In April 2018 I organised a workshop with the title, ‘Disappointment: disaster, detour or new destination’. My English teacher would have been proud of the beautiful alliteration. What I know now is that it was to become my personal roadmap. I became intensely aware of all the disappointments that I have been journeying with for so many years and which have become part of my baggage. I decided to declare a personal month of mourning. Part of my planning was to have a private funeral ceremony. To ensure that I do not bury the wrong things, I started making a list of all my disappointments. Two days after the workshop, one of the matrons at the hospital requested that I present a lecture to the nursing staff on this topic. Thirty-five nurses turned up. Some shed tears. We forgave whom we needed to forgive, to the extent that it was possible at the time. Then they picked up their paper plates with their creative expressions of disappointment and they repeated after me: “God, I give you my disappointments. I really do not want them anymore. Would you please take them from me today?” During that month I gave this lecture six times to a total of 90 nurses, 25 caregivers and to our team and volunteers of 16 people. God made sure that the content of this topic became part of my being.
April 2019 found me alone for a month at the sea. André was hospitalised after five months of living with a death wish and came home from the clinic overmedicated and unmotivated to do something about it. After a month of this, on top of the daily tension between death and life preceding it, I was at the end of my reserves. I needed some time out to finish my book in Afrikaans. We agreed that Andre was in a safe space and I could take a month out of care giving for much needed self-care. The first two weeks I cried my eyes out and wrote unpublishable blogs that are still unpublishable. The next two weeks I wrote my book in Afrikaans and finished the evening before my 60th birthday. I booked a table at a nearby lodge for lunch. The waiter asked for how many people the booking would be. I said: “A table for four but I would only need one chair.” When he looked confused I burst into laughter and explained: “I have invited my Trinity God to celebrate my 60th birthday with me. It will be Father God my Creator, Jesus my Saviour and Holy Spirit my Companion. None of them will need a chair. Only I need to be seated.” He smiled warmly at my explanation. And so I celebrated my 60th birthday physically alone but not lonely. Embraced by the presence of the God I serve. My Companion in my pain. My Teacher in my suffering. I was yearning for the love and affection of my husband which he was no longer able to give. Our connection was eroded by the apathy of depression that locked him away in isolation. I learnt to find that love and affection in my connection with God. At this stage I did not hold onto Him. I was clinging to God to survive. Searching for true acceptance of my situation. The ability to find joy amidst the disappointments of disconnection.
I bargained with God and said that I refuse to mourn again in April 2020. He was gracious to me. Now I mourn in June and July as the start of my grief. I feel disappointed. Again. If I were to express my disappointment in clay, it would be this dragon of depression that seemed to swallow you. André, your death is a disaster to me. I trust God to use this unplanned detour to take me to a new destination. My God is unshakable, also when I experience an earthquake. My God is indestructible, even when I think I will be drowned by a tsunami. I come up for air and my God is there. Joshua 1:5b “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
I hold onto my unshakable, indestructible God whose presence restores my soul.
Annette de la Porte