The first days with (-out) you

Professor Botman passed away in the middle of 2014 – in the middle of my life – in the middle of everything. Suddenly.

I have written the story of learning to live after this life-changing event. This event was and continues to be so deeply and widely felt, not only by our extended family, but also by the global church community, Stellenbosch University and higher education as well as the broader South African, African and global society.

The events take place from the moments before I realise that Russel has died until the day of the first anniversary of his death – the lapse of one year.

This writing experience gave me the opportunity to reflect the unfolding tragedy of Prof Botman’s death and documenting the days, weeks and months thereafter. Included in these documents are, sympathy cards, tributes, calls, visits, faith and community based services and memorials, sermons, liturgies, media broadcasts, print media publications, a book of tributes and so much more. Yes, and memories.

It also included the formalizing of the Russel Botman Bursary Fund he established on his 60th birthday just some months before. The first bursaries were granted in 2015. These students at Stellenbosch University were afforded bursary opportunities and all completed all of them their studies successfully and are now respected professionals in their respective fields. With this as a reminder, please be encouraged to continue to donate to the Bursary Fund.

It took me five years of learning to live without Prof Botman before I could start writing about it. I must confess that it took some courage to put my views and understanding into public scrutiny. The book is being launched on 1 August 2022 as part of the Artscape Women’s Humanity Arts Festival. It was originally written in Afrikaans under the title, Sedert die dood ons skei and translated into English as With (-out) You by Belinda Jackson. Other launches will follow at Stellenbosch University, Suzie’s Coffee Shop, Rondebosch United Church, Free State University and Uniting Reformed Church in Heatherdale, Bloemfontein.

The first year taught many of us so many lessons to not only honour the legacy of a true son of the African soil, but to keep on learning from him to face our daily societal challenges.