Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of.
She fell ill with a fever that I could not contain. I rushed her to hospital late at night and before we could gather our bearings, she was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Failure Stage 3. I briefly remember admission into Little Company of Mary Hospital, the transfer to Pretoria Urology Hospital, the urologist telling me that the damage was so severe that they could not do a proper biopsy and another transfer to the Jacaranda Hospital where we met a nephrologist that would become a lifesaver. My daughter was seventeen years old.
I remember a downward spiral that would soon classify her as Stage 4.
A person with stage 4 chronic kidney disease (CKD) has advanced kidney damage with a severe decrease in the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) to 15-30 ml/min. It is likely someone with stage 4 CKD will need dialysis or a kidney transplant in the near future.
I remember many adjustments.
Lifestyle changes. Dietary changes. Physical and emotional changes. We became acquainted with organisations such as National Renal Care, The Healthy Start Clinic at the Jacaranda Hospital and caring people that got to know her by name. Sisters that cared so much about each individual that they could explain my child’s medical situation in laymen’s terms so that I could actually understand what was happening.
Life is the only art that we are required to practice without preparation, and without being allowed the preliminary trials, the failures and botches, that are essential for training. Lewis Mumford
At the time, without me realising it, we both took separate paths to deal with what was happening. We shared many experiences and we spoke about many things, but while she was dealing with her body, I inadvertently took on the role of protector, the rescuer and the watchdog. It was not long before life returned to its usual rhythm with the added responsibilities of blood tests, doctor’s visits and blood counts that would indicate my child’s well-being.
Looking back, I realise that I was in complete denial – still seeking God’s face for favour, for a miracle, for complete restoration of her kidneys. I believed, with my whole heart that God could intervene and change the situation. I witnessed days when she was gravely ill, but she also had moments where she instantly brought life into a room.
Then, unexpectedly, an ordinary day turned a corner.
When I saw her face, my heart stopped. I stood with my back against the wall and felt a panic.
She walked into my arms and I could see that her body was failing her.
As for courage and will – we cannot measure how much of each lies within us, we can only trust there will be sufficient to carry us through trials which may lie ahead. Andre Norton
It is devastating to come to terms with the fact that you might lose your child. I wrote pages upon pages filled with questions and arguments to make sense of what was happening. I remember singing to the song, ‘It is well with my soul’ with a gut-wrenching sorrow. I could cry in God’s presence knowing that He was there, that He was holding me while I unravelled at the seams.
January – December 2011
I cannot formulate words to explain this year.
I knew she was standing at the cross-road between life and death.
I remember a day when reality finally caught up with me. I was coming to terms with the severity of our situation. I wanted her to have life in abundance, but witnessing her suffering became unbearable.
I contemplated losing her.
We gathered information on dialysis and kidney transplants.
I witnessed her spiritual growth, she made peace with her own reality and all her energy was focussed on finding natural ways to increase the quality of her life.
As for me, I slipped away to a secret space where I buried every single dream that I had for her life. I remember the confusion, the sorrow and the feeling of complete helplessness.
I questioned God on many occasions. His answers were vague.
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’, declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ (Isaiah 55:8-9)
It was during this time that I was so overwhelmed with my own turmoil that I decided to go away for a weekend. I joined an outreach to Baviaanspoort Prison, thinking that the noise in my mind would give way if I serve with my hands. On the second day, a man walked up to me and asked me if I had a daughter. He said that he had a message from God.
He is sending you a son-in-law. It will not be a regular guy. He is sending you a pillar. A pillar so strong that you – between the two of you – will be able to hold up a roof.
It took a while for me to absorb, but I realised in that moment that God was promising us a future.
I went home and I went to the proverbial hole and dug up each and every dream that I so carefully buried away. I planted those dreams in faith, gave them ample water and I saw them grow.
We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but we can control how we respond. Many struggles come as problems and pressures that sometimes cause pain. Others come as temptations, trials and tribulations. Lionel Kendrick
We all face storms in life. Some are more difficult than others, but we all go through trials and tribulation. That’s why we have the gift of faith. Joyce Meyer
I learnt so much walking alongside my daughter on this journey.
I learnt about humility – ‘before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.’ (Proverbs 18:12); I learnt about perseverance – ‘God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.’ (James 1:12); I learnt about dependence on God – ‘Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.’ (John 15:5); I learnt about God’s protection – ‘The Lord guards you. The Lord is the shade that protects you from the sun. The sun cannot hurt you during the day, and the moon cannot hurt you at night. The Lord will protect you from all dangers; he will guard your life. The Lord will guard you as you come and go, both now and forever.’
January 2012 – December 2015
She enrolled for, and completed a degree in Nursing Sciences. She actively sought the Lord and He spoke with her stating ‘you are the apple of My eye’, confirming it through Psalm 17:8 and Zechariah 2:8. God further laid it on her brother’s heart to phone her with the message, ‘you are the apple of His eye.’
In December 2015 she met her soon to be husband, and her kidney function is still sustaining her. The preparations for the wedding are in full swing and I often catch myself thinking about the past ten years. I cannot help but see the brave young woman that stood on God’s promises for her life. She taught me many lessons … we all have permission to walk barefoot; with God, nothing is impossible and when I get too protective … ‘Mom! Then I go out with a bang!’
I can only give God the glory. He sustained us when all else failed. He filled up the spring of hope within us when the physical evidence wanted to destroy us. Knowing that eternal life is the ultimate goal, circumstances taught us to focus on the Lord, and to live in full measures while we are on this earth.
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long – though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. (Psalm 71:14-17)
A few months ago, I finally grasped the meaning of the song, ‘It is well with my soul …’
The song was written by Horatio Spafford, who experienced great personal loss. Yet, in the midst of his tragedy, he was able to rejoice in God’s goodness. The song grabbed a hold of my heart because God is faithful, despite our circumstances. My body might feel sorrow and loss but when I step out of the emotions that I feel and I connect to the reality of what Christ has done for me on the cross I can see death beaten! God also gave me my miracle by preserving her life and her kidney function to such an extent that we can enjoy life as a family. I do not know what the future holds, but I have hope for today. I remember yesterday with gratitude.
Whatever you are facing today, I pray that the Holy Spirit will remind you … even so, it is well with your soul!