Daniel the fisherman: A South African story


I have a school friend called Carol who has lived out of the country since the mid 1970s but has returned often since the 1990s. Recently her mother died. She had been living at a frail care facility down on the southern Cape coast and had been looked after with loving gentleness by wonderful care-givers.  The funeral was on the Friday, the cremation followed and Carol received the ashes on the Monday, the day before she was due to fly back ‘home’.  She, her sister and the caregiver took ‘Mom’s ashes’ to the shoreline at the mouth of a river.

Finally realizing that the box was sealed not with a hinged lid but with screws, battling against a vigorous coastal wind, clutching the flowers to be sent out to sea with ‘Mom’s ashes’, and teetering on uneven rocks, all presented their own challenges under the emotional circumstances.  Nearby was a local fisherman who was watching all this with interest. He came up and asked them if they were wanting to scatter ashes. After accepting that they didn’t want to bury the ashes in their garden, he helped to open the box with his bait knife which he stabbed into the sand to clean.


He watched them go through the ritual from a respectful distance, and then came forward and quietly tapped Veronica, the care-giver, on her shoulder and asked “Have you said a prayer?” Veronica said, “We will say the Lord’s Prayer”.  My friend Carol has the long-lasting memory of standing on the edge of the sea with her sister, and Veronica, who had cared so lovingly for her mother for the last 6 years, and a fisherman called Daniel – hitherto a complete stranger – all holding hands, with bowed heads and bidding her beloved Mom a final farewell.

It is these connections on such a deep human level that make this country so extraordinary.

And there are many more stories like this.

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