Attending the memorial service for Lulama this afternoon at the Millstone Farmstall in Oude Molen Eco Village, reminded me of why I love going there so much: Linda and Paul, and Jochi the chef, and all the young men and women working in the store and behind the scenes in the kitchen, take the word ‘family’ very seriously.
The Millstone Family isn’t limited only to the people who work there, but it extends beyond them, to the families of their staff, to those who work at Oude Molen, and to all the regulars who bring along their children and their dogs and their friends for breakfast, and coffee, and lunch, and tea, and to birthday parties at weekends.
Which is why there was such a crowd attending Lulama’s memorial service today.
She clearly touched so many people’s lives.
One after the other, people got up, walked towards the front, and waited for their turn to speak about Lulama. Everyone shared beautiful and heart-warming stories of how they got to know her over the years since she first began to work at Oude Molen in 2007.
Some spoke in English, and some spoke in Xhosa; some spoke so softly that we at the back could hardly hear her over the gusting wind, while others spoke confidently, sweeping us up with their words and stirring up our emotions. Even if we did not understand their language, the love, admiration, tenderness and respect each of them expressed towards Lulu simply took our breath away.
As we sat there together, shoulder to shoulder, we shed quiet tears of grief but also happy smiles of recognition, in memory of Lulu, who made the best coffees and capuccinos in the world. And, as I myself can attest, she also made the best chococcinos in the world… and originally at a time when chococcinos weren’t even on their menu! But she always met my request with a friendly smile, reassuring me that she would prepare one for me nonetheless.
She was always calm, even when the store was chaotic, with customers coming in to buy things in the shop, placing orders for the tables, and wanting to pay for what they’d just eaten. She always had a ready smile, which lit up her face and made her eyes sparkle. When someone said that she liked to change her hairstyle, I couldn’t help giggling, as I remembered that too. I also remember that she once gave me her cellphone number (I think at the time they did not have a telephone in the store yet), so that I could phone to check whether their delicious health breads were out of the oven yet (or whether there were any left on the shelf!), as she knew I particularly liked their sweet potato bread.
The most amazing, magical thing happened each time someone walked towards the front to speak. Someone in the audience would spontaneously start singing, usually quite softly, and after the first line, others would pick up the tune and within a few beats, the most tender, loving, melancholy harmonies would emerge, as voices rose and fell, hands clapped in rhythm with the beat, and bodies swayed softly side to side.
It was impossible not to feel emotions welling up from deep inside, as we listened to this impromptu choir. It was almost as though their songs were singing courage and inspiration into the person standing at the front, waiting to speak, holding them in an embrace of spirit-touching music.
To bring the memorial service to a close, all the staff of the Millstone were called to the front to help plant a September bush (or Polygala myrtifolia) for Lulu. Jochi explained that this bush never lost its leaves, and that it flowers almost throughout the year, with a peak in springtime. He encouraged us to think of Lulama whenever we looked at this bush.
From when we first discovered the Millstone Farm Stall, at the end of 2007, Lulu was always a part of it. I confess that I took it for granted that she would always be there, greeting everyone with a happy smile, making us feel welcome and part of the family too. Now it feels as though there is a big Lulu-shaped hole where she used to be… and where we wish she was still.