Love blows Covid-19 away
Pretoria - More than 70 years ago Willem Snyman rescued a woman from drowning during an outing with friends.
She was to become the love of his life.
Now, decades later, he has “saved” her yet again - this time with his love songs while the two of them battled Covid-19 lying side by side in hospital.
Willem, who will be turning 94 next month, knew he had to keep his beloved Rita from giving up.
He can be seen on a video flat on his back in a hospital in eMalahleni singing to Rita, who was lying with her eyes closed.
In a deep voice, Willem sometimes made up the words as he went along - but the message was always the same - that she is his one and only true love.
He often serenaded Rita, whose birthday is also next month - she turns 91 - at home with World War II songs.
Rita said she loved each moment of her husband singing to her - especially in hospital.
“I love to listen to him sing.
“It gave me hope just knowing he was there with me and he still loves me.”
Willem said that feeling at his weakest next to his severely ill wife, it felt as if everyone had forgotten about them - even God for a while.
He said he had felt like giving up once or twice, but once he felt better he believed in life and love again.
It was then that he began singing his love songs again.
The couple, who will also celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary next month, have no idea how they contracted Covid-19.
At first it was believed that they had flu, but Willem started feeling exceedingly ill. Both of them were weakening rapidly.
Willem said that on the evening before they were taken to hospital, he phoned their eldest daughter Estelle Wiggill to say his goodbyes.
They tested positive the following day following the traumatic experience of spending some time in a tent outside the hospital waiting to be tested.
Rita said the first two weeks were the worst and were severely traumatic.
“I can’t remember much as I was in and out of consciousness. I thank God for getting us through that period.
“When we went through the worst of the symptoms of this virus, I almost wished that it would all end by way of death. As my condition improved, I started praying that God would forgive me for the thoughts I had.”
The couple were discharged last week and they are staying with one of their daughters in eMalahleni.
“Every day the sun shines brighter and our health is improving,” Rita said.
Willem said that being in hospital was the most isolating feeling he had ever experienced.
“At the worst of times I started praying that hopefully it would be one more night and then I would either feel better or hopefully I wouldn’t be living anymore.”
But, he said, as time went on and he started feeling better, he regained hope.
“The virus is so serious that I have empathy with all the patients I never want to feel like that again.
The couple said they don’t have words to describe the feeling of being better again.
“I don’t think people will understand if they have not gone through what we have gone through,” Willem said. “This could have been a death sentence.”
But the fact that they have each other gave them strength.
“We have loved each other from day one. We are just happily in love - for 70 years now.”
One of their grandchildren, Michael Vorster, described the couple as being “the salt of the Earth”.
His brother Paul said his grandparents are the richest people he knows - not wealth-wise, but because they were growing old together and could still sit on a park bench, hold hands and talk for hours.
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