'Where Doctors End... And God Begins!'
Adversity can come in many forms, including poverty and persecution. But when it takes the shape of illness, and death, even the most self-possessed person may find himself turning to God for help. Like nothing else, the physical pain of illness and the finality of death make us realize the limitations of our human strength and abilities. Unlike health and happiness, it teaches us to pray.
1n 1989 as a new mother, I was looking forward to the arrival of my first child. Peter came, healthy and beautiful, but very early and... within a few minutes it became evident that all was not right, shortly after his birth He was immediately taken down to the Neo-natal ward in Hammersmith Hospital .
Some months earlier my Uncle Justice died; someone I knew and loved. A favourite Uncle who the day before he died, I had spent the day with and who I had shared the good news that I was expecting my first child. Uncle danced for joy in the reception of my busy office excited at the prospect of being a grand-uncle and oblivious to the curious stares of passers by. Uncle Justice was a free spirit, eccentric and a real live wire. Just before he left he hugged me, told me he was proud of me and then said “see you later”, but instead of driving off as he usually did he sat in his parked car and waved… and waved... and waved, lingering for almost 10 minutes before driving off... clearly saying a final good bye. He died suddenly the next day.
During the funeral service, I was suddenly gripped by a premonition: my child will be the next one we would be burying. Right after the service, I was rushed to Hammersmith Hospital with severe abdominal pains - a threatened miscarriage. But my physical pain was nothing compared to the pain of my sudden loss. I grieved and wept for my uncle, my friend. Life could never be the same without Uncle Justice!
0n the 8th of May at 10.17am my son was born. Like many firstborns, Peter's delivery was long and difficult, but even though he was very early I was overjoyed by his apparent healthiness. What no one knew was that my little one had a series of problems caused by his prematurity. The team in the Neonatal ICU did their best, but Peter just kept getting worse.
In addition to the complications of prematurity he contracted meningitis from a blood transfusion he had received to make him better. His condition was further compromised by a genetic blood disorder from my side of the family - Glucose 6 Phosphate De-hydrogenase ( G6PD). He was reacting adversely to the very antibiotics needed to combat the infection. And when his jaundice level soared, I knew the end was in sight. I simply wanted to bring him home to die, but the doctors wouldn't permit it. That was very hard for me. In the end the doctors persuaded me to go home and get some rest... they would call me if things got any worse... they were were not expected to get any better. At this point I must say that my hopes for a successful outcome were sobered by the death of two other babies on the ward. This was a stark reminder of the fragility of life.
In the night Peter deteriorated further. He was still conscious and clung to life... but it was clear he was dying. News spread fast and friends and relatives gathered at home to intercede for Peter. They gathered to pray and read from the Bible. They sang "songs in the night". These songs were a true communal prayer - the words fitting the need of the hour, and the music an expression of unity and of the longing that everything be done in harmony with God's will. At that point I made my peace with God, re-dedicating my life and submitting to his Sovereignty. The words "Yet though He slay me Yet will I trust Him" were the words that filled my heart as I sat and waited for the inevitable. Peter died during the singing at 10.00am on the morning of 10th May 1989. Everyone stood there for a long time in silence. The grief was overwhelming, and so was the renewed realization of man's smallness and frailty.
I asked if I could take him to a quiet room, away from all the machines and tubes and wires, and I was allowed to do this. My Pastor Colin Dye and my immediate family sat in silence as I held him in my arms. Peter my son, it was hard to believe that one could look so beautiful and peaceful in death. Then it was time to go. How could I leave my baby behind... so I offered Him back... Peter... Child of the King.... Now united with Him...
Leaving him at the hospital was the hardest thing I have ever had to do... preparing for a funeral instead of a christening even harder still. At this point in my life came to the realization that there are times when serious illness or tragedy strikes so forcefully that one hardly dares to ask God for what might seem an impossible reversal of fate. In such an hour, our relationship with God takes on a rare and unforgettable intensity. My flesh wept, but my spirit was strong... and embraced the sovereignty of God.
Because Peter's condition was genetic, I have had to evaluate each of my children who followed him; and with each new pregnancy I have had to put my trust in God completely, preparing for what may be found. But now I realise that I worried too much, and that never helps. All we can do as parents is to ask God to protect our children every day. And we must believe that He will do this. Sometimes our senses seemed heightened; at other times we felt numb. But beyond our words and feelings was the growing realization that all life is in God's hands.
At Peter's funeral the mood was one of unwavering faith in the face of what was clearly a test of our trust in God. I learnt then that God does not "test" as many would have had me believe... God proves... To test is to start off at the point of uncertainty and then work towards searching for proof of what one thinks or wants to believe exists. The outcome cannot be determined until the test is over... and the results will either confirm or deny the existence of one's belief. However to prove starts off on the basis of certainty.. from the place of knowing the outcome, but allowing things to happen to confirm what is already a certainty.
That year God proved me and as we stood around Peter's tiny grave to bid him a final farewell, Wynne Lewis my Pastor and friend read a verse from the Bible that God would send another that would stay. And true to His word He did… not just one but two. My sons Johanan-Daveed and Jas-Peter are a living testimony to God's ability to keep His promise... replace and if that was not enough… with a double measure. They are both variations of Peter and when they stand together, the living image Peter would have been like. So through them Peter's memory is kept alive…