"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard"
-Winnie the Pooh
Family Herselman's journey to the unknown (unknown=Australia) began on 21 May 2012 with a confirmation text bleeping us awake at 4.21am on what was about to become one of the most memorable Monday mornings ever.
Your Visa is approved - congratulations!
We looked at each other in sheer disbelief, blinked, shrieked and then conducted obligatory pyjama dance. At this point the cats woke; the cats woke the kids and the kids woke up the rest of the neighborhood! Such excitement.
"Now what" we whispered to each other as emotions settled and said kids & cats snuck back to bed to escape the bitterly cold Port Elizabeth pre-dawn winter morning.
Now what indeed!
Our decision to put ourselves "out there" (way, way, wayyy out there) was based on a very strong desire to give our children an opportunity at a better future. It was a hard one, in retrospect probably the hardest of all our lives but the knowledge that it was the right decision kept us focussed and strong.
So back to "what now"?! We had 2 months to get our South African bums on seats on a plane heading for down under. Two months! TWO MONTHS!!!
We weren't homeowners and had very little savings but what we lacked in capital we made up for in passion, drive and a will to make it work. In our marriage, Hein is the risk taker and I am the quiet voice of reason. This situation needed a risk taker! Quiet voice of reason was sufficiently shut down.
So off we set on our mission to meet all the expectations of our sponsor and Australian Immigration Services - and there were many, all equally important and all equally expensive. The ZAR was at an all-time low (R13 to $1) and so we did what most would do (not!), we sold everything we owned - EVERYTHING!
The lounge suite paid for our medical assessments, the dining room set and TV unit for our passports and our vehicle and combined leave payouts paid for flight tickets.
What followed was a blur of activity, tears, nervous laughter and sheer panic at times (I think possibly a few flip-outs too if I'm to be honest!). It took all our combined willpower to maintain some form of normality just so the kids could see out the school term and Hein and I were able to retain the tiniest bit of sanity.
Through all this I was conscious of D-day looming.
I became painfully aware of all the "lasts". Last visit to my favorite supermarket where I had been on first name basis for many years, my hair stylist with whom I shared a long, trusted bond, friends, family, friends who became family, work colleagues and then came the day to wave goodbye to our beloved cats - I'll maybe just leave that thought right there...*insert sad emoji here*
Before you could say "down under mate" the day arrived. It was 05.15am on a very cold and bleary winters Tuesday when we arrived at the airport meeting up with scores of those wanting to share those last moments before lift-off. The goodbyes where painful, to the point of suffocation.
There we were, family of 5, one suitcase each and hearts overflowing with excitement embarking on a new life but the pull of semi-permanent goodbyes strongly tugging at our hearts.
Were we crazy? Maybe! Were we determined? Oh absolutely! Was I scared? Petrified! Did that stop us? No way, and so last week, 7 years later almost to the day of doing said pyjama dance, Hein and I sat our citizenship tests. Applications finalised and ceremony pending we are soon to have the honour of becoming Australian Citizens.
Reliving our journey has reminded me of the importance of life experiences and stories of everyone crossing our path daily. Sometimes stories are wonderful, uplifting and full of colour – they are bold in their experiences and rich in value. It’s easy to resonate and identify with beautiful stories.
But we also know that not everyone's story is the same. Some may not be as colourful, as memorable or even stand out at all. They could be painful and scarring. Something we want to get away from and forget. But, as with good stories, these ones also add to who we are, our tapestry and our individuality.
I choose to always be mindful and respectful of everyone’s story – the whole story, even the hidden parts of it, always celebrating the blessing of having the person in my life. The whole person…even the hidden parts.