In Loving Memory: Petronella (Troena) Maria DeBeers Joubert 1934-2008
A Much loved American composer, Aaron Copeland, wrote a song set to the music of Irish immigrants who came to America. The song, “Simple Gifts” says in part:
‘Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free,
‘Tis a gift to come down where you ought to be..
My mother-in-law, Troena DeBeers Joubert, (Ma), reminded me of this song, which all first year voice students learn. She was one of the sweetest ladies I have ever known. She was almost child-like, and I do not mean in a mental deficiency way.
Like a child, she loved this beautiful world, she loved her boys and her grandchildren and she especially loved her animals. She always had a house full of them, and a garden full of little sanctuaries to help nurse injured animals. Dogs, guinea fowl and all sorts of birds and things came and went in her house, as she left the doors open for them. Sleeping in that mountain top home in Somerset West , South Africa, just outside of Cape Town, I worried about snakes which might have crawled in when no one was looking.
But that was how she shared her heart - her Simple Gifts.
She even had such a lovely, child-like, sing-songy voice, and I have saved it on our answering machines from times when she would call.
Ma passed that tenderheartedness and kindness on to at least one of her children, my husband, Pierre, whose character, wisdom and patience is far greater than I deserve. I see Ma in him every day that we are together.
I have always loved listening to he and his three brothers tell the stories of their childhood, climbing where children should not climb, blowing things up, including the garage once, racing down the hill on some home fashioned contraption, always with wheels and some sort of engine - to go flying through the air and land, skinning, scrapping, cutting, bruising, and occasionally to seeing stars.
I have always marveled at how this gentle woman could have raised four boys, all born in almost as few years, and yet still managed to keep her wits about her.
As the four boys grew into teenage hood and then into adulthood, she and Pa, (Ferddie, which is short for Ferdinand), began riding BMW Motorcycles on long weekend adventures, and were even members of a BMW Riding club. For seven years running, they won the trophy for being the oldest couple on the BMW Circuit in South Africa, a feat they were both quite proud of.
But about fifteen years ago, they had to stop riding because Pa had developed serious heart problems. Always a Marathon runner, it was quite a shock when he had to have a quadruple bi-pass. About seven years later, again, another quadruple bi-pass.
So at his age of 77, we have always thought that the call we would get in the middle of the night would be from my Ma.
But as is often the case, women, mothers and wives, always worry about every one else, and take care of everyone else, and they slip away before everyone else. So it was with Ma Joubert.
In March when my husband went home to visit and take care of things around the house for his mom and dad, something he did twice a year if the money was there, he sat with her as he always did, to go over things to do when that day for Pa finally came. When he came back, he was troubled, and he told me that he wondered if his mom were sick, because this time she told him that Pa might outlive her. It troubled him, and he had mentioned it several times since March.
Indeed, during one of my long talks with my sister-in-law his week since Ma died, she told me that when they had gotten to Ma & Pa’s, after the doctor had given my father-in-law a sedative, he could still not sleep, worried about what Ma’s will might say about special funeral requests. They looked in the vault, the looked in the desk, and they were beginning to pull things out from the closet, when one of the aunts found the will, sitting neatly on top of Ma’ needlepoint.
Ma knew she was sick. The autopsy on Thursday revealed a massive stroke. She may not have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, but she knew something was wrong. She had even been to the doctor on Monday, though, and her BP was fine.
But she knew.
And, being careful that everyone would have everything right where they needed it, she laid her will on top of her needle point, before going out to take care of her chores early Wednesday morning.
This world is poorer for the loss of Troena DeBeers Joubert. But my life will always be richer for having known her. My life has been blessed by this smart, funny, strong but Elegantly Simple Woman.