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Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 28th,
     I ran out of steam last night and this morning was running as usual but manage to transcribe the letter that my friend Gail wrote to her recently deceased husband whom we buried (cremated) yesterday. This woman, (she humbly won't admit it) was the backup for all the things we praised about the life of Gerard, who was everything they said about him. Between the two of them they raised three great young men who have been shaped and formed in the image of their father and who are positively imitating him in their own lives and families. Here is her letter:

A message from Gail Gabriel.

My Dearest Gerard,

Your death came so suddenly and shockingly to all of us. It is something we cannot question because we understand that the circumstances surrounding your death were totally part of God’s plan for you. He spared you the pain of receiving any more dialysis and any more discomfort. You have reached your heavenly destiny well before all of us, rejoicing with the angels in heaven where you are in a total state of bliss and happiness, pain free. As I prayed over you I had a vision of white galloping horses with chariots, and now I can understand it was our God sending his angels to fetch you.

The days ahead are going to be long and very difficult, especially for me, the beautiful memories we have made over all these years will sustain me in the years ahead and I know you, together with the angels in heaven,  would be interceding to the Lord for His peace and protection upon us.

The legacy you leave behind is immeasurable and cannot be compared to any person on this earth that I know. The accumulation of material wealth was never a priority and value to us.  The things that we as parents valued more than silver and gold are love, humility, kindness, joyfulness, piety and humbleness. Values which  we have firmly entrenched into the lives of our children. Thus, as a result, you were able to see the fruits of your hard work in the success of our children

Can you see all the people that have come to pay their respects? They have come from far and wide, with wonderful stories of how you have touched their lives in such profound ways. It’s amazing listening to their stories. You loved people, that was your greatest strength and at this time they are returning all that love that you established back to your family. Gerard, it is amazing to see the wonderful support of everyone at this time, young and old. So every time I scolded you about spending all that money you had on airtime, you banked it in making relationships that are being returned to us today. We will get through this time without you, with the support of all the friends that you made.

I strongly believe that children are a direct reflection of their parents. You have done an excellent job in raising them in the ways of the Lord. I will miss you terribly but every time I look at them I see you and I will be strengthened in the knowledge that your spirit of love, humility, kindness, humbleness and happiness lives on in them and their families they are building.

In 2009 God gave you back to us and I promised him that I would take good care of you. I tried to fulfill this promise to the best of my abilities. During thee years, we lived life as if every day was our last day. We had made beautiful memories together as a family. Russell and Christopher got married. You were over the moon when Zoe was born and all you spoke about every day as about Zoe and Kenzi, even though you didn’t meet Kenzi yet. She would know you because you often spoke to her and read her a story. These were precious moments that you enjoyed.  (He would read to Kenzi while she was still in the womb of his daughter-in-law. She was not born yet before he passed away.---my note—Fr. Cas.)

Your skill at playing darts earned you a reputation in the darting world that speaks volumes about you.  You transferred your skills to Karl, whom you have trained and he has already earned a spot representing South Africa at the world cup in 2008. The highest achievement every player dreams of. And now, as a young adult, he is number one in KZN and together this year, father and son are to have played for KZN in the national championships in July this year. Something you were happy about and therefore I am glad that even though your death shocked us you were happily planning till the day you died..

Thank you, my love for the best 37 yrs. of my life. We would have celebrated 34 yrs. of marriage in December. We had our challenges but we got through each one of them, and your loss is not going to be any easier, but I draw my strength from the legacy you leave behind, from the relationships you invested in and most of all from my gracious and Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ.
You, go well, my love, until we meet some day on that heavenly shore.

                                          Your loving Wife,            Gail


I will leave this blog here for now. Cas


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May 20th, 2015
     It is about 9pm and I am tired, more emotionally than physically. I went off to a funeral this morning about 9:30 and only came back about 4:30 this afternoon. It was a special funeral because I knew Gerard, the one we were burying, as well as his whole family and cousins and uncles and aunts, etc. etc. etc.
      He inherited a bad gene from his ancestors that slowly but surely destroyed his kidneys. His mom died from that as well as his brother. His sister lost her kidneys but was able to get a donor. Gerard discovered that he had that the kidney problem came to roost in him as well. He had been on dialysis for some time now. But, as I understand it, when he came home from his dialysis session last Friday (maybe Saturday) he said that he had a headache and was not feeling well. That sometimes happens after dialysis so he didn’t take it as anything special. But, in fact, it was a stroke coming on. By the time he was taken by ambulance to the hospital, not far from his home, it seemed that he had an embolism and would have to be transferred to another hospital for treatment. (I am not sure if I got all this straight). However, the ambulance had to turn back after a long way because there was no oxygen in the second ambulance. So, by the time they got what they needed and headed back to the other hospital, precious time had been wasted and that lead to a death that most likely could have been avoided. Very sad.

     The funeral was today and I have never seen a funeral like it. I arrived at the church around 9:30 thinking that the Mass would start at 10 but it was going to start at 11.00. When I arrived, there was a queue of people going out of the church and into the yard to have a last look at Gerard. That queue continued for the next hour and a half, a steady flow of people whose lives had been touched by Gerard. He was only 62 yrs. old when he died. I first got to know him when he was 14 yrs. old. A long time ago. And I have been somehow a part of the family since I first arrived in South Africa.  At the Home Mass for the family (I thought) the night before, there were several hundred people who crammed into a tiny house. And today, the church was full, as well and the courtyard and, I think, even going out into the parking lot. Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Muslims, every faith and no faith. All had been touched by Gerard. His children paid him great tribute. He was a loving father, husband, brother and friend to all. But what moved me the most was the thoughts that his wife shared on the back of the pamphlet. It is so beautiful, I want to share it with you. I know well, and love her as well, his wife Gail. She is a woman of deep, deep faith and trust in the Lord which, I believe, is helping her to cope with this tragic and sudden loss of a deeply love one. Here it is. Oops, I don't know how to make an attachment here and because it is a PDF file, I can't copy it so I will just have to type it out for you but it is worth it. However, I won't do it now as it is getting late for me but in the morning.
     I have left out many other things that have happened in the past three weeks. I know that you have been reading about the xenophobia. It is shameful and not one African that I know does not think so and is also, like me, ashamed of what happened. Some of it, yes, was a small minority of small minded people who show their prejudices and small mindedness, but some of it, too, was criminals who took advantage of the situation to attack, kill, rob, etc. But I will leave it at that for now. Good night. Cas.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Thurs. morning, May 7th, 2015

Dear Everyone,
     As most of you already know, my grand niece Katrina (daughter of my brother’s daughter Ann) and my niece Karla (Ann’s sister) got together in Cape Town to have a look around and then drive up what is known as the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth where they would catch a plane to Durban and I would meet them.  On the way they enjoyed some hang gliding, Ostrich Riding and Bunje Jumping.
     I had gone with Katrina to C.T. on Thursday, the23rd of April, made sure that she was settled in and taken care of and, with a borrowed car, went to the airport in CT to meet Karla who had flown in from California to spend a few days here. My (our) friends in CT, took very good care of us, helping us to find our way, sleeping us, feeding us, showing us around, etc. I visited a few friends and returned to Durban on Monday the 27th of April, leaving the girls to do their thing in CT.
     I had booked a Mariannhill cottage which is on the Indian Ocean for three nights, Sunday May 3rd, Mon. May 4th, and Tues. May 5th., giving the girls three nights and two days to chill out at the end of their adventures and to have a chance to jump in the comparatively warm Indian Ocean.
     However, they took longer to drive up to PE so they sent a message that they would only be arriving about noon in Durban on Monday the 4th of May. They organized a shuttle from the Durban airport to a place called Hibberdene, which is only about 8 km. from where the cottage (next to a retreat house call Coolock House, run by the Mercy Sisters). After Mass on Sunday the 3rd, I went shopping for some foodstuffs, etc. for our stay at the cottage and arrived at the cottage in the early afternoon.  I slept there that night and in the morning, checked to see that all was in readiness for their arrival that afternoon. There are two bedrooms with two beds each and three bedrooms with one queen size beds that can sleep two. I had taken one room for myself and put my things there in the room.
       They caught the shuttle about 3:30 on Mon. the 4th, and when they  arrived in Hibberdene they phoned me and I went to fetch them and brought them to the cottage called Mariannhill Mission.  By this time it was about 5:30pm.  When they arrived, that had two big suitcases, two back packs, and two like duffle bags. We just put them on the floor in the living room for the time being. I showed     them the rooms and told them, when they were ready, to pick the room or rooms they wanted. They were hungry and we decided to go out for a bite to eat nearby, which we did.
     When we came back, about 8pm, there was a full moon, the weather was quite warm and you could hear the sound of the surf. So we sat on the porch, had a drink of something and watched the moon. The even went down from the porch to take some photos of the moon. It was beautiful. About 9pm I told them that I was going to bed because I was tired so I showed them how to lock the burglar gate and the front door and went to bed.
     I was awakened by screams “Cas, Cas”, so I leapt out of bed thinking that maybe a snake had come into the house or a mouse or some other creature, and ran out of the room on my shorty pajamas only to find a man at the door with a stick in one hand and what I think was a small knife in the other hand. I shouted at him and screamed at him and shut the burglar gate and he and another outside decided to run away. They had nothing in their hands besides that stick and knife. In the meantime, when the girls were ready to get off the porch and come into the house, these guys came up and accosted them. They had gone to the kitchen to have a drink of water and one of them, when she heard the noise came back to the living room where one of them was waving this stick at her and maybe a knife as well. That is when she ran back into the kitchen and closed the door and started screaming for me. In the meantime, the thieves cleaned out the whole place. They had been watching videos they had taken with their cell phones on the big screen TV so their I-phones and cameras were on the coffee table along with all the keys to the cottage and the remote for the gate. They took these things and everything else. Of course, inside the luggage where their passports, money, credit cards, I-pads and the clothes they intended to wear. All gone.
     By the time I came out, this was all gone and I didn’t even notice of think of it until they told me what had happened. Of course I still had my cell phone and I-pad but didn’t have any numbers to phone (the sisters next door at Coolock House, the security company, the police---nothing.) So I set the security siren going figuring that someone would be there in a few minutes. It took the security company 45 minutes to get there, which obviously gave the thieves plenty of time to disappear with all the stuff into the think bush which is in the area. I also tried to phone 911 but that is not a local number and it went to someone in a place like Johannesburg where, when I tried to describe where we were, they wouldn’t understand. Eventually the police arrived from the local police station and then the sisters from next door came down with some of the priests from the Missionaries of Africa (known as the White Fathers) . I am not sure how they knew to come down but there is a back path up to the Coolock House and they used that to come to the cottage.
     In the meantime, the police got busy trying to chase anyone they saw in the dark and went up and down the area with their torches to see what they could see. The said that it was too late to get sniffer dogs and it was almost an hour later by this time. The Police were there till about three in the morning, sweating from running up and down chasing the possible thieves. The bush is thick and it is easy for anyone to hide out and hide things there and come back in the morning, when things have calmed down, and then check the loot.
     The sisters were kind enough to let us sleep up at their retreat house as we were very vulnerable in the cottage as the thieves had also stolen the keys and remote so we couldn’t take the car and leave and we couldn’t lock the house against further intrusion. Not a good situation.
     So, on Tuesday, the 5th, we spent the day doing some shopping for some basic clothing and toiletries in town, and managed to get some photos for the passports they would need. (I had phone the consulate and asked what they would need for temporary passports—their only ID’s---and they said a police report, a photo and a good bit of money. So we had to go to the police and get copies for all three of us of the police report so that they could use that to verify that they had had their passports stolen. I also needed on since I was called the complainant since I was the only one who was living in South Africa. That took most of the day. In the evening an old friend who has a restaurant had invited us for a meal and It was good for them to get out of that scene for a while. Again, the sisters were kind enough to give us a place to stay Tues. night.
     I forgot to mention that although I had phone the security company, when they came they couldn’t find the right remote so I had to get a locksmith. But before he came, two people helped to lift the gate up off the rail and slide it open enough to get my car out so that we could use it to do all the things we had to do. They put it back on the rail and when the locksmith came he was able to reprogram some remotes so that the one stolen would no longer work and I had one and gave on to the sisters as a backup.
     On Wednesday, the 6th, we left early, 6:30, with the empty suitcases which the police had found (the thieves and taken what they wan..ted and just left the empty suitcases somewhere in the bush where the police found them. We first stopped at Mariannhill to leave these things there and went straight to the consulate after printing out copies that I had on my computer of Katrina’s passport and some other things. We were there at the consulate by 9:30 and with the help of a friend whom I know who works there at the consulate (She was on one of my retreats at her school in Ixopo in about 1967 or so, and I met her on other occasions in between) we managed to get the temporary passports in about 3 hours.
     When we came back, we stopped shortly at a friend’s house who then invited us for supper (lovely curry) to kind of ease the pain .    
     I forgot to mention that the local community organized some clothing for the girls to wear and showed other signs of concern and offers to help in any way that they could. Also the police, for the first time in my life, went overboard to help us and were excellent in all ways.
     So that is the story for now. Today we take Karla to the plane early so that, if there are some problems with all these things, she has time to sort them out before the plane leaeves.
     Also, yesterday afternoon, having been starved for several days of access to the internet, one took over my computer and the other my I-pad and were on them till we went for supper and again, when we came back. They are creatures of the IT age.
     We thank the Lord that we (especially they ) are alive and well. They could have easily been raped, or stabbed or shot or beaten. NO such thing. Thank you God!


Saturday, May 2, 2015

May 3, 2015
A whole month has gone by already and here I am , once again behind the times.  America has had its Baltimore and we have had our xenophobia, both, at least partly, the result of growing and deepening frustration with their situations. In the States, the not too latent racism coming to the fore in so many instances, one after the other,  that it seems that finally people want to say that is enough , we have had it, and now we are going to mobilize and make sure that we (black Americans and all other who are also disgusted with the ongoing racism in our society, especially in our police forces) are heard loud and clear.

The same is true here with regard to xenophobia but with a different core or basis. Unemployment among black Africans is probably more that 30% especially among the youth. Lots of talk and discussions and workshops and not much action/results. There is an appalling lack of “service delivery” (flush toilets, clean water in the houses, electricity, roads, health facilities, educational needs, etc. etc. etc. It is more that 20 yrs. of independence (April 24th, 1994—now called Freedom Day) We have to stop blaming the Apartheid regime . Come on guys, it is more that 20 yrs. now. Corruption, laziness, maladministration, lots of talk and little action, have bred anger and frustration over all these years to the point where it breaks out and these ugly feelings are vented on the first persons who get in our way, the foreigners. It is like the husband who it frustrated ate work, hates the work, hates his boss, but feels trapped, year after year, and finally, one day , it all comes to a head and when he comes home, he takes his anger and frustration out on his wife and children (typical domestic violence). Then it becomes and opportunity for the criminals to cash in, after listening to the trouble-makers shouting “ kill the foreigners”. I can say, honestly, that the feeling of the vast majority of Africans is shame at what is happening. The foreigners have run away from terrible violence in their own home countries and are willing to work hard and live, as they say, on the smell of an oilrag, in order to just live in peace, which is not there in their home countries. Many of my African friends and colleagues admit
 That man are just plain lazy and it is the truth. Here is some background on the situation.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

(From a concerned person who spent all of his adult life in Zimbabwe and finally retired in his old age)
To Whom It may concern.  Having retired through illness to the UK I am nevertheless still concerned about what is happening in Africa. I have received the pastoral letters of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier OFM and the
* SACBC on the subject of Xenophobia in South Africa.
I am sorry for you all especially as Durban appears to have been the
epicentre of the problems.  I am encouraged by the positive steps taken by the Archdiocese of Durban to help those people disadvantaged in the situation.
 But I think we all have to look at long term solutions and the reasons for it.
 I was a little surprised to read the following in the statement of the SACBC:
 " We also exhort them (legal immigrants)  to expose those who are here illegally and report any criminal elements among them".
 I do not think there was understanding of the reasons for the "Illegal"
immigrants, especially those from Zimbabwe. They are like the boat
immigrants fleeing to Europe on account of poor conditions and
persecutions at home. Thousands of these migrants are dying on the way in unseaworthy boats in the Mediterranean sea. This is a much greater tragedy than the Xenophobia in South Africa. Most of these migrants are from African countries and the main sending country is Libya which is a member of the African Union.. Yet what is the AU doing to help? Its Chairman, Robert Mugabe, is at meetings in Asia instead of trying to address this problem. It is being left to the European countries to try to solve it.
 There is a very different perspective on the South Africa/Zimbabwe situation,. SA gains wealth from the present situation in Zim which imports about 8 billion dollars
worth from SA but only exports about 1.5 billion per year. Owing to years of misrule and corruption Zimbabwe is almost a failed state. There is endemic poverty and even starvation in some parts of the country and massive unemployment. These are the main reasons why there are so many Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa, many “illegally” in terms of law, but not in terms of justice.
Over the years South Africa has continued to support the Zimbabwe government and overlook its rigged elections. So it has some responsibility for the massive immigration of Zimbabweans to South Africa.
These are facts that should be discussed. SA has the levers for effective change in the region if it used them properly. The Catholic Church’s **IMBISA could be really involved here as it is both the sender and recipient of these migrants. Beware of SA trying to get client states throughout IMBISA region.
 To ask other migrants to "expose" the illegals could lead to more
 fighting. You all have my prayers and best wishes.

·         Southern  African Catholic Bishops’ Conference

·         * Inter-regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the meantime, my grand  niece, Katrina, who came out in January this year to work as a volunteer is being visited by her aunt, Karla, my niece, who flew to Cape Town from California. I flew with Katrina to CT so that I could help here get settled there for the time being and to be able to meet Karla, who flew in the next day. They did their thing, roaming around, and I re-connected with friends and confreres before flying back to Durban . It was only 3 days, but packed with meeting people.
    I think that this is enough for now or it may be another month before I manage to sit down again and update you all.
     Winter is here in the mornings (cold) but not so bad in the afternoons (nice and warm) till about 4pm. That means that the grass is not growing so fast (hooray) and it gives me a chance to do some other  garden work like pruning the trees and raking leaves and collecting dead branches, etc.

     In between I still visit people in the hospitals and attend meetings of various organizations, the last one being the NBO’s and NGO’s who have been trying to respond in various ways (food, tents, legal things, basic home needs, clothing, etc. ). I was impressed. There were more than 80 people there. Unfortunately, I was the only Catholic Priest. I am sure that there are some things that are going on in the Catholic enclave but I have heard nothing about them. I was invited by the Metodist Bishop to forget preaching last Sunday and get away from the pulpit and take my congregation among those who have been so badly treated and mix with them and see what kind of help they need.  Anyway, that is enough for now. See you again later but hopefully not so long from now. Cas