Dad shares son’s story as beacon of hope

Xavier du Plessis at the recent launch of his book, Rado - Son van die vreemde hemel (Sun of the strange heaven).

A Fish Hoek father turned to writing after he tragically lost his son to suicide.

Xavier du Plessis launched his book Rado – Son van die vreemde hemel (Sun of the strange heaven) on his 60th birthday at the Ocean View High School, last month.

The book is dedicated to his 21-year-old son, Axel, who committed suicide in 2016.

Axel was a final-year student at UCT, majoring in science and maths when he took his own life.

He attended primary school in the UK where Mr Du Plessis taught German to high school pupils.

Mr Du Plessis said Axel had been an exceptional student, earning recognition for his abilities in maths and science, and had been placed in a special group for gifted pupils.

The family returned to South Africa in 2006, and Axel matriculated from the Cape Academy of Mathematics, Science and
Technology, in 2012.

Mr Du Plessis said that while his son had been an excellent student, he had been an introvert and had suffered from depression. He calls it a “silent killer”.

“He hid his depression very well, and we only knew about it when it was too late,” Mr Du Plessis said.

His death sent shock waves through the family, and Mr Du Plessis said it was only with the help of God that he and his family survived the ordeal.

As a teacher, Mr Du Plessis realised his son’s life story could be a beacon of hope for other pupils who also suffer from depression and feel hopeless.

In 2017, he resigned and started writing a book about his son’s life.

“I wanted it to be his legacy and to give people hope as many of his friends are excelling in life,” he said.

He poured his emotions out on paper, but it was a very emotional experience for him and after two weeks of writing he stopped.

And it was only during the first month of lockdown that he realised he had to finish what he had started. He wrote for three weeks straight and completed his book.

He said he hoped his book would inspire young people to speak out when they needed help and encourage parents to do research about depression so they could notice the early warning signs in their children.

He is marketing his book on Facebook and it is available at the Ocean View High School for R240. For every book sold at the school, Mr Du Plessis will donate R40 to the school.

Ocean View High School principal Keith Klein said he was delighted that Mr Du Plessis had chosen the school to launch his book at and that he was contributing a portion of the sales to the school.

“The content is very much appropriate for the teenagers, and it is an easy reading book,” he said.

The book touched on the issues young people dealt with today and he encouraged everyone to read it, he said.

For more information about the book or to buy one, email Mr Du Plessis at