For Fredo there are a few reasons why the month of October is so significant! One of them is that it is the month in which the fruit trees in South Africa brings forth their blossom and signals the start of a new year’s harvest.
More importantly though, for Fredo and Janey, it is birthday month. Fredo’s birthday is on 25 October, and he often refers to October as the most beautiful month. As famous South Africa writer, C. Louis Leypoldt, stated in his famous poem, Oktober Maand, that this “is the month of October, the most beautiful month.”
Somehow the Afrikaans words – Die mooiste, mooiste maand! – is not done justice by the English language. What is important about this month is that it is the month of the year when nature’s cycle changes – when flowers abound, when the birds sing that little bit louder, when the fruit trees form there new fruit.
Perhaps the most important reason why October will be that most beautiful month – forever in our memories – is the fact that it is also the birthday month of that famous South Africa Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In fact, both Archbishop Tutu and his wife Leah, celebrate their birthdays in early October.
For Fredo, or Boetie (my little brother) as Arch often calls him, October has become birthday month. Birthday wishes from Arch and Mama Tutu would be preceded by Fredo and Janey’s wishes for the Tutu’s.
Tutu’s special place in peoples lives
From this one can deduct that the Tutu’s play a very important role in our lives. The Arch is the ultimate survivor and has been living with prostate cancer for more than 20 years. We got to know him in the mid-2000’s when Arch agreed to travel with Fredo to the tiny village of Citrusdal and the farm of the Van der Merwe family. There the Arch would bless the citrus crop on a farm partly owned by workers. Arch agreed to go along provided Fredo would pick him up and bring him home safely.
Fredo walked into the St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town before seven that morning. He was told to meet the Arch there at eight. Because of morning traffic, Fredo did not want to take any chances and be late. After all, you do not want to be late when you meet the Arch for the first time.
Fredo found a seat in the back of the room where the Arch was busy with his once-a-month Friday morning communion service with his staff and a few visitors. Fredo had hardly sat down, when Arch called to his secretary, Levinia Crawford-Brown, and told her there was someone in the audience he had not met yet.. Fredo was asked to come forward and join one of the seats in the front. Arch was told that this was in fact his guide for the day.
The most amazing thing is that on that July morning Fredo was the only Afrikaans speaking person in the audience – yet on that day the Arch conducted his communion service in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans. That is also the day that “Brother Fred” became “Boetie” and a great friendship was started. Fredo never heard the Arch complaining about the trials and tribulations that he went through. In fact when Fredo also was diagnosed with prostate cancer some eight years later, the Arch became his guiding light and helped him through a most difficult stage in his life.
Fredo has now, according to his doctor, beat the big C. The Arch has miraculously survived to see his 90th birthday. “I think God wants me to do a few more things,” Arch once told Fredo. “And who am I to complain if this is what I have to do.”
There are too many stories to tell about the times with the Arch. I would probably expect that all people who ever met this remarkable man, will be able to talk for hours on these memorable encounters with him. Arch fills our lives, and he will forever do so. He would teach us all, from the youngest to the oldest, in his gentle and patient way. We will forever marvel in his rich wisdom, his incredible empathy and this joyous laughter.
So today, on the 7th of October, we celebrate the 90th birthday of the ultimate survivor. If only we have more people that could be the same kind of moral leaders in this world, it will be I much better place.
Arch once said that it is the little things that all people do which works together to create great things. “Unless you learn to give, you will not receive” and “To really forgive, you have to learn the art of foirgiveness.”.
Happy birthday Arch, happy birthday Mamma Tutu. May God bless you.