Voice recordings from the friends of deceased journalist Heidi Holland, sent from around the world, rang out clearly in the dank Central Methodist Church in Joburg.
As the smell of urine and the sounds of haggling in central Joburg drifted in over the 100 or so mourners, people around the world gathered to watch the funeral on a live internet stream in the middle of the city.
The tributes, from Ghana to Norway, all spoke of similar things. The exceptional breakfast scenes that were more like cocktail parties with networking and lively chatter at Holland’s B&B, The Melville House.
Holland’s sharp wit and her ability to steer fascinating debates, along with her inability to suffer fools came up repeatedly. Her variety of contacts, weekends on her farm and her signature greeting of “Hello, doll!” also featured.
“Her great weakness was boredom,” said one recording.
Those who knew Holland were shocked when the acclaimed journalist and author was found dead in the garden of her guesthouse by her gardener just under two weeks ago in what has now been accepted to be a suicide.
“I accept and respect her decision,” said son Niko Patrikios at the funeral.
The 65-year-old’s work included freelancing for international publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian, as well as penning acclaimed non-fiction books including Dinner with Mugabe and African Magic.
“I’m glad you are having the service at the Central Methodist Church because, although I suspect it will be chaotic, it will be just what she would want,” said journalist Charlene Smith in a written note. “Among Africans, Zimbabweans, among those we have forgotten, but she hasn’t.”
On Saturday, Holland’s younger son, Jonah Hull, who is a journalist with Al Jazeera, recalled how his mother was always the centre of attention.
“The spotlight always shone the brightest on her, and wasn’t she a brilliant reflector,” he said. Hull remembered Holland as a mother to not just himself and his brother, but to many others.
“She shared the love so completely, so effortlessly… in all of that she barely saved any of the love for herself.”
Hull compared his mother’s unexpected death to her “trademark disappearances” in which she would leave events without saying goodbye.
“[She left] in the very certain knowledge that the party would continue without her, and it always did, and now it must as well.”
Holland’s older brother, Ted Holland, said that even from a very young age his sister would help the other children sleep at boarding school by telling them stories. She always dominated childhood games, casting herself in the leading role.
Holland’s younger brother, Mike Holland, said she was a woman with a simple earthiness who always carried a maturity beyond her years. - The Star