‘My daughter shot herself. She was seventeen.’
She says it to me over pastries and coffee – in the break between sessions at a women’s event in Tzaneen – with the matter-of-fact sobriety that comes from walking through grief. She tells me how beautiful and vivacious her daughter was. How somehow the lie had seeped and settled into her young bones – that life wasn’t worth the living.
I’m in this place for the weekend to speak. I don’t have words for her.
I drive home slow and quiet through the mist of Magoebaskloof, keeping my eyes on a metre of wet tar that edges out in front of my car to push back the blanket. I put on my hazards and hope that what I can’t see can see me. And I think about how faith is kind of like driving through mist. We can’t see what’s coming but we edge onwards anyway because we know the mist has to clear sometime and there’ll be open road somewhere ahead.
I think about how seven years ago to the day – 7 September 2008 – we dedicated Cameron to God. He was exactly five months old, and blind. I think about how often I used to explain cataracts to people – that our baby was driving through mist all the time. I wrote about that time in our lives, in my book –
When I look back on the days and weeks following Cam’s diagnosis, they flash silent and disconnected like a slow-motion movie scene. People caught in an explosion. Screams but no soundtrack. Bodies smashed against glass. A shattering catching light.
So I don’t remember much about that Sunday morning seven years ago – just three things really. I remember how my mom cried, and how the whole church bent in threes and fours and there was this whispered chorus of prayer for our boy. And I remember we sang –
How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He lives!
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
Three days after his dedication – 10 September 2008 – Cameron was wheeled into theatre for his first cataract surgery. I wrote –
The theatre doors closed and I wept like my soul had snapped. Because my hope had been wheeled into that theatre and I didn’t know if it would come out whole.
And here we are. Seven years on. Seven years of being stretched on the faith rack in ways we would never have imagined or planned for. Seven years of unfair, uncertain, difficult and sometimes devastating bits of life happening. Seven fat, full, happy years that we would never, ever, swap for anything.
So – I just felt to send so much love and courage today to you, if you’re staring down the barrel of a gun at a future that holds no promise. None of us knows what dragons might lurk on just the next page of the stories our kids are living. None of us knows what the world will look like a decade from now, or round the bends of tomorrow’s misted road.
But we do know that our Creator-King is on the throne, and He is faithful. We do know that His mercies are new every morning and that He answers parental prayers for wisdom. We do know that He has our kids on their own journeys, and there’s grace enough for the steps they’re taking into a future we won’t necessarily live to see.
We do know that our kids can face uncertain days, because He lives. And friend, life is worth the living. Oh, it is so very much worth the living.
Your faithfulness extends to every generation…
. . .
I’ve been blogging pretty much every week for more than seven years now, and I’m humbled by how many of my readers here have shared that whole journey. I want to say today how deeply and sincerely grateful I am.
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For me , for me, for me -thank you ! Many of those tears have been shed here by us on your journey even when you were not aware.
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You’re the best Terry; love you much. x
I remember the day so vividly as if yesterday. Not a dry eye in church. Thank you so much for keeping us focused on what is most important and not worrying about tomorrow when things are tough. Love you, Dalene.xx
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Thanks so much!!! x
Life has been very much worth living. Life continues to be worth the living. There have been many parallels that you and your amazing family have been that are so similar to our experiences in life, so far. I, too, so well remember Cameron’s dedication. Remembering that in the same week some 3 years earlier, we lost our second precious daughter. Remembering the pain and anguish we went through and there you and your family were facing similar pain and anguish. Yet as the years have rolled on, to be able to reflect back on all of God’s amazing, extraordinary graciousness bestowed upon our lives, brings me/us to a place of knowing that life really is worth the living.
Thank you Dalene for your wonderful gift of writing. Miss you guys in so many ways.