Gilly’s Way

It has been very hard to write about my mom and place her in the past tense as I am still struggling to believe that she is no longer physically present. It is also difficult to try and put into words the ‘lightness of being’ that Gilly was in our lives. There are few people on this earth who have the kind of heart, kindness, generosity, patience, understanding, trust, empathy and unconditional love that she had, not just for us but for life and for others.

I have come to call these traits ‘Gilly’s Way’ and they are characteristics that we are all attempting to incorporate in to our lives. It is with awe that we regard Gilly and with admiration as to how she managed to do everything that she did and always with the biggest smile. She looked at the world with amazement and would burst into song or start espousing poetry, inspired by everyday wonders. Lying in the sun, reading a book to one of her adored grandchildren, identifying a tree or flower, dancing in the rain, just seeing us when we hadn’t seen her for a couple of weeks. She could never do enough to try and make sure we were all happy, always offering her ear, a true listener who heard what we tried to say without passing judgement. Mom offered sage advice – taking into account the big picture and having an innate trust in the universe that helped us see a way forward.

People who only met Gilly once have written to us to say how she touched their lives in that one encounter. She had that effect on people as you couldn’t help but feel the genuine warmth that emanated from her. Almost 300 people came to her farewell including all the security guards from the apartment building where she lived, she knew them all by name and knew their life stories – this was her way. A beggar on the street, whom Gilly passed by regularly, still lights a candle for her and weeps when you mention her name. Gilly had the gift of always speaking with a smile in her voice, which stopped you in your busy day and made you smile back. She magically made you feel seen and acknowledged – something rare in our busy pressured lives…

Mom gave me strength and courage to face each day. When I felt like I couldn’t take another step out of the car or get another thing done, she would find a last bout of energy and bound away to finish the task. She would still skip and laugh and swing on gates and we would hold hands and delight in the fact that we could still feel like kids. Her sense of humour saw us through everything. Sometimes she giggled and at other times she laughed so hard I would need to remind her to breathe, her mouth wide open and her eyes tearing up with mirth.

There is so much I miss about her but most of all I miss just knowing that she was in the world, an angel among us, always there.

May we all learn to have more of Gilly’s Way. May we be a bit kinder, a bit more generous of spirit and a bit more present in our everyday lives. May we laugh more, trust more, tolerate more. May we smile when we speak and appreciate every little thing of beauty in our incredible world. Mostly we need to worry less about things that are unimportant and love more.

Thank you mom for your beautiful way…it is the greatest gift you could ever have left us. You always said that you ‘live on in the hearts of those who love you’ and we hold you so close in ours.

Gilly had a great love for Leshiba. She would hike for hours with dad, appreciating the magic in everything she saw. She adored the staff and they adored her back. Most of all she loved to sit quietly in a beautiful spot – enraptured and inspired and write poetry. The essence of her wonder is reflected in the poem below.


Oh Leshiba you sing to me of sandstone rock

And mountains clad in green,

Of earth red soil

And secret streams and waterfalls.

You sing to me of mystical mornings in the clouds,

And robins heralding the dawn,

Of orange moons and stars

And sunsets colouring the sky in rays of pinks and mauves.

Oh Leshiba you sing to me of forest walks

And leaves bedecked with old man’s beard;

Of spiders webs strung inbetween like gossamer on fairy wings;

And lichen fossilised in stone.

You sing to me of the flowering Cape Chestnut tree

And blossoms on the Wild Pear;

Of ancient figs inviting you to climb their boughs

And share their healing energy.

Oh Leshiba you sing to me of sheltering caves hewn by wind and rain,

Whose walls tell tales of those who passed here once.

Of cliffs where eagles wheel and soar and swoop

To snatch their unsuspecting prey.

You sing to me of a myriad coloured butterflies,

And the francolins raucous warning cries,

Of families of guineafowl strutting importantly along

And the liquid melodious song of the Blackheaded Oriole.

Oh Leshiba you sing to me of whispering grass,

Where antelope and zebra pass and snakes slither shyly away;

Of waterholes where rhino wallow and gentle giraffe

follow you through big brown eyes and curly lashes.

You sing to me of the elusive leopard, mongoose and elephant shrews

And leguwaans lazing in the sun;

Of monkeys shouldering their young

And baboons that bark and mark their territory.

Oh Leshiba you sing to me of roads that lead to mountaintops

Bedecked with sculpted Kiaat trees and proteas in bloom;

Of vygies richly painting the stony ground

And where on a clear day you can see forever…

By Gill Rosmarin

Filed under: People