Let Go of Grudges
Dealing with guilt is something that 17-year-old Caleb Baker has learned to work through. He tells us his story of how he learned not to hold onto grudges, through a painful process.
Caleb’s earliest memories of growing up was living in the Western Cape town of Atlantis where he attended school until Grade 3. His parents were married and he was the last born to three siblings, two sisters (16) (10) and a brother (6).
“My mother was amazing, life was not easy but she made sure we got everything we needed. Our family struggled financially, my dad worked but didn’t allow my mom to work.”
“I was the ‘laat lammetjie’* my sisters and brother were a lot older than me. My eldest sister got married and moved with her husband to Kraaifontein. Growing up she was the sister who would put me to sleep and spend lots of time with me. My mom said that I would think that my sister was my mother. She would also tell me that she would give my sister a 50c and she would buy me lots of sweets and nothing for herself. I was closer to her because she treated me like I was her world. When she moved out I missed her, but she would always visit and buy me stuff, like a teddy bear double my size named Preston – I still have it.”
“Something I remember clearly was that my sister was always ill. She was diabetic and when I would sleep there I know that she would take lots of medication and inject herself (insulin).”
Caleb says that regardless of his sister’s illness she always took time to spend with him and when he spent time with her he always felt like he belonged, “she made me feel welcome. Her husband was great as well, my whole family liked him.”
When Caleb turned ten his parents separated, he says he was too young to remember why, but all he remembers was that the family needed to move.
Caleb, his mom, sister and brother moved to Hanover Park and lived with his aunty (dad’s sister).
“We stayed in a two-bedroom-flat with my aunty, her husband and their two kids (one was a baby and the other was 12). We shared one room and my aunty and her family shared the other. I was still very young, I didn’t know what was going on. I enjoyed staying there because there were more people to play with.”
When Caleb turned 12 his family moved from Hanover Park to Newfields.
“Financially things improved when everyone in the family started working. At the time my mom, brother and sister were all working and I was the only one at school. We stayed in a three-bedroom house it was a lot better than Hanover Park. I could finally get the dog I wanted.”
A few months later, Caleb’s sister, her husband and their child moved in.
“Diabetic all her life, in and out of hospital often, my sister moved in because her health was deteriorating.”
This presented Caleb with some challenges.
“For the first time in my life I was getting used to having my own space, I suppose people get spoiled easily. When they moved in, I felt they had invaded my home. I no longer had the space to do what I needed and I couldn’t do my projects. It took a lot to get used to the new situation and I felt frustrated. I had to share a room with my brother – we didn’t really get along, he was six years older than me – my sister shared a room with my mom and my other sister shared a room with her husband and daughter.”
As time passed, Caleb and his sister would distance from each other.
“One day, my niece (5) slammed my bedroom door, opening and closing it, while I was reading, so I screamed and told her to go away and get out of my room. My eldest sister (her mom) was in the room next door and she came into my room shouting because she didn’t like the way I had spoken to her daughter. Instantly, we were screaming at each other and letting all our frustrations out. The argument ended when I was shouting at her to keep her child away from me and she walked out of the room.”
“After that we stopped talking to each other, we probably felt hurt and misunderstood by each other. There was silence for a month and a few weeks. We would sit around the TV but wouldn’t talk, we just avoided and ignored each other completely.”
At that time, Caleb’s sister became very sick. “She was rushed to hospital, she was swollen and was in pain. She wasn’t one to complain and she told my mom that she was fine, but you could see her veins coming out of her legs.”
“She stayed in hospital for about a week. I learned later that the doctors told her that she didn’t have long to live and that she can stay in hospital, live a little bit longer and be more comfortable or she can go home. She chose to come home and spend time with her family.”
Caleb, 12 at the time, had seen his sister sick before, “I didn’t take it seriously because I had seen it before. Like when I would visit her in Kraaifontein, she would look normal then the next morning her eyes would be swollen shut.”
“She was at home for a few weeks and my mommy told me that she is very sick and that I should spend time with her, but I refused because I was angry. I grew up seeing my sister being sick, it became a normal thing that I did not worry about.”
“We never spoke, but I would hear her singing from my room – even though she was in pain.”
Caleb says that when she died he took a while to accept it.
“I woke up the morning, and saw my mom sitting with her friend (Aunty Sofie), they were both in the dining room crying. I looked at them crying and I walked to the kitchen to make breakfast. I heard my mom’s friend whispering that she thinks that I don’t know what was happening, then she came over and told me my sister had died. I was feeling normal and just said okay. I just walked into my sister’s room and looked at her, she was laying on the bed – she looked like she was sleeping.”
A week later at the funeral, Caleb noticed a piece of ice in her nose and it just hit him that she was gone.
“Her skin was blueish. Before they closed the casket, it just hit me. I went to sit down on my own, and kept thinking I am not going to see her again. I kept asking myself why I didn’t talk to her. I felt guilty and very sad.”
“After the funeral, everybody was talking about how great my sister was. I kept thinking about the good times we had together and what an idiot I had been in her last days.”
Slowly Caleb has learned to forgive himself, “I miss my sister every day but I know that beating myself about a conversation we never had, is not going to bring her back. I know I will see her one day, until then I need to continue living life.”
In conclusion, Caleb says: “It is easier for people to hold on to grudges than to say sorry or to forgive. I learned this lesson a very hard way. I have learned that keeping grudges is a waste of time and a waste of life. I now forgive fast, especially with my loved ones, because I don’t know what can happen tomorrow. Life is fragile, one must never forget to treat people as if today is the last time you might see them.”
Caleb is a Leaders’ Quest participant, an intervention offered by Salesian Life Choices.
*laat lammetjie – a child born many years after its siblings