After my accident, whilst in a coma, Absa, set up an account for me. They generously deposited money into this and let it be known that it was available for public donations towards my medical expenses. Twenty-five years later, I am still banking with Absa!
Recently I wrote to the Chief Financial Officer and I thanked him for such an incredibly thoughtful gesture. I suggested that perhaps I could be an “ambassador” for Absa. He put his Head of Marketing in touch with me who said that they were working on one or two ideas and would be in touch shortly. Soon afterwards, I received an e-mail saying that Absa would like to send down three people to George to meet me and discuss a future project.
I was most intrigued.
They flew down to George and met me at my flat. A lovely, sparkling woman named Lauren, a wise, smiling and I was to discover gently, perceptive man, Hennie, and Wayne with his mop of curly hair and amused eyes that missed nothing. They took me out to lunch where we simply got to know a bit about one another. The next day, Hennie and Wayne came to my apartment and literally grilled me. Question after question about every aspect of my life. And no, I didn’t discuss my sexual proclivities with them but everything else! Eventually Wayne said that Absa would love to work with me and make a film which would be shown on their website and YouTube. They would discuss everything they had learnt about me and come up with a scenario to film. They would send it to me for my approval.
I said goodbye with a light heart. I would really enjoy working with them!
A week later, their proposal arrived. They wanted me to go back to The State Theatre and perform a poem on the Opera Stage. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I read it once more. Yes, that was exactly what they wanted!
I began to shake as the tears started flooding my eyes. How could they expect me to return to that nightmare of a place? It was there that I had fallen eighteen metres offstage onto concrete below. It was at The State Theatre that my life as I knew it, was stripped from me completely. It was in that place that Gaynor the actress had been killed. I had lost my ability to hear, sixty percent of my eyesight, my singing voice had not even waved as it disappeared forever. I had been given the unwelcome spasticity on my right hand side, a disgusting limp and a mind that was no longer able to memorise lines. And they wanted me to to return to that stage and perform there. The only thing I felt I would be able to do on that Opera Stage was curl into a little ball and howl. Wolf howls, long and loud.
Shirley Johnston, the editor of my book My Plunge to Fame is a close friend and mentor. I sent her their letter and added my helpless fear which was now tinged with outrage. I didn’t get back the comforting reply I had anticipated.
Gaye, you will do it! I know you can and you will. You – who have been to hell and have come back to inspire others.
It will be confronting your worst fear, I am so aware of that. I believe that if you confront it, you will conquer it. I KNOW you will be just fine, especially with your strong faith to guide you and give you strength.
I think it will be so moving if you do the e.e.cummings poem, the one you recited at your 30th birthday – just after your accident. And the sentiment behind it is so uplifting and so positive and so apt for you, Gaynor, who should be bewailing your fate and cursing every day – and yet you continue to thank God for each amazing day in your new life since it changed so drastically.
Gaye, look at it as a gift you will be able to give to countless others. Those who are afraid to confront their own worst fears, those whose lives have been shattered and who are trying to find their own strength. I believe it is your destiny to help others who have had a raw deal. You have always inspired, you have never let anything crush your indomitable spirit. You will be standing on a stage which is merely a wooden floor. It is a place you have always loved to be. You will, I am sure, be able to put your mind into another space.This will merely be a building, a stage…..
I just wish I could be there! I unreservedly recommend you should go for it, girl!!!
Glory be, Shirley was certainly not saying anything I had expected. She was saying that I should go back. Back to that hell hole! I re-read what she had written. Inspirational, she called me. I don’t want to be inspirational. I want to be normal. Ah, but that normality was done away with during that State Theatre performance. Like it or not, I had become an inspiration to people. And here was this ‘Inspirational person’ not facing up to a fear that she had been carrying around for twenty-five years.
In my motivational talks, I speak of facing up to one’s fears. About not carrying around unnecessary baggage. Only then is one truly free. An enormous boulder of fear had been twined around my neck for twenty-five years. Fear of The State Theatre and everything it represented to me. It was a boulder that I was able to sling out of everyone’s sight so that no one was aware of it’s presence. No one except for me.
What a hypocrite I was! The ironic thing was that it was causing no one harm. Except me. How can one move freely with a boulder around one’s neck? It constantly bangs into things causing you to flinch from ricocheting pain.
One thing leaped out of Shirley’s letter at me: “…especially with your strong faith to guide you and give you strength.”
I took a deep breath. And then another. Of course. I had God with me. I often didn’t understand His plan but He never let me down. He was always there. I got the impression that He was wanting me to go back. He knew that I had unfinished business at The State Theatre.
Thank you, sweet Shirley, for that gentle reminder.
Hi there, Hennie and Wayne!
With trepidation I say: Okay, let’s go for it! If I see the stage and a feeling of unease and a dawning of fear engulf me, could we then change to the other theatre within the venue?
I look so forward to working together. We can make a film that can be looked upon as a gift to people who are afraid to confront their worst fears. Those whose lives have been shaken and are searching for the strength to continue, will be encouraged by the film we will make.
With a big smile I kiss your eyes
And so, it was back to The State Theatre. I felt hollow inside. Goodness knows what it would hold for me this time.
‘Lord, please stay close,’ I begged.