This played just before Vic’s memorial service started. A deadly silence descended in the church as we all sat crying for this precious child of mine. I listen to this often. I still cry when I hear the words that Vic could have spoken. How I miss my precious child.
If tomorrow starts without me,
And I’m not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today,
While thinking of the many things, we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you,
And each time that you think of me,
I know you’ll miss me too;
But when tomorrow starts without me,
Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name,
And took me by the hand,
And said my place was ready,
In heaven far above,
And that I’d have to leave behind;
All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away,
A tear fell from my eye
For all my life, I’d always thought,
I didn’t want to die.
I had so much to live for, So much left yet to do,
It seemed almost impossible,
That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays,
The good ones and the bad,
I thought of all the love we shared,
And all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday,
Just even for a while,
I’d say good-bye and kiss you
And maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized,
That this could never be,
For emptiness and memories,
Would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things,
I might miss come tomorrow,
I thought of you, and when I did,
My heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven’s gates,
I felt so much at home.
When God looked down and smiled at me,
From His great golden throne,
He said, “This is eternity, And all I’ve promised you.”
Today your life on earth is past,
But here life starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow, But today will always last,
And since each day’s the same way,
There’s no longing for the past.
You have been so faithful, So trusting and so true.
Though there were times you did some things,
You knew you shouldn’t do.
But you have been forgiven, And now at last you’re free.
So won’t you come and take my hand, And share my life with me?
So when tomorrow starts without me, Don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me, I’m right here, in your heart.
Somehow 31,536,000 seconds or even 525,600 minutes makes far more sense than 8760 hours; 365 days; 52 weeks and one day or 1 year…
If feels as if a lifetime of sorrow has passed since you stopped breathing. If feels as if it has been a lifetime since I held you in my arms. It feels as if I have cried an ocean of tears.
In the past year I have aged. I have gained weight. I have existed. A year ago my life ended. The boys and I still burn candles for you.
I am still filled with rage. I know you were born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta but doctor arrogance caused you so much pain, suffering and indignity. I know that you would more than likely have died before me but perhaps with less suffering?
I will always miss you. I will always remember your smile, your laugh, your bravery. I will never forget how you fought to live.
Today I want to thank you for my beautiful grandsons. Thank you for remaining my little girl through-out your life. Thank you for fighting for so long. You were such a warrior!
I thank God that you came home to die. I thank God that I had the privilege of caring for you. I thank God that He entrusted me with something as pure and precious as you.
I am grateful that you are no longer fracturing vertebrae from vomiting. As much as I miss your laugh I do not miss your pain filled tears. I am grateful precious baby that your suffering is over.
I miss your company. I miss our late night chats, drinking untold cups of tea/coffee. I miss your text messages, your telephone calls, your shuffling footsteps down the passage… the smell of smoke alerting me that you are awake and sitting on your step…
I miss the boys laughter. I miss the joy that you brought into our lives.
We will continue to honour your memory – every day of our lives. Your legacy will live on in each and every person that is allowed to live until they die with dignity.
I love you Angel Child with every fiber in my body.
Your Silent Dreams by April D. Parker I held you as you were sleeping… All the while I sat weeping…. Gazing at your beautiful features… For you were one of God’s Creatures…
I loved you from the minute you existed to be… Living inside me, Dreaming silently…
You were always a part of my life…
Even before you saw day-light…
Looking down at you, I kissed your warm little hand…
Knowing you had passed on to the Promised Land…
You, my sweet baby, are forever my Child…
The fact you were in my life makes it worth while…
Undeniably I have hope…
The thought of seeing you again allows my spirit to lift…
I thank God to have had what time I had with you…
Love and cherish you I shall always do…
As most people know, it’s not uncommon for a parent to have a crisis of faith following the death of his or her child.
What is a crisis of faith? One definition is “periods of intense doubt and internal conflict about one’s preconceived beliefs*”. The key words here are “intense doubt” and “preconceived beliefs.” Basically, it’s when we thought we knew something for certain (or perhaps took something for granted) in the realm of our faith in God (what we “see” with our spiritual eyes or experience and understand in our spiritual lives or believe to be true in the spiritual realm); but when it differs so drastically from what is the reality of our lives (what we “see” with our physical eyes or experience in our physical world), we question everything we believed. Our preconceived beliefs don’t jive with what we’ve just experienced. Trying to reconcile the two opposing concepts when they are at extreme odds with each other can lead to a crisis of faith.
One of the things I miss most since Jason died (besides Jason and my life as I knew it before my world was shattered) is my unquestioning faith in God. I remember times when my heart was so full with love for God that I thought it would burst. I don’t feel that way any more, at least for now. I remember standing by the cassette player (yes, cassette player) with my eyes closed, singing my pledge of devotion to God along with Andrea Crouch or Clay Crosse. I remember being so moved by a song as I sang in the choir that I could hardly get the words out. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15) was my anthem. I would have died for my faith, for God.
But what happens when it’s not you who are “slayed” and it’s your child who dies? What happens when you have to face life without your child, when you have to figure out how to go on living without your child? Then it’s not quite so easy to say, is it? I doubt that there isn’t one parent whose child died that gladly wouldn’t have taken his or her child’s place. I would much rather take the brunt of something awful FOR my children than it happen TO any of them. I would gladly have died in Jason’s place.
There are parents who seem to find a “greater good” or a “higher purpose” or find solace that God is in control of their child’s death. I just haven’t been able to do that. I woke up nearly every night, went downstairs to kneel in front of the couch and pray for my family, for my kids and their friends. I prayed with all my heart and all my being for my kids’ lives and their protection. And still Jason died. And still our family has had to walk through so many hard things, just a fraction of which I would tell most people. How do I reconcile those two?
I have had a crisis of faith. Does that mean I don’t believe in God? No. It just means it seems that what I thought I knew about God wasn’t accurate. It means that what I thought God would “do” for me, He wouldn’t or didn’t do. I thought that if I prayed for my kids that they would be protected. I thought that if I served God with all my heart and tried to do the right things God would make things right for me. I believed that God heard my fervent prayers, that my prayers “availed much” (James 5:16) in the kingdom of heaven and on earth, and that God answered my prayers. I believed God protected my family. I guess I sort of saw God like my own personal genie who could grant me whatever wish I wished for if I wished hard enough for it. That’s not faith; that’s wishful thinking.
Right after Jason died, I remember praying and praying that God would make something good come out of Jason’s death. I didn’t want Jason’s life and death to be for nothing. Both my husband and I felt, from the moment Jason was born, that God had great plans for his life. We felt that he was to do something great for God. And then God didn’t protect Jason and he died. After he died, I prayed that Jason’s life would be like a pebble dropped in a pond, that the ripples of his precious life would be like concentric rings and reach far and wide. Surely, there had to be more to Jason’s life and his living than he would die at the age of 19 before he barely was into adulthood. Surely, “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28),” don’t they? I guess I’m still looking for the “good” to come out of Jason’s death, as I can’t say that I’ve seen it yet.
I felt God’s presence incredibly close after Jason died. I felt the prayers of people who knew us, lifting us up before the Most High. Somewhere along the line, it seemed as though God wasn’t paying attention any more, that He really didn’t care about the anguish we were going through. Somewhere along the line, I felt like God had abandoned us. I felt like the heavens were brass and my prayers weren’t even reaching the ceiling. I felt that people were no longer praying for us. Somewhere along the line, it seemed as though God’s people didn’t care so much any more. God’s people abandoned us.
Honestly, I have to say that being left so alone by nearly everyone we knew added exponentially to my crisis of faith. Who were most of the people we knew? Christians. People in the church. People we had served and had served with in the church and homeschool community. Christian people I thought of as friends, as extended family since our own families were more than halfway across the country. I thought of Christian people as extensions as the hands and feet of God. I looked to them for support; I expected them to be there for us. Not only did God seem so very far away, out of reach and uncaring, so did nearly everyone else we knew. When you’re hurting so badly, it’s easy to confuse God, the church, and God’s people. It seemed that not only had God let us down and left us alone, so had His people.
I know I have beat this drum a lot in writing my blog – “we were alone, we were alone, nearly everyone left us.” “Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll go eat worms,” right? If that’s what you think, you’re missing the point. Many bereaved parents feel so very alone at the time they most need support. Many bereaved parents ARE left alone at the time they most need support, kindness, hugs, and an ongoing expression of God’s love. We ARE the hands and feet of God on this earth. We need to remember that.
I wrote in an earlier post about reading and relating to the Book of Job. Job suffered great losses. His “friends” came by to “comfort” him – more like confront him – in his grief. They accused him of sinning. He felt deserted by God, his friends and his family. He didn’t understand why God was doing this to him. God had been good to him, and now he felt like God was punishing him for something he didn’t do. He didn’t understand. He had a crisis of faith.
Is a crisis of faith a sin? No. It’s an opportunity to grow. It’s an opportunity to look carefully at what we believed and what we thought we knew, throwing out the wrong while trying to find the right. It’s an opportunity to learn that our ways aren’t God’s ways, as hard as that may be to accept or understand. It’s an opportunity to remind ourselves that now we “see through a dark glass (I Cor. 13:12).” It’s an opportunity to remind ourselves that we walk by faith, not by sight. We don’t know it all. All we know is what we can see with our finite eyes, and all we can understand is what our finite mind can comprehend. The rest has to be taken on faith.
I still struggle greatly with my faith. I still have more questions than answers. I feel like my faith is so small, and my ability to believe and trust in a God that seems to have let me down is small. I no longer see “the church” as a source of comfort or a source of friendship and support. I have very little desire to attend church. I need God to answer prayers for me right now. I need to see that he hears me and cares for the struggles my family and I are going through. I hope that He hears me more than I have an assurance that He hears me. I am worse for wear.
But, I know that this isn’t the end of it. I pray, though not with the fervency and unquestioning devotion as I once did. I try to water that root of faith I have had since I was a child. I know that root of faith goes deep, although most of the above-ground, visible manifestation of my faith may have been pruned. More often than not, in my prayers I remind God, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).” I remind myself of what I know for certain. I believe in God. I believe in heaven. I believe Jason is in heaven with his hands lifted in praise to the Most High, even as he was the Sunday before he died. I know that the grave was not Jason’s final destination. I know I will see him again. I know that someday I will join Jason before the throne of God, and then I understand. And that’s as good a place to start as any.
“No one loses a child the way a mother loses one. We are the ones who first felt life, carried it and protected them, nourished them, sacrificed our bodies for them, held them first in our hearts, then first into our arms. We were not only connected through flesh, but on levels so deep, you really have nothing to compare it too metaphysically.
It is a love so raw, and so elemental that is just present – just there from the beginning. We have a link to our children that cannot be replicated. No one understands a grieving mother except for another grieving mother. No one else can begin to understand that void that surrounds us, shadows us, haunts us. Our children’s screams that we can no longer answer, their bodies we can no longer grab and embrace, their tears we can no longer dry, and their hurts that we can no longer make better. They then become our own unanswered screams, our bodies that become un-embraceable, our tears that can never be dried and our hurts that never stop. There are constant reminders of what we live without, and must live without until we die – sometimes it feels like it’s life’s cruel way of taunting us. The grieving mother is never whole again, never fully present, because a piece of her heart and soul leave her with her child’s last breath.”
All religions have prayers for the dying. There is so much common ground between the different religions and their prayers. I will post different religions prayers for their dying.
Kahlil Gibran – 1883-1931 writes…If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
Christians believe in the redeeming power of love.
Christians are encouraged to be childlike in their faith; to pray for forgiveness regardless of how far they had strayed.
Christians believe in the resurrection of the body. One week before her death Vic requested that she be served Holy Communion. I believe that Vic was comforted by the words of John 6:54 that reads “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” Vic truly believed in the words of Paul in Romans 1:16b, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…
Here are some examples of Christian Prayers that can be prayed with the dying:-
“Oh Righteous Father, we know our days are numbered in your book of life and that precious in your sight are the death of your saints. We are so thankful that we can stand on your promises and know that when we die, we are instantly in your holy presence. All of those who have gone before us, beloved friends and family, are there waiting for us. We know that death cannot hold us because just as Jesus died and was resurrected, we too know that we also will be raised to eternal life. There is such peace in knowing that there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, and no more pain. What great and precious promises you have given us. We know that nothing can ever separate us from your love. No one or nothing can snatch us out of Your mighty hands. Blessed Lord, please be with [name] in this time and with his/her family; to comfort, strengthen, and encourage them during the coming difficult days and times ahead. We pray that Your tender mercies be upon [name] now. I thank God for [name] and the faithfulness that he/she has shown in their life. [name] has placed his/her trust and faith in You and we know that you will never leave [name] nor forsake him/her. We thank you for your precious gift of salvation which came through the precious the blood of the Lamb of God at supreme cost. Our atonement was made possible by Him and has made us one with You. We ask these things in the power, majesty, glorious, and most holy name of our Saviour, King, Master, and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Saying “Thank you” and “Good-bye” – Helen Meier, Hope Hospice, Dublin, CA
________(person’s name) thank you for all you have given me, your family, friends, and the world. You have impacted my life with your love, your caring and your wisdom. Now that you are gone, I will carry all your love and everything I learned from you within me. The essence of who you were as a person will live within me and within others. You will continue to give to the world as we pass on to others what we learned from you. I will miss you, but will have joy in remembering all you meant to me. Each thing you touched will bring you to mind. Your laugh, your smile, your words will resound in my mind and heart. Good-bye dear one.
Let not your hearts be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
through the dark valley of death,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Amen
– The Bible, Psalm 23 –
when the storm rages
and I can hold on no more,
when the waves of fear engulf me
and I am weary,
battered and sore,
take me then and steer me,
storm-tossed, broken and afraid,
into the arms of your safe harbor
– Prayer to St. Benedict –
– Friar Dennis Ward O.S.B. –
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
– Lord’s Prayer, traditional –
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that
we are born to Eternal Life.
– Peace Prayer of St Francis –
Unto God’s gracious mercy
and protection we commit you.
May the Lord bless you and keep you;
may the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and give you peace evermore.
– The Bible, Chapter 6, Verses 24-26 –
To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
– The Bible, Ecclesiastes 3, Verses 1-4 –
Blessed are the poor in spirit:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek:
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger
and thirst after righteousness:
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful:
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart:
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers:
for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
– The Sermon on the Mountain, Matthew 5:3-10 –
Watch thou, dear Lord,
with those who wake,
or watch, or weep tonight,
and give thine angels charge
over those who sleep.
Tend thy sick ones, Lord Christ.
Rest thy weary ones.
Bless thy dying ones.
Soothe thy suffering ones.
Pity thine afflicted ones.
Shield thy joyous ones.
And all, for thy love’s sake.
I truly felt that I should shatter some of Vic’s ashes at Chaka’s Rock. Once I got there I started doubting the wisdom of my decision. We walked on the beach and I waited for a sign….for a white feather to find me.
Friday morning it was time to return home. I had still not received a feather….and Vic was coming home with us – all intact!
The boys and I decided to scatter flowers for Vic. She loved symbolic actions!
It was a pretty dismal day. It was as if the angels were sad for us too… It was gently drizzling when we made our way to the beach. We decided to go to Vic’s favourite spot. Every single year Vic would insist on getting to the beach at least once! She walked with drips stands, we pushed her in her wheelchair, and we carried her to the edge of the water.
The tide was coming in. For a while we just stood on the beach staring at the sea. Looking at the gentle waves crushing on the sand I knew that the flowers would be washed out again.
I tossed the first flower. The boys followed suit…
I stood there mesmerised by the ethereal life of the crashing waves. It was as if the waves whispered “I was here and I lived a life”… Waves formed, were pushed toward the shore, where they collapsed and returned to the ocean. Sometimes waves leave behind ocean treasures they have picked up and carried along with them. Sometimes, the foam, created when air mixes into the water, is the only thing left behind. On Friday the waves carried the flowers back and forth – back and forth crushing the flowers and disposing of the gentle pedals.
The boys and I wrote on the sand. The waves erasing our words….
We stood and our tears mingled with the salty sea water.
The flower pedals were strewn on the beach in the shape of a half heart…
After a long time we left. Our faces wet from the rain and our tears.
Strangely we were at peace. We had survived another first. Next year we will return to Chaka’s with some old memories but also with new memories!
Over the years I have been deeply hurt by people of faith and religious institutions’ i.e. churches. I have spent many years of my life researching religion, seeking answers to my questions; to life’s twists and turns.
I believe in God. I believe in life hereafter. I believe that what we are living is hell and that heaven awaits us. I believe we are on earth to learn lessons, perfect our souls. I believe that we will return to earth until we have perfected our souls.
The “mind switch” was Passion of the Christ. I cried for three days. It was the most barbaric thing I had ever seen. I could not and cannot equate that to love. The other “mind switch” was the lovelessness of most “deeply” religious people. So I look at religion and this is the conclusion I have come to…
“Love” is The Big Commandment…. Matthew 22:36-40 NIV Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbour like yourself. All the Law and Prophets hand on these two Commandments@ Love God Thy Father and the second commandment that is equal to it “Love Thy neighbour”…
Love Thy Neighbour is quite a mouthful. Who is my neighbour – the person who lives next door to me in his multi million rand house or his domestic worker living in a room the size of a stamp on his premises? Maybe “my neighbour” could extend to the socio economic group that I equate to in my suburb or city? Hells bells, if I am generous the rich in my country may qualify…. But the people with different pigmentation and less money? No, no no!
Now let me spell it out. The way I see it
If God is a God of Love would He truly condemn people to eternal hell for not believing a particular version of religion? I know so many wonderful Muslim people who have “white souls”, who are kind, compassionate and generous. They would never deliberately harm a fellow human being. I know many beautiful Christians who are kind and compassionate and generous. I know that in a country like Saudi no money will exchange hands whilst it is Salah (prayer time). Restaurants and shops CLOSE for prayer 5 times a day and if you are not praying you will stand around in the passages of the shopping centre. You will not even be allowed to remain in the restaurant.
In my country and everywhere else in the world people of other religious groups will drink too much and talk about Muslims in a derogatory manner. They will call them heathens… They will lie and steal but take the religious high ground because they are “Christian”. And by the way, please do not inconvenience them and their social life by getting ill….If you are so inconsiderate – please die quickly so their lives can move along at it’s comfortable, fun filled pace.
Worldwide racism is alive and well. Where there is no racism it is tribalism, elitism that keeps hate flowing through the world.
For many years I did so-called “charity” and evangelism work in the poor rural areas in South Africa. Today I admit I am ashamed that I was so sanctimonious to think that I was needed to evangelize the poor. What do you say to a child who is freezing and hungry when they accept the Lord? “God is going to make your life better!”…That would imply that all of a sudden that child would have at least 3 meals a day, a bed and blanket, medical care and a good education…
Let me tell you, so-called evangelists hit and run. They convert and leave. There is no sustainability in what they offer. Most of their efforts are self-serving. Tomorrow that child is going to be cold and hungry and think “that woman of God said God would bless me…Why has He not done so? He must hate me…”
So, I ask the question…who is the “woman of God”? The self-appointed evangelist or the impoverished next door neighbour who shares her last crust of bread with the hungry child?
I don’t believe that there is a single religion that is “right.” There is good and bad in all religions. There is good and bad in every person!
The Catholic’s decided which books were to be in the Bible. The Qur’an is a modified version of the Old Testament. The Torah is another modified version of the Old Testament.
I know there will be a reaction to this post. I know many people will “unfollow” me after this post. That is fine. It is your right to decide what to read. It is my right to write what I believe and have experienced.
Vic often asked me “Mommy, why do you think God hates me?”
The Church deserted Vic. Christians deserted Vic. Family deserted Vic. Friends deserted Vic. Even the most religious of religious did not have enough compassion for my child to lift a phone and ask “How is your child doing?” or “I am sorry to hear about her passing”. Family, yes you read correctly, did not even sympathise. What a cold God they must serve? Yet these righteous self-serving stone-Christians point fingers at others for not being “obedient” to God’s Word. Surely not the Word that says “Love thy neighbour”………
An evening visit to the designated gravesite of Nelson Mandela, prayers for forgiveness to the ancestral forefathers and the tribal elders travelling to Pretoria to be with South Africa’s greatest hero is just some of the drama surrounding Nelson Mandela’s imminent passing.
The gravesite is situated about 500 metres from Mandela’s Qunu residence and is reserved for the Mandela family.
It has been reported that elders in the Mandela family visited the family gravesite in Qunu, on Tuesday evening, to plead for forgiveness from their ancestors for exhuming the bodies of family members in 2011 by Mandla – the favourite grandson. It is tribal custom that gravesites are either visited early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
The elders are furious with former president Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla for digging up the remains of his father Makgatho and his father’s two siblings, Makaziwe and Thembekile, and moving them to Mandela’s birthplace Mvezo. The elders have advised the family that “the Mandelas are being punished through making their beloved son (Nelson Mandela) suffer in hospital where he remains in great pain and anguish”. The elders visited the gravesite to plead for their ancestral forefather’s forgiveness and to seek advice as what to do during this difficult time.
The elders in the Mandela family have attributed Mandela’s ill health and constant hospitalization for a lung infection to the “wrath of the ancestors”.
The “wrath” was caused by the fact that Mandla Mandela, the Mvezo chief, removed the remains without consulting anyone.
Elders with knowledge of AbaThembu traditions and customs told the family that this had angered the forefathers which resulted in a curse being put on the Mandela family, by the ancestors.
City Press reported that after the meeting it was decided that elders – men only – should visit the gravesite to appeal to the ancestors to spare Mandela from suffering. Mandla did not go to the family gravesite where the elders had gone to plead with the ancestors.
It was decided at the gravesite that a delegation would visit Mandela in hospital.
“I will be going to see Tata (Father) in hospital. He cannot be alone at this hour of need. He needs AbaThembu and his family next to him,” Mtirara, an elder, said.
South Africa has such a diverse society. One of the greatest problems that face the nation in their religious walk, whatever that may be, is that the tribes revert to their dead for advice in the time of a crisis. On Sundays people will attend church and praise and worship God for hours. Six days a week, they will consult the forefathers or their spokesmen, if they have a crisis…
Superstition and witchcraft is rife in South Africa. Witchdoctors or Traditional Healers is acknowledged as a profession ….some medical aids even pay for their services. Companies have to accept a “sick note” from a Traditional Healer, who has no formal medical training.
Outside the Heart Hospital in Pretoria thousands of people have gathered singing hymns and burning candles in prayer for our beloved Madiba. Elsewhere the bones are being cast and rituals to appease the forefathers are being performed.
In the words of Mandla Mandela “At the end of the day, my grandfather’s fate, like that of everyone else, lies with God and our ancestors”
The prayer/request is the same. “Please end Madiba’s suffering. Allow him to die the way he lived…..with dignity.”
A gentle death, when comfort, caring, and presence are priorities, is invariable a death at home or in the peaceful surroundings of a Hospice In-Patient Unit. The opportunity to have your loved one drift away peacefully, in the comfort of their own home, in their favourite bed or in your arms, with their loved ones there at their side, is truly a gift of immeasurable worth.
Too often doctors keep treating the actively dying person aggressively. The ill person accepts the aggressive treatments doctors keep piling on them even though there is no benefit to be derived from it. At this stage of the terminally ill patient their medical care controls their lives. Pain, NG tubes, stomach tubing, IV tubing, catheters…. They remain hooked up to all sorts of beeping, pumping devices until the bitter end. We are conditioned to accept aggressive life-prolonging treatment that often destroys our family’s financial stability and quality of life.
This is what the medical profession is trained to do. To heal…
It is so hard to die with all the medical technology and treatments available. People no longer die of heart attacks. People go onto preventative cholesterol and blood pressure treatments. They become old enough to develop Alzheimers…
What changes have occurred which mean we are now living longer than previous generations?
During the twentieth century, life expectancy rose dramatically amongst the world’s wealthiest populations from around 50 to over 75 years. This increase can be attributed to a number of factors including improvements in public health, nutrition and medicine. Vaccinations and antibiotics greatly reduced deaths in childhood, health and safety in manual workplaces improved and fewer people smoked. As a result of this – coupled with a decline in the fertility rate – many major industrial countries are facing an ageing population.
According to UN statistics for the period 2005 – 2010, Japan has the world’s highest life of expectancy of 82.6 years followed by Hong Kong 82.2 years and Iceland 81.8 year). The world average is 67.2 years and the UK average is 79.4 years. The average South African is expected to live to at least 60 years, an increased figure when compared with the 2005 figure of 53 years. .
During the Roman Empire, Romans had an approximate life expectancy of 22 to 25 years. In 1900, the world life expectancy was approximately 30 years, and in 1985 it was about 62 years, just five years short of today’s life expectancy.
Why are we living longer? Well in South Africa or even Africa it is because of revised HIV Anti Retro Vital policies. HIV has become a chronic illness. It is no longer a life-threatening illness. As long as you take your ARV’s you will be fine!
Improved food packaging and an increased awareness of the nutritional value of food have led to healthier lifestyles. Increased fitness levels and the reduction of smoking have also paid a major contribution in increasing life expectancy world-wide.
Adverts on buses and tubes inform us of the importance of washing our hands and covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze in order to reduce the spread of illnesses and diseases. Health and safety legislation provides strict regulations for hygiene in restaurants, hospitals and factories.
This is great but we have an increasing older population suffering from diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinson’s. I don’t believe that it is the environment or lifestyle that has led to this. Years ago people simply died younger… Our grandparents were OLD at the age of 60. Now 70 year olds have knee replacements and still play sport.
Vic was diagnosed at the age of 18 months with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. At the time it was a death sentence. I remember the professor telling us that she would not live to the age of 12.
We celebrated her 12th birthday, her 16th, 18th, 21 and 30th birthdays…We celebrated her 38th birthday. Every birthday from her 27th birthday became more difficult. The doctors and I fought to keep her alive.
Keeping her alive came at a price. Eight one (81) abdominal surgeries, literally years in hospitals, pipes and tubes in every orifice of my child’s little body, prodding and prying by strangers hands. She was stripped of her dignity. At times litres of faecal matter poured out of her intestines into bags and bottles….She had to drink revolting liquids, tablets crushed and vomit until she fractured vertebrae.
Why did we not allow her to die with dignity? Why did we fight for her life? Why did we sentence this poor child a violent life filled with suffering and pain? Because I was selfish. I drilled fighting and survival into her little brain from the age of 18 months. Vic did not know how to not fight.
The greatest gift I ever gave Vic was to respect her wishes and allow her to die. It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do… Retreat and not fight!
St. Francis of Assisi portrays death as “kind and gentle” in the hymn “All Creatures of our God and King”. This is certainly a minority view in our culture and faith. It speaks of a familiarity with death that seems to have been more prevalent in previous generations than it is today. Society sanitizes death. In a culture devoted to the avoidance of suffering, a culture that lives as if this life were all there is, it’s not surprising that we relegate death to the morticians. Morticians do the final honour. They wash and prepare our dead for the last time…
We avoid the sick and funerals. We relegate our dying to a noisy hospital room with beeping machines and staff on a schedule. No gentle music and candles – just harsh hospital lights and a lot of noise 24 hours a day. Hospitals are not trained in palliative care – only curing.
When someone is dying, everyone has to wait. It takes time. All of us have a different timetable. Some wait mere hours. Some drag on for days, others, weeks. It is a lesson in patience. And it is a time when “being” edges ahead of “doing”, and just being present your loved one’s bedside is seen as the ultimate act of service.
We must allow our dying and infirm to die a gentle death. We must HEAR what they are asking! Are they ASKING for more invasive treatment or the right to die a gentle death?
Five months and 7 and a half hours ago I allowed my most precious child to die a gentle death. If I had not ignored her wishes her suffering would have ended many years ago. I have to live with this.
Jon-Daniel’s BBM status today was “Mommy’s dream coming true” with this photo…
Your dream is coming true my angel child. Your Stepping Stone Hospice is functioning, and we have received a building as a donation! Next week construction will start and by the end of the month we will move in!
Behind the building there is a duck pond and a quaint little chapel. I look forward to planting some roses in the garden! We anticipate wheeling our day-care patients into the garden so they can feed the ducks.
Of course we do not have furniture yet. The boys are donating the furniture for the two Dignity Rooms (dying rooms). It was their decision! We want to real make the rooms pretty and lively… We will play gentle music and burn candles like we did for you… It will truly be rooms of love…
Yesterday I was at the site and I was looking at the terrain that they were clearing. All of a sudden there was this perfect white feather…Another message from you Angel. Thank you. I needed a sign…
Stepping Stone Hospice is daunting. This week an article appeared in the Tames Times. It opened a floodgate of telephone calls… An elderly man called. His voice was raw with grief and despair. His wife is dying from liver cancer and he is going through all those familiar caregiver anguish. How will he know when it is time? But she is still working and in total denial…He did not want help and will put my number on speed dial… I experienced what Arlene must have experienced when I phoned her the first time…. Quite a few new patients this week…so much pain and fear…
We have had wonderful offers of help. A woman phoned today and said that she did not know how to care for a sick person, but she was prepared to go clean a sick person’s home… We have had offers of help from professional councillors, people from all wards of life…Now we can only hope and pray that people will volunteer furniture and make some financial contributions!
I am amazed at the goodness and generosity of people. The company that donated the building belongs to a young man, Jaco Schultz. You would have liked him my angel. He is really a nice young man with a “white heart”.
I can hear you asking “Where did you find him Mommy?”
I did not find him. He found us! Long story…here is the short version!
We sell second-hand clothing to raise funds… El-Marie, Jaco’s sister took 14 bags of clothing to Trix. Trix (a wonderful woman with a superb sense of humour and a passion for Stepping Stone Hospice) told her what we do with the proceeds of the clothes (we buy medication for the indigent patients). Two weeks later she dropped off more bags and asked whether we could meet her brother…
The meeting itself was quite funny. It was when I had that terrible flu. The morning of the meeting I hardly had a voice, my head was throbbing and I was certain I would die. Remember the woman you met, who lives around the corner from us and whose daughter-in-law was paralysed in an accident in December 2012? She was at the meeting. I was so scared I would spread my flu germs, and she would contract my flu, that I wore a facemask – I did not want DiL’s death on my conscience. It must have looked so funny! Me with this horrible surgical facemask… gasping for oxygen and only breathing in concentrated germs!
Jaco asked to see the terrain, and we went on a walk-about. He asked whether a tree could be moved….We had a promise of a building that would have a small day-care centre, two dignity rooms, a treatment room…! As easy as that!
Within weeks the promise is becoming a reality. Construction starts next week! I am so excited! So my Angel Girl, there was a purpose to your suffering after all. I wish it was differentbut it isn’t. We have been blessed beyond comprehension.
I believe that God is personally overseeing this project.
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.” ~ Bessie Anderson Stanley
To laugh often and love much – That Vic did. She always had a smile on her precious face. Even when she was in dreadful pain she would try to smile. When she was in a lot of pain her laugh was shrill. Pain seldom stopped her from laughing… In 2007 I said to Vic that my life was sad.
“That is terrible Mommy. Why?”
I felt like hitting my head against a wall! What did the child think? In 2007 Vic must have had 18 operations; developed every hospital superbug in the book; developed septicaemia, had a high output fistula; developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome; spend months in ICU and survived having the ventilator turned off… Vic was op TPN (Total Parental Nutrition) for months…she had a massive open wound that we could not keep covered with a colostomy bag. It was too big and positioned very low down.
“I worry about you every second of the day baby. I worry whether you have vomited and how much you vomited; I worry whether you have been able to eat anything… I worry about your wound. I worry about your pain control….”
“Mommy, that is so sad. At least once a week the boys and I laugh so much that my tummy hurts from it…”
Vic loved unconditionally and with every fibre of her body. She gave everything! She was a wonderful daughter, mother, friend…She loved her family, her siblings, her friends and her boys. She LIVED love.
Her last words ever were “I love you Mommy”
… to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; Worldwide, intelligent people, respect and admire Vic for her courage, tenacity… We called Vic the “baby whisperer”. Children loved her. She loved children. Her only ambition as a toddler and teenager was to be a Mommy. She loved her sons beyond comprehension…
…… to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; Vic suffered a lot of betrayal in her little life. People got tired of waiting for her to die. “Friends” spoke about her “addiction” to pain medication behind her back… They used her illness as a weapon against her when she was at her most vulnerable. False friends (and loved ones) spoke their “minds” and condemned and judged Vic for choices she made… Because she was ill people thought they could say what they wanted, when they wanted.
….. to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; My precious child was so naïve. She refused to see the bad in people! The only time she got irritated and miserable was in hospital. She always found the good in people. She did not speak badly of people. When I was angry with someone she would placate me…point out their good points… She knew that if she voiced her own anger it would have driven me over the edge. Vic taught me unconditional love, forgiveness and tolerance. Vic brought out the best in me and the most other people.
…..to give of one’s self; Vic was a people pleaser. She would turn down MY bed!!!! She made sacrifices for each and every person in her life. Even in death she worried about other dying people who were less privileged than she was. I promised her 2 am one morning that I would start Stepping Stone Hospice! She kept talking to me about Stepping Stone until she lapsed into a coma.
…..to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; Vic left the world a better place. Her sons are monuments of the person she was; her dream of a Hospice has been realized.
……to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; With the 2010 Soccer World Cup Vic went crazy with enthusiasm; she bought every gimmick that hit the shops; she went of the “soccer train” in her wheelchair, she watched every single soccer game.
……to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived Vic’s legacy will live on through her sons and Stepping Stone Hospice. Long after I have died, people will continue to benefit from Vic’s dreams and goodness.
—this is to have succeeded.” My angel child – you succeeded! You succeeded in life and with living. You made the world a beautiful place filled with goodness and hope. I am so proud of you. You lived life to the full. You made a difference! You lived a greater and more successful life than most people. You have put the world to shame. You are my hero!
Sixteen years ago today, my beloved mother lost her battle against the septicaemia ravaging her tiny little body. I woke up this morning thinking “well at least this year Mom has Dad and Vic with her…”
It was very hard for me to come to terms with my Mom’s death. I spoke to her every day of my life regardless of where I was in the world. I was a real “Mommy’s Girl”. Mom adored Vic. They were so close.
I was cruising (I know “surfing” is the correct terminology) the web looking at bereavement sites when I saw that on the 9th of December 2012 it was Compassionate Friends 16th Worldwide Candle Lighting. The 9th of December is my birthday. It was a special birthday – my last with my precious child. Worldwide bereaved parents were lighting candles for their dead children…This year I shall join them in sorrow – lighting up the world.…
I found a section “To the Newly Bereaved”. It is now 4 months and seventeen days or 137 days since Vic died. Am I still a newly bereaved parent or am I becoming a seasoned bereaved parent?
When your child has died, suddenly it seems like all meaning has been drained from your life. When you wake in the morning, it’s difficult to get out of bed, much less live a “normal” life. All that was right with the world now seems wrong and you’re wondering when, or if, you’ll ever feel better.
We’ve been there ourselves and understand some of the pain you are feeling right now. We are truly glad that you have found us but profoundly saddened by the reason. We know that you are trying to find your way in a bewildering experience for which no one can truly be prepared.
When you’re newly bereaved, suddenly you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster where you have no idea what to expect next. Here are thoughts on some of what you may be experiencing or feeling (many of these will apply to bereaved siblings and grandparents):
You’re in shock from what has happened and a numbness surrounds you to help shield you from the pain. I thought I was going to lose my mind when Vic died. The pain was unbearable. Now numbness has settled in. It is a survival mechanism.
You find yourself in denial. Your child cannot be dead. You expect to see your child walk through the door any moment. No – I have passed this stage. Vic is dead. She will never shuffle down the passage again.
You see your child in the faces of others walking down the street. No – Vic was uniquely beautiful. I wish I could see her face on a walking body because that may erase some horrible memories from my mind.
You wonder how someone can feel this much pain and survive. Absolutely!
Thoughts of suicide briefly enter your mind. You tell yourself you want to die—and yet you want to live to take care of your family and honor your child’s memory. Absolutely!
You want to know how the people around you can go about their day as if nothing has happened—don’t they understand that your life—everything that meant anything to you—has just ended? Your purpose in life is gone. Absolutely
You are no longer afraid of death as each day that passes puts you one day closer to being with your child. Absolutely yes!!!!
Thoughts of “what ifs” enter your mind as you play out scenarios that you believe would have saved your child. Yes
Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You’re shrouded in forgetfulness. You’ll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you’re going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in “little accidents” because you’re in a haze. Absolutely
You fear that you are going crazy. I fear I am…
You find there’s a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened. I try very hard not to think about it
You find your belief system is shaken and you try to sort out what this means to your faith. Yes
Placing impossible deadlines on yourself, you go back to work, but find that your mind wanders and it’s difficult to function efficiently or, some days, at all. Others wonder when you’ll be over “it,” not understanding that you’ll never be the same person you were before your child died—and the passage of time will not make you so. Absolutely correct!
You find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again trying to understand what someone else has written. Yes – it is scary. I watch TV programs and cannot remember the show afterwards.
You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!!
You find yourself filled with anger, whether it be at your partner, a person you believe is responsible for your child’s death, God, yourself, and even your child for dying. ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!!
You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid. No, I have no unspoken words or emotions. I just want her back with me!
Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame—you most certainly would have saved your child if you’d been given the chance. Thank God this phase has passed.
You feel great sadness and depression as you wrestle with the idea that everything important to you has been taken from you. Your future has been ruined and nothing can ever make it right. My life will never be the same again. I wonder whether I will ever experience true happiness again.
Either you can’t sleep at all or you sleep all the time. You feel physical exhaustion even when you have slept. Have these people moved into my home? This is absolutely true.
You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself—it just doesn’t seem that important anymore. Maybe….
You’re feeling anxiety and great discomfort—you’re told they’re panic attacks. No
The tears come when you least expect them. Absolutely
Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating. Oh yes!
Family & Social
If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because it’s so difficult to focus on their needs when you’re hurting so bad yourself. I am petrified of not being with the boys all the time. I hate not being with them! I am stressed when they are with their father or friends. I am terrified of leaving them to go overseas…
You find that your remaining family at home grieves the loss differently and you search for a common ground which seems difficult to find. Yes
You’ve been told by well-meaning people, even professionals, that 70-80-90 percent of all couples divorce after their child dies. You are relieved to find that new studies show a much lower divorce rate, from 12-16%, believed to be caused by the “shared experience” aspect of the situation. We have gone through a very rough time in our marriage. We have worked through it. But I can see that it is a distinct possibility in a newly bereaved situation.
Old friends seem to fade away as you learn they cannot comprehend the extent or length of your grief. No…they faded away when Vic was ill and she did not die soon enough
Things you liked to do which seemed so important before now seem meaningless. Absolutely correct
Others say you’ll someday find “closure,” not understanding that closure never applies when it is the death of your child. Darn right!
Fleeting thoughts of pleasurable activities bring about feelings of guilt. If you child can’t have fun, how can you do anything that brings you enjoyment? Maybe