In February of 2006, while teaching my 10th grade computer science class, a call on my cell phone interrupted us. The school had a strict policy that all cell phones must be off in class, but for some reason I simply forgot to turn mine off on that specific day. Amid the jeers and Ooooooh’s erupting from the students, I decided to defy the powers that be, take the call and explain later. Little did I know that this single call would be a turning point in my life. Not only would it change it forever, but would plunge me into what would seem like a never-ending roller coaster ride.
A few years earlier, I had developed a kid’s book from images I had created in 3D. It was part of a pet project I worked on while studying Animation. Once the characters and scenes were finished, I wrote a story to go with the images I produced. I sent the manuscript to a publisher and went on with my life as if I had never written anything, always hoping that something would come of it.
“Mr. Donaldson,” the voice on the phone rang out, “This is Linda De Villiers from Struik publishing”… a long silence… followed by “Yes, Linda, how may I help you?” My heart was beating frantically in my chest. “We have had a look at your manuscript and love it; we would be delighted to publish your book.” My mind was racing but after a few deep breaths the conversation continued. She discussed a few details and told me that they would be in touch. I hung up the phone and went back into class. I tried my best to act normal but the feeling I had would take days to subside. It was finally happening.
A few days later, I received a second call from the Publisher. They told me that not only did they wish to publish my book, but they had decided that it should be a series, and thus would like to launch the first four books at the same time. I was faced with the challenge of writing three more stories in the time given. All while continuing to teach at the High School. That was a lot of pressure, but it felt great.
In July of 2007, my four books were launched at the International Book Fair in Cape Town, South Africa. Book sales were steadily climbing and I was thinking about what the next step would be. I was approached by an animation studio, who asked me if they could make the 3D animated TV series based on the books. Everything was falling into place and it seemed as if nothing could stop me from my imminent success.
Later, an investor approached me who saw the opportunity in not only the books, but the merchandising: (Caps, T-shirts, bedroom sets, toys.) As well as the TV rights. I accepted and was paid a handsome sum for their share. I felt as if I was well on my way to the big leagues.
In March of 2008, I had quit my teaching job and moved from the small-town of Knysna, where I was staying, to Cape Town. The factories that would be manufacturing the bedroom sets and clothing were there, and it would be much more economical to be close by. Everything was going smoothly as far as the manufacturing was concerned. I was living in a lovely apartment situated on the beach with a spectacular view of the ocean and Table Mountain. Life was great.
I was going about my business when I received an urgent call from my investor to meet with him as soon as humanly possible. His voice seemed rather irate, and it left me wondering what this could possibly be about as I drove to the meeting place. I sat dumbfounded and speechless as he informed me that he was forced to withdraw from any dealings with me, and there was nothing that he or I could do about it. It was over.
I went from dumbfounded and speechless to rage in three seconds flat. In the following few minutes I heard, for the first time, that one of my “friends” had issued a summons indicating that he was suing me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Apparently he was suing me for 50% ownership of everything that I had written to date, as well as everything I would ever write in the future. He claimed that I had written the books while renting a room in his house and therefore, he was entitled to half of everything. I realize that this may seem like a bizarre claim or even some sick joke, but he was serious! This plunged me into more than a year of court cases and lawyer consultations that sent the legal fees through the roof. I did eventually win the case but it was not without leaving deep scars. I lost everything I had and was forced to face the harsh reality of having to start my life over. You may be asking yourself how this was possible. I wish that I could say that it was only a dream, but it was not. It was real and I was not enjoying it at all.
I awoke in the driver seat of my car, early one morning, just as the sun came up over the ocean. I had been sleeping in the parking lot of a popular restaurant for the past three nights. I had asked the security guards to watch over me and my car while I tried to get some sleep. The dust had settled around the lawsuit debacle; I had no house and had little money to my name. I decided to take my last money, put petrol in the car and drive to the town of Knysna that I once called home, and try to pick up the pieces of my now broken life.
Back in Knysna again, where I had been teaching when all of this started, I longed for my uncomplicated life I once had. I tried to get my job back as a teacher but they had already replaced me. I ended up doing odd jobs here and there, creating logos and fliers for a few small local companies. I got a part-time job driving tourists around in a three-wheeler motorcycle for a measly wage that would at least feed me for the day. A friend was kind enough to let me sleep on the couch in his living room until I could get back on my feet. I knew that this was not going to be a walk in the park. I was sure that he felt the same way, although he said nothing about it. I was despondent and could not see a way out. To say that I had reached rock bottom would be an understatement. Many nights I would lie in bed and ask God why these things had happened to me. I asked Him to help me. I had tried everything and nothing seemed to work. My way was obviously not the right way.
I had been friends with a widow named Adri, in a nearby town, that I would converse with whenever I got the chance by email. She used to call me on occasion and we would talk for hours on the phone. We found that we had many common interests and although she was some years older than me, I felt a kinship with her that I have not felt with many others. One Sunday morning, when I was feeling particularly down, she asked me to be honest with her and tell her what was going on in my life. Up until then, I was not letting too many people in on how I really felt and what my financial condition was. When I told her my sorry story she immediately invited me to stay with her. She lived alone; her husband had died four years before we met. The thinking process behind moving in with her was that I would provide her with the company she craved. In return, it would take the pressure off me financially so I could focus on writing and not worry about where to stay or what to eat. I drove to her place later that same day.
The agreement worked out very well for both of us. We visited various places together, restaurants, movies, and watched our favorite TV shows together. She was very happy that she did not have to sit in her house all alone in the evenings after work anymore. To be honest, I was happy to be sleeping in a comfortable bed with delicious food to eat every night. I thoroughly enjoyed her company. I could practice the cooking skills I had gained over the years. And she was brave enough to be the guinea pig when I tried out a new dish that we saw on the cooking channel. We had some crazy fun times and oftentimes would laugh until our sides hurt. She went out of her way to make me feel human again. I used to take her to work in the mornings and fetch her in the evenings, just so I could get out of the house. Every Sunday morning we strolled on the beach and afterwards, we would sit in the restaurant and enjoy a drink while watching the waves breaking on the sand close by. All in all, it was wonderful.
Two and a half years passed and we were now living in a new apartment in a Marina; the apartment was close to the water’s edge. Her house was on the market when I first came to stay with her; it sold shortly after I arrived. I had managed to get some freelance writing and she was working at the same company that she had been working at for the past nine years. Although everyone that saw us was under the impression that we were in a relationship, this was not the case. I could see why people would think that as we were always together. The fact was that we stayed in separate rooms; we were close and had loads of fun, but our relationship was never sexual, although we did joke about it at times. We just never went that route in our friendship. We were enjoying life, having fun together. It was great to share each other’s company with no expectations. Life was finally beginning to look like it was working out fine for both of us. She told me one night, as we were sharing a glass of wine, that she had never been as happy in many years.
In August of 2011, early one morning, I was up at my usual time at 6am. I had the usual routine down. I would get up, make myself a cup of coffee, and sit at my desk checking emails before settling into my day. At around 7am, I noticed there was no movement coming from her bedroom. I had grown used to her morning routine. Every day was the same, except Sundays of course. She would get up, say good morning, then have a shower. She would get ready for work and we would leave by car. This particular morning was different. I noticed no movement from her in the house the whole morning; had she perhaps overslept? What could it possibly be? I decided to find out. I knocked on her bedroom door; getting no response, I decided to go in and take a look. I found her lying in her bed peacefully, fast asleep. I walked over to her bed and shook her shoulder for her to wake up. There was no response. An ice-cold chill flooded my entire body. “This can’t be happening!” I felt for a pulse in her neck; there was nothing. I felt her wrist… Nothing… I started to freak out! What does one do? My mind went blank; I couldn’t remember what the emergency number was. I ran to my room and searched on Google for the number and called them. Everything seemed like a weird dream from then on. The ambulance came as well as the police. Everything seemed surreal. She was gone… the doctor said that her heart had simply stopped during the night. The angel that God had sent my way to help me face life once again was no more. She was 53 years old. After attending the funeral, I promptly left and found a place of my own on the other side of town.
I look back now at the time when God sent this Angel across my path when I was in the depths of despair, to help me up and give me hope. I am glad that I could also be there for her when she was going through a very lonely time in her life. I came to realize that two people can make each other happy just by being there for each other; no complications, no sex, just companionship and deep friendship. We had our laughs and our sad times together. We spent many nights discussing spiritual things, and could talk for hours about just about anything. We had loads of fun.
I have often thought about the night before she passed. It was different from the other nights. Usually she would sit and watch her favourite TV shows. She absolutely loved the cooking channels. Thankfully, it was my favourite too. But this night she was talking all the time and not really focusing on the TV. Then she got up and announced that she was going to get an early night. I simply wrote it off to the fact the she had been working hard. I sat watching some more TV. About an hour later, she came walking into the room and asked me for a hug. This was nothing out of the ordinary as she often gave me hugs. What was strange was that she looked me in the eyes and said, “I appreciate you.” I said I appreciated her as well. She then went back to bed. Little did I know that those would be the very last words that she would ever say to me.
Six months later I am finally on my feet and have a very nice place that I call home. I write fulltime; I have written four episodes of a kids’ TV show. I am currently writing a Sci-fi novel and have two very big projects that I am working on. The future looks bright and full of excitement. Life is great.
I have learned that when you are truly in a bad space, don’t give up! Help is on its way; just keep treading water and make sure you are still afloat when help arrives. I am humbled by the experience that I have been through as it has caused me to grow as a person and see the spiritual depth in life. God is good to me. I am grateful for the people that God has sent across my path, and will never forget them as long as I have breath in my lungs.
Especially that one Angel that came into my life and changed my life forever.
Leo Donaldson Bio:
I am the creator of the kids book series,” Toby the big little tugboat“, a 260 episode TV series based on these books is in the making. I have written”Toawan Warrior”, a screenplay for a 3D animated movie, as well as “The Secret Beneath”, a Sc-fi screenplay. “Space Port 3000″ a Sc-fi Novel, (a work in progress)…4 episodes of Mox and Sox a SA TV series for kids.. I love life and will do all I can in my power to live it to the full, and make all my dreams become a reality.. I know exactly what I want in life and know exactly how to get there. Vist my website.
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