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A very close friend of mine recently asked me to speak on behalf of the family at
her mom's memorial service. My immediate thought was that there was no way I
could ever do that. To be honest, I really didn't want to do it but I didn't know
how to refuse.

Being physically dependent on other people, my friends have been exceptionally
good to me – often stretching the boundaries of friendship beyond what would
be normally acceptable. Being fiercely independent in nature this often leaves me
feeling forever indebted and guilty.

I answered her SMS plea with a simple "Ok".

You see, Henda isn't just a close friend – she is now, family, along with her two
beautiful daughters and her husband. She came into my life as a complete
stranger at a time when I was probably at my lowest point after my accident and
subsequent divorce.

Henda is a strong, independent, talented and feisty extrovert with a heart of gold.
She literally took over the reins - taking control of renovations to my house to
make it more wheelchair friendly, landscaping my garden and decorating the
interior of my house transforming it into a home I can be proud of. She
campaigned, garnering the support of the community and she worked tirelessly –
and unselfishly – and continues to do so – to help my friends and family pick up
the pieces of my shattered life enabling me to rebuild a new life in a new body.

Nothing I can never do can ever repay her.

So, how could I possibly refuse?

Speaking at Jeannette Esterhuizen's memorial service was probably one of the
more difficult things I've ever had to do in my life.

 Some will argue that since I am an inspirational speaker I should be used to
speaking in public. I have shared the intimate details of my life with thousands of
people across the country but somehow, speaking to an audience of strangers is
far easier to cope with emotionally than baring one's soul in front of close friends
and family in a church.

 The situation was made worse by the fact that Henda's dad – Leon Esterhuizen –
had died just 22 days earlier. Henda had lost both her parents, to illness, three
weeks apart. Emotions were raw and were already stretched to their limit. The
family had barely begun to mourn the loss of their dad and grandfather.

Now this!

 Seeing my friend, someone whom I love and care for deeply so shattered, so
overcome with grief, was extremely tough to deal with. All I wanted to do was to
take her pain away. All I wanted to do was to wrap my arms around her and sob
with her – not only for her, but for me.

You see, I was dealing with my own little crisis – my own pain in my heart. That
very same morning I lost my little dog, Zoe, who had been a part of my life for
nearly 8 years. Two days prior she had had a stroke and sadly, she didn't make it.

Instead, I had to be brave. I had to be strong. I had to speak. I had a long list of
"thank-you"s to get through.

I was reminded again of the incredible strength and power of the mind. I'm
almost afraid to admit that I felt as if I had an out-of-body experience that
morning in the church – for fear that you may think I'm a freak for real. But, it was
amazing how my mind took over my heart that day and I simply did what I had to
do. It wasn't that I didn't feel the emotion – I did! I just couldn't allow myself to
feel it right then at that moment.

I remember that silence – as I was maneuvering my wheelchair into position
preparing to speak – it was deafening. I was aware of Henda's eldest daughter,
Monet (17) standing next to me (sniffing) holding the microphone – there was no

stand. I looked up, into a sea of grief stricken faces – red, teary eyes. I refused,
initially, to look in Henda's direction which was literally right in front of me. It was
as if someone had pulled a plug – I switched off. I was close to the end of my list
when I became aware of where I was and what I was doing. I almost lost it. I took
a deep breath and finished...

That night in the darkness, security and comfort of my own bed a lone tear
trickled down my cheek. That was the end. I sobbed for a long, long time.

A day or so later I realised what an incredible gift Henda had (unintentionally)
given me by trusting me enough to speak at the memorial service of the most
important person in her life. She had given me the privilege to be HER friend for a
change. This was something I could do for her. I was able to do something for her
that no one else (close to her) had the courage to do. Not that I was any less
close to her mom and anyone else. The sense of joy and pride I felt was

Indirectly, it was also a chance to prove that not being able to move my arms and
legs didn't make me disabled in any way. She gave me the opportunity to show
her how much she means to me and a chance to be a true friend. Not one other
person – besides the minister – was willing (or able) to speak and I was close to
Jeannette – so it wasn't as if my pain and sadness was any less than anyone else's.

I am extremely fortunate to have the support of many amazing friends - friends
who are genuine and loyal - friends who would drop everything at a moment's
notice to assist me both physically and emotionally at any time of the day or
night. However, I have come to realize that human beings are selfish by nature.
They will not continue to put time and energy into a relationship unless they are
benefiting as well. Thus, I know now that friendship is not measured by the
physical acts people perform for one another but that it certainly goes much
deeper. I have learnt that we need to take the time to listen to others especially
in their time of need. Fortunately, for my friends, I am a captive audience because
of my circumstances and therefore a good listener. I've learned that I still have
the ability to be a good friend even though I am paralyzed from my neck down.

Most people don't have the time to listen to one another. Some don't bother to
make the time – sadly. Often communication is broken down which can be to the
detriment of some relationships. Fortunately for my friends, time is a gift that I
now have!

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