In Memorium – Dr Sindisiwe Van Zyl – 1976-2021
I’ve spoken (at length) about the not so great side of social media. The way it makes you feel less than, or perhaps triggers your impostor syndrome, how addictive it is, what a waste of time and words (My God, you could’ve written three more novels if you’d just stayed off Twitter) how it leaves you feeling anxious and depressed and you’re not sure why. It IS all those things but it also has a wonderful side, which I guess is why we keep tweeting and posting and Instagramming and Tiktokking (is that even a word? It is now). It connects you to people you may never have met IRL (in real life).
One of the people it connected me to was Dr Sindisiwe Van Zyl, more popularly known as Dr Sindi.
I don’t think I ever met Sindi IRL (unless she was at Sue Nyathi’s launch of The Gold-Diggers?) but really, I didn’t need to. I felt like I knew her from her wonderful tweets about her husbae, Marinus and her beloved kids, the Caramellos. Sindi was not famous when I first started interacting with her on Twitter, she was just this warm, approachable person who dished out advice to all of us and supported our endeavours. She bought a copy of my last book as a gift for someone and posted about it and I know she did that for loads of other writers too. She really didn’t have to, but that’s how she was.
She was kindness personified.
We shared a mutual love of Woolies and ichampopo (whenever I use this word in a script, I think of her), and she adored Le Creuset and Thula Sindi frocks (preferably with pockets). Yes, she enjoyed the finer things in life but she was also completely down-to-earth. For example, she was thrilled when they got a house with a swimming pool for the Caramellos and she spoke about her problems with getting into debt earlier in her life which we could all relate to.
I DM’d her twice for advice when I didn’t know whom to turn to – once when a dear friend with breast cancer was struggling to get herceptin through her medical aid, and again last year just as we went into Lockdown. I had a staff member who was sick and I wasn’t sure if they had Covid and all the helplines for Covid just rang and rang, and I was beside myself and Sindi calmed me down and told me what to do.
And suddenly it was a year later and Sindi was the one with Covid and unable to breathe and all we could do was tweet that we loved her and keep praying and hoping. I was honestly so relieved when Marinus sent out that appeal a week ago, asking for donations to help with her medical bills.
At last, we could do SOMETHING. At last, we could repay a small fraction of what she had done for us. It was an honour and a privilege to be able to contribute our few rands to the appeal, to be able to spread the word and get other people to chip in too.
The money came flooding in, because that’s how much she was loved. Corporates like Woolies were only too happy to contribute. Soon the fund was sitting at a million and a half rand and we felt a sense of relief.
Surely, it would be just a few more weeks and Sindi would be okay and back on Twitter, chatting to us all?
It was not to be.
I woke up last Saturday morning to the news that Sindi was no more, our favourite Twitter doc had passed on from this world. I cannot describe how sad I was, it was like I had lost a close family member. But what comforted me was that there were so many people on Twitter who felt the same, just about everyone had a Sindi story to tell of how she had helped them, and we all grieved together.
She had hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers but she ALWAYS responded to our DMs. She was available to us all, and although she was a committed Christian, whatever we’d been up to, she never judged us. The world is a much poorer place without her, we will miss her terribly but she will live on in the good work that she did and through her beautiful children.
I have this book called No Matter What by Debi Gliori which I read to my own children when their granny died. This is for Sindi’s beloved Caramellos, Nandi and Manie:
‘Small said, “But what about when we are dead and gone, will you love me then, does love go on?”
Large held Small snug as they looked out at the night, at the moon in the dark, at the stars shining bright. “Small, look at the stars, how they shine and glow, some of the stars died a long time ago. Still they shine in the evening skies, for you see Small, love like starlight never dies.”’
LOVE NEVER DIES.
My deepest condolences to Marinus, Nandi and Manie, and everyone that knew and loved Sindi.
A foundation is being set up to carry on supporting the causes that were close to Sindi’s heart, I will be posting details about it in due course.
We love you, Sindi and we will never forget you.
Postscript: the day after Sindi passed away, we received news that author, Phumlani Pikoli had died. I then found out via a tweet that one of the writers on our show, Nas had had some of his illustrations included in Phumlani’s first book The Fatuous State of Severity. Nas passed from Covid earlier this year, I’ve been thinking about him because I was issuing the final version of his last script this week. So much loss. It’s been a tough week.
Sending love to you all, because at the end, that’s what matters.