gister by Braam Klopper se aanbieding by Collage Gemeente. Ek verneem dat jy daar sou wees, maar weens die padblokasies jy dit nie kon maak nie!! Dalkies in November by die BDA op Sondela kry ons daai geleentheid!! Blessings!!

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    1. Ja ai, die staking het my Woensdag by die huis gehou. Ek hoop ook ons kan mekaar November ontmoet!

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  3. Chérie Schutte says:

    So mooi geskryf…jy is waarlik ‘n inspirasie vir so baie!

    Junelde is so kosbaar

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    1. Cheriè, en julle is voorwaar so integrale deel van Juneldè se beter word en emosionele herstel!

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  4. Emmerentia Boshoff says:

    Julle is vir ons ook ‘n inspirasie Rhonel, bly James hulle het die voorreg gehad om julle te ontmoet

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    1. Emmie, ek is jammer dat julle ook hierdie swaar pad moet loop…

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  5. Amanda says:

    Ek sit en huil soos ek lees. Ai as ons maar net een kans gehad het om tyd terug te draai. Strongs Rhonel, mag Liewe Jesus jou styf vashou veral die dae wat dinge te veel raak xxx

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    1. Dankie Amanda…God is voorwaar my sterkte wanneer ek op my swakste is ( wat eintlik elke dag is). Hy is goed!

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  6. Elmari says:

    Kan my net indink hoe seer dit moet wees. Mag julle God se liefde en vertroosting daagliks ervaar.

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  7. Natalie says:

    It’s been 24 years since my precious daughter fell into our swimming pool and I know the feeling of dread on the anniversary each year. But all I can say is that it does get more bearable, not easier though. Focus on surrounding yourselves with love and positive people and take small steps. Xxxxx

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    1. Natalie, I am sorry that you had to go through the same tragic experience. You are right though, it gets a little more bearable every day. Thanks for the advice, especially from someone who understands firsthand.

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  8. Kobus says:

    Hi rhonel ..ek veg deur emosiecom vir jou te skryf..al is my probleme n hele hoofstuk se skryfwerk..nogtans vergeet ek daarvan en wil he jy moet weet ek sal self vir Jesus gaan vra om hulle te DRA! Op te tel en n verandering vir julle uit die hemel uit Stuur.ek was in n soortgelyke situasie net met ander omstandighede.deur alles het dit n verandering vir my lewe gebring…mag die Engele jou optel en jou vertroosting bring ek sal jul ver soek oordra na ons gebedsgroepie hou va’s hy’s nie Aleen nie..vrede en liefde kobus..sorry die trane is nou te veel…

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    1. Dankie Kobus, mag jy ook vertroosting kry en diè vrede van Hom wat alle verstand te bowe gaan. Dankie vir die bereidwilligheid om jou seer te deel en vir die gebede vir Juneldè…

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  9. Helga naude says:

    My seuntjie is oorlede in 2008. Hy het verdrink in ons eie swembad. Ek is n suster. Dit was vir my verskriklik dat ek, die neonatale sr nie haar eie kind kon red nie. Ek veg steeds elke dag om myself te aanvaar. Ek mis hom steeds so verskriklik. Watter ma laat so iets gebeur. Elke keer as ek negatiewe kommentare lees op nuusberigte skree ek in my siel ten hemele, in stilte. Die Here help my elke dag maar ek raak steeds soms lam en naar as ek daardie dag herbeleef. Ek wens ek kon net daardie paar minute uitvee. Ek wens hy was nog hier. Maar die Here het vir my ook n ander ou seuntjie gegee. Nie om hom te vervang nie. Daarvoor is hy te anders en uniek. Maar die stuk gebreekte glas gat in my hart sal nooit weggaan nie.

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    1. Helga, sjoe!!Ek is so jammer vir jou verlies. Selfvergifnis is baie moeilik, veral as jou kind onder jou toesig so iets moes oorkom😢Ek weet! Dit is asof mens dink jy verdien nie om vry te wees nie. Dankie vir die deel van jou verhaal. Mag die Here jou bly toevou in Sy liefde en vertroosting, want net Hy kan. Xxx

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