Of role models – farewell Sylvia

I clearly remember the days, back when I was around 15 or 16, when Madonna’s songs seemed to me to be a manifesto of the way I wanted to live, of the things I wanted to say.

I wanted, desperately, for my father to stop preaching to me; I longed to have the courage to be transgressive and to get out from the clutches of the Roman Catholic church; I dreamt of the exotic lives portrayed in La Isla Bonita.

Of course, with time, I came to see Madonna for what she was: a clever, savvy, business person, with a rather weak voice, who used transgression to sell her albums. But I still admired her spunk, all the more so because she was a woman doing it for herself.

In hindsight, I’ve come to realise that I was, in fact, searching around for a female figure to model, one who felt more akin to the person I felt I was or could become. Not having this in the main player in my life then, I looked further afield towards women who I felt I could mirror, build upon, to subconsciously develop into the person I am today.

Today, I officially say bye to one of these women, someone who I now realise helped me to understand what a healthy, adult relationship can look like, how amidst all the seriousness life throws at us, there is beauty and light, happiness and laughter, fun and joy.

I could never understand how my friend, her daughter, would want to spend every possible moment with her mother (and father) when they visited from abroad, when I would leave at the earliest possible moment from my family home and seek refuge and respite elsewhere.

As I got to know her mum, I totally got it. She was such a charismatic person, with a tinkling giggle and a warm hug that somehow made you feel right at home. Most importantly, at least for me, she was fully accepting, non-judgmental. For someone with my family baggage, that was such a relief, I felt I could breathe around her (and her wonderful husband who adored her), I could be my true self, fearlessly.

I also got to witness first-hand what a united family looked like, how important it is for children to have positive and healthy parents to care for them and to look up to.

Sylvia passed away in a flash, unexpectedly. I cannot even begin to imagine what her family have passed through and the grief that they will need to reckon with as this beautiful light is no longer physically present in their lives.

But with her passing, her legacy quickly came to light, as people from all four corners of the world, of all different ages, took to social media to comment on her kindness, her joy, her warmth.

This in itself will surely be of great support to her family as they see how she spread her love and care far and wide, a better role model than that I know not of.

As for me, in her passing, I learnt yet another lesson that I hope to emulate – take the time to be kind to those around you without expecting anything in return. You never know who you will touch, whose lifesaver you may be, at times without ever even realising it.

Farewell Sylvia, till we meet again, thank you for making me feel whole back then.

Sylvia Larsson (with kind permission from the family)

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