HOLD ON TO HIM: An Under-the-bed day

We searched everywhere for her – her sister and I.  We called her name at the top of our voices.  Searched inside the house, walked into all the rooms.  Called her name outside the house and walked around the garden.  We could not find her anywhere.  I walked into her room again and, suddenly, I had the idea to look under her bed.  There she was, looking at me with sorrowful eyes.

 

I called her sister and gestured under the bed.  Without words we crawled in and lay next to her, one on each side, under the bed.  We were silent.  She sighed.  We waited.  Then she said, “I am having an under-the-bed day”.  I said, “It’s okay.  We will be here with you”.  “Yes,” her sister echoed.  “We will be with you under the bed”.  We did not speak.  It was not necessary.  We just breathed together.  After a while, she said, “It is better now.  We can all get out from under the bed”.

 

I do not remember what we did next.  There were other signs after that.  She could not recall the sequence of her ballet routine.  Her mostly happy changed to mostly sad.  It was the start of her depression, which was diagnosed and treated with love, acceptance, medicine and prayer.  It became a saying in our household:  “Are you having an under-the-bed day?”

 

Do you sometimes have an “under-the-bed day?”

Psalm 139:7  “Where could I go from your Spirit?  Where could I run and hide from Your face?”

 

Dear God, in these troubled and terrible times, we are all challenged by “under-the-bed days”. 

Hide us in Your presence.  Your presence are the air we breathe.  We cannot see it.  Without it we cannot live.

Be our oxygen Pappa God.

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Taking back a dream and living it

My dream of growing old with you, my Beloved, has died with you. What dreams can be birthed anew for me? I did not die with you. How am I taking back life when it is without your breath next to me?

One dream I take back is to have a sanctuary at the sea. A safe space where people can come to rest and be restored. Where their soul can find its song again. Where I can live my unique God design to comfort, equip, encourage and inspire. Last week I wanted to run away from this house, this space where I fought for your life the past four years. This space where your despair became too much for you to bear. How can I live where you died? All the books on grief advise against making drastic changes in the first six months. Our rental contract expires at the end of January 2021. How do I get from here to there?

I will be a sanctuary for others in pain. And immediately opportunity raises its hand. I counsel a beautiful young woman with a mercy heart on Zoom. She dissolves in tears saying: “I am so lonely.” “Why don’t you come and have lunch with me on Sunday? I can put a chicken in the oven and make us some salad.” “I can eat chicken,” she replied hesitantly. I burst into laughter and said: “My good listening skills detect that you might be a vegetarian.” She was actually a vegan. I remembered about a vegan recipe with flair that you once made for a friend of ours, my Beloved. So, on Sunday we had lunch together on the stoep. The sun warmed our bodies. Our conversation warmed our hearts. We lent each other the comfort of conversation and connection. Neither of us were lonely.

A student of yours sent a message that she is considering leaving the course. Her laptop has broken, and she has a bad internet connection for the following week’s Zoom webinar. I invited her to come and work at my house on my laptop and attend the Zoom webinar there as well. We have soup together for lunch. She laughs when she tells me a story. She had finished two reports in the morning. She has new hope. “It is so quiet here with you,” she says. “There where I live (nine minutes’ drive away) all you constantly hear are the sounds of gunshots.”

I do not have to wait until I have a sanctuary at the sea to be a sanctuary to others. In the words of Graham Cooke: Lord, I give You permission to get my attention, even when I am not paying attention. Help me to be sensitive to the needs of others and provide some shelter emotionally, physically and spiritually where I can.

Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You (Psalm 38:9). While I hold onto You to bring about my dream in its fullness, I will with joy obey Your heart’s desire to love:  Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.” Romans 12:13 “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 

Annette de la Porte.

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: My heart needs mending

There was a chill in the air this morning. I decided to wear my warm purple jersey. When I picked it up, I noticed that the sleeve had come undone, revealing a gaping hole. You left a gaping hole in my heart, my Beloved.

I found a new song of the King singers whose harmonising we loved. It is a song by Billy Joel with the title ‘And so it goes’. I share some of the lyrics. “In every heart there is a room, A sanctuary safe and strong, I will share this room with you, and you can have this heart to break. So I would choose to be with you, that’s if the choice were mine to make, but you can make decisions too and you can have this heart to break. And so it goes and so it goes and you’re the only one who knows.”

A principle we lived by in our marriage was joint decision-making. When we could not agree on something, you had the right to veto my opinion. You seldom did. At the beginning of lockdown we would often both be on Zoom sessions on our laptops. One of us would sit in the bedroom at the back of the house to be out of hearing distance of the other. I suggested that instead of calling it by the boring name of our guestroom, we should call it our sanctuary. It looks out on the beautiful back garden that our tenant Guilma made with black-eyed Susan vines blossoming in orange joy against the wall. It was in the sanctuary that I found you dead on the 30th of May. How fitting.

As part of my bereavement counselling, I made a Sozo appointment with a friend in Pretoria. At the end she guided me in a conversation with Pappa God. He showed me that André did not die alone. I could visualise how the Trinity ministered to him after his death. Father God picked him up in His arms and laid him down on the bed. Holy Spirit opened a flask of anointing oil and poured some in the Father’s hands. He put His hands on your head, my Beloved, and gently caressed your hairless head. Jesus was holding your hand and took some of the anointing oil and wiped both your hands with it. Holy Spirit removed your new warm slippers and anointed your feet with oil. For a moment they stood in silence, just being with you. They looked at me and Pappa God announced: “We are taking him home now.” Father God picked you up in his arms and with Jesus and Holy Spirit on either side, they took you to heaven, your eternal Sanctuary in the presence of God.

Exodus 15:17 “You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance. The place, O Lord, which You have made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.”

In my heart there is a room, it was your sanctuary safe and strong.
I have shared this room with you, and you can have this heart to break.
So I would choose to be with you, but that was not my choice to make.
You can make decisions too. You have used your veto right, without a discussion this time.
You can have this heart to break.
And so it goes and so it goes and you’re the only one who knows.

Mend the gaping wound in my heart, Pappa God, the vast emptiness that was left by my Beloved.

Annette de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: An attitude of gratitude

The sun is shining. I am glad to be alive. I remember the orange capers that blossomed next to the river in ‘The Lane’ in Stellenbosch where you kissed me for the first time. You kissed me, held me at arm’s length and proclaimed: “Annette Spies, what are you doing to me? I am falling in love with you.” I became your girlfriend that night, 38 years ago. Our happiness knew no bounds. When the suffering of illness was weaved into the threads of our lives, we found ways to celebrate the small victories in a day.

Today I am grateful for the peace of God blanketing me from head to toe as I sit in your office working on a report to a funder. I am grateful to be a Christian, believing that through your death, you were birthed into eternal life. I am grateful to sit in your chair knowing that you are living in the everlasting peace of God’s presence in heaven. What beautiful comfort there is for us as a family knowing that your laughter is resounding in heaven. As your Auntie Johanna said: “No more trouble.” I am grateful to taste the blessing of the love of our children, the two daughters whom I birthed, Danica and Githa, life changers to everyone they encounter. Two sons-in-love whom I prayed for, Sean and Simon, worshippers of God, who brought joy to our lives. I am grateful to see the fruits of your labour in the testimonies that streamed in after your death.

I decided to go to a nearby nursery and walk around between the plants and flowers. I was yearning for the intense colour and smell of hyacinths, but I think their season has passed. On my way there I drove past a street called ‘La Gratitude’. I turned around and parked my car in that street to take a photo of the street name. I walked up and down in the street, actively positioning myself in thankfulness. I will choose an attitude of gratitude as my companion on my journey with grief.

I remember a story you often told at your courses. There was a little boy who, growing up, could see another house on the horizon. At the end of every day, the windows of that house looked like liquid gold. How he yearned to live in that house with the beautiful golden windows. One day when he was big enough, he walked to that house. He met a boy of his own age, who lived in the house with the golden windows. As they talked, the other boy asked him where he lived. He made a gesture in the direction of his house. Oh, the new boy said: “You live in the house with the golden windows, right there on the horizon,” and pointed at the house. The visiting boy turned around and looked at his own house in the distance. The sun was setting, and the windows of his house looked like liquid gold. The light of the setting sun reflected on the windows of both the houses. From inside their own respective houses, they could not notice it.

Psalm 34:8 “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 52:9 “For what You have done I will always praise You in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in Your name, for Your name is good.”

My Lord and God, help me to stand outside the house of my life and see how Your mercy paints the windows gold. I want to notice Your goodness to me and not be envious of the liquid gold of other buildings in the distance. I choose an attitude of gratitude with which to honour You in my grief.

Annette de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: And the Oscar for the best actor goes to…

I want to roll out the red carpet for you, my Love. If I owned a little black number, I would wear it for the occasion. No glitter and glam for you. You kept your pain as private as possible. Early on in your journey with depression, one of your psychologists taught you the mantra: “Get up, dress up and show up.” And so you did. Relentlessly. Your work was your identity and you intentionally developed a public persona. Before Covid-19 was a reality, you wore a mask every day. You did it so well that most of your team members are still in shock about the incongruence of their memories of your laughter in team meetings and the desperation of your last act.

Shakespeare was the prescribed work for English in matric and your class went to the art festival in Grahamstown. That solidified your love of acting. You joined an acting group while studying in Bloemfontein and proudly explained the plot of the story to me, following photos in your album. When we came back to Cape Town, you could not wait for the Maynardville open air theatre season to start. In 2017 we showed up for “Twelfth Night” and took part in all the theatrical thrills. Somebody tore up half our tickets to ensure we would not come back the next evening. We stood in line to buy a programme. How you loved concert programmes. Studied it from top to bottom like your newspaper. We found an attendant to whom we showed our ticket halves and were escorted to the right queue for our seats. Settled in our chairs. Looked at the people. Enjoyed the strings of lights in the trees of Maynardville Park. Waiting expectantly for the light to dim and the show to begin. Staring at the rest of the audience – amazed at the diversity of humanity in looks and dress code. A bell rang to indicate it was time for the show to start. The actors arrived on stage and the story unfolded. You were mesmerised. I was irritated by all the swear words. When it was interval, we took turns to stand in the queue for coffee and take a bathroom break. We leaned against a tree and stared at the stars while we drank our coffee.

A major depression that turned into a chronic illness brought a dichotomy to our lives. To me it sometimes felt as if you lost your integrity. That you were living a lie. It made me angry that you could show up at work, show up for your students, a phone call or a visit from the children, but not show up for me. You could not see this contrast between your public persona and when you left your stage to come home to me. Then you were tired of performing your act. The costume was gone. The mask put away until the next morning when you would pick up your laptop bag, hang your nametag and your cross around your neck and left for your office at the hospital. I was left with the empty stage, yearning for you to make a joke with me, to listen as attentively as you would listen to your staff and your students. When you were with me, the lights were on, but there was nobody home. Powerless disconnection was your dress code when you left your stage. You were in denial about your denial. Unable to see what you could not face.

I once organised a training session on a Saturday morning. I needed you to come and assist with the technicalities of coordinating the presenter’s laptop with the projector. That previous evening you were in the depths of despair, plagued with thoughts of suicide and the lie of worthlessness that depression tells. We arrived at the venue that Saturday and everything was set up. I was in front of my laptop, preparing to introduce the guest speaker. The next moment I heard your belly laughter at a joke made by a team member. I swung around in my seat and caught your eye. I silently nodded at you. You saw what you could not see before. Even after you were “caught in the act” you could not change your behaviour. Your psychologist referred to it as “depressive habits” that you developed over the 35 years. Coping mechanisms that killed our connection.

The pandemic happened. Lockdown stole your stage, your mask and the opportunity to step into another persona of lightness. You only felt the despair you could display in the safety of our relationship. I truly honour you for being able to stay on the stage, always being the professional, acting to the utmost of your capability. Wearing your mask. Fulfilling your task. Protecting yourself against the shame that society bestows on depression. Paying the highest personal price to serve your cause.

Psalm 40:1-3a “I waited and waited and waited some more, patiently, knowing God would come through for me. Then, at last, He bent down and listened to my cry. He stooped down to lift me out of danger from the desolate pit I was in, out of the muddy mess I had fallen into. Now He’s lifted me up into a firm secure place and steadied me while I walk along His ascending path. A new song for a new day rises up in me…”

My Lord, My Saviour: Shepherd me and heal all my layers of pain. Let a new song for a new day rise up in me.

Annette de la Porte.

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Defying gravity

I am on YouTube, looking for a song that will encourage me, a sermon that will inspire me or a teaching that will enlighten me. Nothing works. This voice is too high-pitched and it irritates me. That song is about praising God for a miracle that did not happen for me. This sermon could not hold my attention. That teaching does not ring true for my reality. How do I defy the gravity of mourning without denying it?

The one thing I fought for 35 years is the atmosphere of heaviness that is part and parcel of a journey with depression. A blanket of dark oppression that demands submission to give in and give up. Sometimes I would leave the house and keep on inhaling breaths of fresh air as I stepped out of the suffocating atmosphere. I am reading Job 17 and I see a reflection of the intensity of your struggle, my Beloved. Job 17:1,7,11,15 “My spirit is broken. My days are extinguished. The grave is ready for me. My eyes have also grown dim because of sorrow and all my members are like shadows. My days are past. My purposes are broken off. Where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” In religious literature this is referred to as “the dark night of the soul”. How many dark nights did you not endure, my Love. How brave you were to continue fighting for so many years.

Job answers himself in chapter 19:23-27 “Oh, that my words were written. Oh, that they were inscribed in a book. That they were engraved on a rock with an iron pen and lead, forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives. And He shall stand on the earth and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God. Whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold and not another. How my heart yearns within me.”

Teach me, my God, my Redeemer Who lives, how do I mourn without being pulled into the depths of despair? I do not want my purposes to be broken off. I declare that You are my Hope. I may be sad and heartbroken. That is appropriate. With You I can defy the gravity of despair. Would You fill me like a helium balloon that I can find a way to soar again?

Annete de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: What do I miss?

In the course I presented at safe social distance, we talked about the impact of shock on our lives. I make mistakes like sending emails to myself or searching for my glasses that are on my nose. I lose a paper and drive back home to make another copy, only to find the lost paper in the car. It is fifty two days after I found you dead.  I am still in shock and probably will be for a long time to come. There is no quick fix for death.  No reset button to push and then the pain is gone.  I still love you with the same intensity as when you were alive.  And I miss you like hell.

What am I shocked about?  I am shocked about your manner of death.  That you violated our no-suicide contract. That you broke our trust agreement. That there were no warning signs during that week.  Your Zoom consultation with your psychiatrist went well and we agreed that apart from missing gym, there were no symptoms of acute depression.  We talked with expectation about becoming grandparents.  I was not on red alert like I often was in the past.

What do I miss?  I miss our small islands of connection that were still left.  I miss you walking into the sitting room and asking me if I want a cup of coffee.  I miss my toothpaste love letter on my toothbrush. I miss cutting purple unions in fine rings when you were making us lunch.  I miss sharing a new insight that I had.  I miss listening to you playing your guitar. I miss my one minute hug:  sixty beautiful seconds of being in your arms.  I miss being kissed on my lips.  I miss the fact that I do not find the toilet seat in an upright position anymore, the silent indicator that I share the house with my husband. I miss the hope of a tomorrow with a better connection.  I miss having your body in your favourite chair behind your newspaper. I miss watching a movie with you and grabbing your hand when there is a tense moment.  I miss your occasional laughter when I succeeded in telling a joke that elicited a reaction.  I miss us.

What do I need to let go of?  I need to let go of trying to make sense of your illogical decision.  I need to let go of my dream that you will be restored to your former glory.  I need to let go of the dream that I will fill the place of work in your life.  I need to let go of the dream of growing old together.  I need to let go of my detailed action plans of keeping you alive.  I need to let go of our dream of being grandparents and seeing you hold your granddaughter and playing with her. 

What can I take back of all the things that I lost in our relationship?  I am taking back my value for connection  To find the emotional energy to embrace change and encourage others to do the same with whatever they are facing. I am taking back my calling to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. By engaging in my own process of grief and bereavement, I will grow in my compassion for others.  My mission is still to leave others better than I found them.  I can no longer do that with you.  Your share will now be redistributed to others.

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”.

My God, I will hold on to You as you pour out the healing balm of Your presence over my broken heart and my crushed spirit.

Annette de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: You make me brave

Only one of my ears was willing to carry a ‘Hope’ earring today. The other one bluntly refused. The hole in my ear closed up at the back. I decided to wear only one earring to the ‘Searching for Sunshine’ course on depression that I am presenting for the next two days. There are days when you can only carry 50% hope. That was all I had capacity for today. The attendees passed the test of alertness to notice that something about me was odd. My tank feels empty today. Will I hear the message of my own ear?  Will I be accepting of this message?  Can I allow myself to be human and feel despondent?

The supervisor of the group did an icebreaker. Each participant got a balloon with a word written on it. My balloon said “brave”. I was reminded of my friend in Pretoria who forgot my birthday in April and turned forgetting into a beautiful surprise. She asked God what His first thought about me was when He designed me. His answer to her was: “She is brave.” She made a list of all the synonyms of brave from the Oxford dictionary and sent it to me in a voice note. To be brave means to be ready to face and endure danger or pain, showing courage, fearless, plucky, valiant, heroic, lion-hearted, bold, daring, adventurous, audacious, undaunted, unflinching, unshrinking, unafraid, spirited, resolute, determined.

Lord, today I do not feel brave enough to endure and face the unpleasant realities of André’s death. I do not want to be alone in this house where his voice became quiet. I do not want to present courses on depression and find soft words to disguise the horror of suicide. I want to stay in bed, pull the duvet over my head and cry until there is no water left in my body. I do not want to be brave today.

I am reminded of the song by Amanda Cook and Bethel Music which was my ‘anthem’ for a long time. “I have heard You calling my name; I have heard the song of love that You sing. So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore into your grace, ‘cause You make me brave, You call me out beyond the shore into the waves, no fear can hinder now the promises You made. As Your love, in wave after wave, crashes over me, for You are for us, You are not against us, Champion of Heaven, You made a way for all to enter in.”

Joshua 1:9-11 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, Get your provision ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.”

Lord I will hold onto You. You make me brave, strong and courageous for however long my three days are before I cross the Jordan and take hold of my new promised land for my next season. Thank You that I have permission to feel all of my feelings and that I do not need to rush grieving André. There will be days when I can only carry one earring of hope and that is also okay.

Annette de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: Your death is a disruption

At three am Prince Charming started barking profusely. Cinderella joined in. I am a light sleeper and immediately awake. I am not scared. Just annoyed at the disturbance of my sleep. At five am, Blackie the cat decided to investigate what is behind the cupboard door in the room next to mine. The cupboard door has a spring. He pulls it with his front paw and then the door slams closed again, over and over and over. I angrily jumped out of bed with this second disturbance of my sleep in one night. I marched into the room, opened both cupboard doors and almost slammed the cat’s hotel door behind me. At six am Biscuit started to meow. If the SPCA could hear him, they would accuse me of not feeding my cat. I got up frustrated, fed the cats and fell into bed for a desperate extra hour of sleep.

Lockdown was a disruption to your exercise programme, my Beloved. Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 16.00–17.30 was your gym time. You often said that 90 minutes three times a week were the only times you felt a little bit happy. The exercise bike was part of your routine. Many people who saw you in action were amazed at the frenetic speed with which you cycled. I understood that. You were purposefully manufacturing endorphins for your body to supply the shortage in your brain. Anything to get those neuro-transmitters to work. Not being able to go to gym was a huge disturbance to your routine, and it robbed you of your emotional balance. The bereavement counsellor said it was akin to suddenly being without half of your medication for three months. The half that kept you going. The half that gave you a little bit of joy, three times a week for 90 minutes.

Your death is a disruption that dislodged me. It knocked me with force out of the rhythms we developed on the theme of staying alive. I have to learn to take the ‘me’ out of ‘us’. So much of me was geared towards you. Such focus on lessening your pain and suffering. How I desired to impart some of my love of life and breathe it into you. I can no longer negotiate ways to give you that kiss of life. You are so completely dead and beyond my reach now. I cannot even pray for you anymore. I now have to pray for those who are still alive and locked in this wrestle with death. That whatever disturbs, disrupts and dislodges them, they will find their way to live another day.

A book by Matt Haig, ‘Reasons to stay alive’, threw us a lifeline a few years ago. This quote stood out: “Depression is also… smaller than you. Always, it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you; you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky, but ‒ if that is the metaphor ‒ you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud cannot exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.” Whoever you are, in your search for sunshine, may the sun break through the cloud of depression for you.

Romans 8:37-39 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” My God, thank you that André is safe in Your embrace. Jesus, the salvation You bought for us cannot be nullified by anything we do. Holy Spirit, I will hold onto Your guidance in the midst of any disruption that causes me to lose my balance. André’s death cannot separate me from Your un-ending love for me. Steady me, God, steady me.

Annette de la Porte

MAKING SENSE OF MY GRIEF: My suffering is my shaping

I once counselled a friend and encouraged her to look at her pain from a different angle. “Could you view it as an opportunity for growth?” I asked. She looked at me pensively and after a time of silence replied, “I don’t think I want to become an emotional giant.” Elizabeth Elliot defined it as follows: “Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.”

I asked André to write a foreword in my book ‘Hold onto Him’ which I self-published in 2018. I was concerned that people would think that I am not honouring him when I share stories of our journey and how the secrecy and shame of depression impact on the family and rob them of support. He called my stories by the grand name of vignettes and wrote the following:

“On a personal level, some of the vignettes were painful for me to read. Yes, depression casts a long shadow over our lives. However, there can only be a shadow because the sun is shining. In the past 33 years, there were many desperate times when I doubted that the sun would ever shine again. For me, depression is not the presence of something, but rather the absence of light and life. In the pitch-black times, I often thought of taking my own life. Mostly, depression was a dark grey void that invited me to just surrender and dissolve into the greyness. Then the pain would stop. Although in the minority, there were better and good times sprinkled in. I regret that I did not always embrace these times fully. I had many battles with God about His will and plan for my life. I doubted his love and presence, but he has shown his love in a tangible way: through Annette’s love for me. Despite the doom and gloom, the disconnection, the apathy, the anguish of contemplating suicide, she stayed. She not only stayed, but she never gave up. She fought for me when I could not fight for myself. She is hope embodied. Her indomitable spirit and unshakable positive attitude are the calm in the storm.” André de la Porte

It is easy to compare our pain with that of others to minimise it, ‘At least he was not bedridden for years as many people who live with a chronic illness.’ That does not work. My pain is mine to face. My pain is mine to feel. I did not plan to become an emotional giant or build up what feels like an encyclopaedia of practical knowledge on how to journey with depression and the threat of suicide. I agree with Elisabeth Elliot’s definition: “Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have.” I wanted my partner back. I wanted connection with my soulmate. The affection of my lover. I yearned for his ability for intellectual sparring. To make a joke and not have to explain it three times.

As I look back with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I am aware that without all of this pain, there would have been no gain. I can never say there is no God because He was present in our pain. He met us without answering all our ‘why’ questions. He sat patiently beside us when we were curled up in foetal posture, distanced and alienated by the apathy of depression. Yearning for the safe security of God’s womb. As André ended his foreword: “May you live with the knowledge of God’s loving kindness and compassion in every moment of your day, and in every area of your life, as with us.”

My suffering is my shaping. Right in the palm of God’s hand, we were on the Potter’s wheel. God’s mercy did not fail us in life, and it will not fail us in André’s death.

Malachi 3:3 “He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.”

A parable: A woman went to visit a silversmith and asked him to tell her about the process of refining silver. As she watched him, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. She asked him: “Sir, do you watch while the work of refining is going on?” “Oh, yes ma’am,” replied the silversmith. “I must sit and watch the furnace constantly, for, if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.” The lady asked: “How do you know when the process is finished?” “Oh, that is quite simple,” replied the silversmith. “When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is complete.”

Stir my life, God, and continue to scoop off the dross that Your glorious image may be reflected in my life.

Annette de la Porte