On Monday 24 January 2011 my brother said goodbye. He spent time speaking to his friends, he sent me a BBM telling me he loved me, he told to my brother and my mother too.
He has left a hole in so many peoples hearts.
How do you summerise a life?
I can never do him justice here but I will try.
Cliff was a surprise. Born just 15 months after our brother Matthew. He arrived into this world like he did everything else in his life, on his own terms. 6 weeks early. He was a breach baby, sitting the entire pregnancy under my moms ribs, when he was born his head was kind of squashed flat on top, he looked like ET, he used to stick his finger out the blankets too and we would say ‘ET phone home’, the nurses were not impressed with us.
Cliff took his time reaching mile stones. He crawled for ages before walking and he only spoke when he was good and ready to speak. Stubborn doesn’t even begin to describe him as a child.
He was a bit of a pyromaniac and when we moved out of our childhood home my mom walked out of his room with a PnP packet full to the brim of lighters and matches he had stashed away in every nook and cranny of his room.
Cliff was born to be an engineer, he used to take apart anything mechanical, phones, computers, calculators. He would inspect the parts and put them back together again. I also recall him creating elaborate ‘alarm’ systems in his room consisting of string and bells and pulleys.
My brother was an accomplished violinist, although in the beginning we all fled the house when he practiced. He even had his photo in the local paper, standing proudly with his violin.
He was an animal lover always, especially cats as a child. He collected many many stuffed kitty cats. His favourite was a white kitty that meowed when you pushed its tummy. Eventually it needed to be washed and my mom put it in the machine. When it came out it didn’t meow anymore, it kind of gurgled. Cliff thought it was hilarious. We always had dogs and cats growing up and they flocked to Cliff. He lavished attention on them. He could never stand to see an animal in distress and would have rescued as many dogs and cats as he could if he had been able to. I remember the first time he showed me Cedric. This lanky, scruffy pup, it was already sitting on his lap in the car, looking up at him with adoring eyes.
My brother and I could have been twins. In fact most people who met us for the first time made that mistake. In reality Cliff was almost 8 years younger than me. We had the same smile and both looked like our dad. Cliff looked so much like my dad, I actually remarked on it a week or so ago, he had smiled at me and I saw my dad so clearly in him. Im kicking myself now, On Saturday Paul took a photo of me and I was grinning that Hoffmann grin, I made him delete it, I wish I hadn’t, I looked just like Cliff in it. Paul agreed, he said I was pretty, I quipped that ‘yes, I was pretty and Cliff was pretty ugly’. Cliffy would have howled with laughter at that.
Cliff and I had a special greeting, we would bump fists then hug. One day Paul mentioned that Cliff was ‘fisting’ his sister. We looked at each other, both went ‘Eeeeewww’ and promptly changed our greeting. We would make like we were going to bump fists, then at the last second move to the side and knock elbows instead before hugging. My heart breaks over and over every time I realise that we wont ever do that again.
It was so rare that Cliff would stand still for a photo, he HATED having his photo taken and most of the photos I have of him his hand is in the way, or he is ducking down. Im so glad I found so many photos on my compter of his.
Cliffy was the ultimate friend. When he had his accident last year, we were so in awe of the constant stream of visitors that came to the hospital. Eventually the nurses just gave up trying to limit visitors or keep them within visiting hours. His funeral was epic, so so so many people. Each one of them said that they had lost their best friend. He was always there for everyone. He was a great listener but seldom took his own advice.
His work within the community with CSO/CAP as well as with the SAPS was typical of him. He was a hero through and through, whether he drew his weapon or not, he was willing to put his life on the line for others without a second thought. Its ironic that the gun that he used to save my mothers life during an armed robbery, the gun he used to protect others is what took his life. I think he would have called it a kind of poetic justice.
Who is going to sit with a shot gun and scare my daughter’s boyfriends half to death, who is going to play rough and tumble with my son?
There are so many more stories, so many more anecdotes, they come to me when Im not at my computer, I smile and laugh out loud when I think of them, then when I sit here they have left me. Perhaps I will write another post when I remember them all. Perhaps they are meant to be private remembrances.
**Cliffs best best friend and soulmate wrote a post, please take a moment to read and to see how amazingly she honoured my brother.
I love you brother. More than you could ever have known. I take comfort that wherever you are now, you are at peace. Dont stop watching over me Cliffy. And dont drink all the whiskey, save some for me, one day we will toast L’Chaim together.