How to Transplant a Rose Bush

Survival techniques for life-changing events, in memory of Zane Ibrahim

Image from Crow the Stone
Image from Crow the Stone

“Who the hell is out there?” I inquired from a shadow in my rose garden at 3am. “I have been passing your house for a month now and noticed your roses have not been pruned. The season is almost over,” said the shadow as he continued snipping away with his pruning shears. As he stepped into the light, I saw his familiar face. “Zane! What the hell?”

Zane Ibrahim was the station manager of a popular community radio station in South Africa called Bush. My company had been designing most of their print media (below-the-line) requirements at the time. This was a client. In my garden. At 3am. Pruning my roses! “This is my meditation,” he explained, “and I saw the light was still on.”

I once lost everything I owned: two homes, a BMW, a media business I had built from the ground up… I was drowning in debt. I was cleaning up the home I had once bought to house my business. I had to sell those premises to help cover my debt. Zane had come into my garden at this time.

For weeks and months after that incident, Zane would come around to be of support to me and my family through one of our most traumatic seasons. We moved cities, from Cape Town to Johannesburg, I had to find permanent employment and we had to find new accommodation.

The advice and support that Zane and his partner Trudy gave us at the time was invaluable. I captured some of that amazing guidance in a poem:

To transplant a rose bush
Wait for the end of its winter
Cut down its stalks but a few
Prune all its branches
Sever the roots right round
Water it one last time
Then remove it roots and all
Prepare the new hole in sunlight
Not too close to neighbours
Prepare the soil with bone meal
Plant the bush deeper than before
Set it firmly in the new hole
Water it once more
In Spring, wait for the first buds

I was in a dark place then. It was a painful walk back into light but his words have always sustained me. He said something else that I still give to others in similar circumstances. Zane said,

The irrepressible Zane Ibrahim, 23 June 1941 to 19 May 2014
The irrepressible Zane Ibrahim, 23 June 1941 to 19 May 2014

“Whatever you do, do not stop making your push-ups: your spiritual push-ups, your mental push-ups, your financial push-ups, your physical push-ups. When your ship comes again, and it will, you want to be ready to take it sailing. You don’t want to be so desperate that when it does come in you sell it part for part before it even docks. You must be the able and ready captain of your ship to take it back out to sea and find new adventures that are waiting for you.”

Zane passed on more than six months ago. I posted a note on a blog to honour him: “Oh my brother, my loved ones and I owe so much to you. Thank God you lived and loved amongst us. Like Spring you made us blossom wherever we were and still your legacy continues. You live on in every mustard seed that you have planted with such loving care. From Allah we come and to that is the final journey. What a journey you have travelled! Hamba Kahle!”

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