Four weeks ago my mother arrived home for a visit from England. We had been counting down the days until her return, with plans to walk the beach, enjoy day trips, watch movies and maybe even get chooks for the yard. It was going to be bliss.
Days in to Mum's stay, we heard from her life-long friend Kathy, my much loved second mother figure. We knew she had been feeling unwell for several months and her doctors weren't sure of the cause, but she was feeling worse. "Stay in touch," we said, "we'll come up to visit when you're feeling stronger."
After not hearing back from her for a few days, I heard from her daughter. After several visits down to the A&E with complaints of extreme pain and fevers, she'd been admitted to the haematology ward and was undergoing biopsies, scans, lumbar punctures and blood tests.
We got to the hospital and joined her entourage of passionate Greek relatives. Everybody was visibly concerned. Nobody was certain of the prognosis.
Days later, she received the diagnosis we had all feared: acute leukaemia. By the following visit, she'd had her head shaved and was appearing smaller, curled in to a ball on her hospital bed. Yet, she still had such kind words and smiles for me. She isn't a Christian, but I could see God's mercy and grace, heart-breaking though it was.
As we were no longer going to go and stay with Kathy in the country, we were at home. Home, being the family home where I live while my family is overseas. Home, where the painter had just sanded the house, only to reveal rotting wood and other expensive surprises that had not been accounted for.
Then, an acquaintance living close to home was the cause for three police officers searching the property at 1am one morning. They were looking for an 'individual deemed suicidal' by a family member overseas. The individual was suffering from a mental breakdown and needed to get home to her family overseas, but she wasn't well enough to get there alone.
So, over several days, Mum and I packed up all her personal items and placed them in a storage unit Mum organised for her. The woman struggled to form sentences and continued to deteriorate, beginning to text Mum during the night saying she couldn't sleep, neither could my poor mother, who was herself becoming ill with the effects of stress.
Mum's stress levels were so high she'd broken out in facial eczema, so inflamed that her eyes had swollen shut. Here we were ringing Health Line (also at 1am) and visiting the after-hours medical centre. All this while we were meant to be catching up over rooibos tea and bonding over episodes of Gilmore Girls!
Christ in the chaos
Kathy is still in the hospital, already through her first round of chemotherapy. She will remain in hospital for months to come. Everyone close to her is still grieving the diagnosis, the change in her physical condition and the uncertainty of the future.
I myself cannot bear to think too far ahead (and chapter six in the book of Matthew tells us not to), but I know Kathy's suffering, and my consequent suffering has drawn me to Christ.
The deeply penetrating sadness and fear for my much-loved one has sent me to Him in desperation. I don't know what the outcome will be, nobody but God knows this. But I am constantly in prayer with the Lord, asking that He may be merciful and not only save her body, but her soul.
We have finished cleaning the acquaintance's premises and all of her things are safely in storage. She arrived safely to her family, who were anxious to care for her. God supplied us all with the strength to endure the ordeal, for her in her painful heartbreak and diminished capacity, for us in our overload of stress and emotion in the onslaught of events.
The painter is continuing to paint our home as the builder trails behind him, repairing and replacing damages. The costs are beyond our means (many home owners will relate) but I am hoping, in God's provision, He might continue to bless us in unexpected ways and means.
Even writing this, I can't believe how 'wrong' Mum's much-anticipated trip home has gone and just how hard it's been to survive the past month. But deep down I am completely aware there are no errors in His ways, that He has ordained each and every trial.
I can see Mum's visit in itself has been an enormous blessing. I can't imagine facing the current events with her so far away. God has used us to comfort each other in our many moments of despair and tears. He has provided for us at each and every point in our struggles, seeing that our needs are met, even if our immediate worldly desires are not.
I trust that God will uphold me in every circumstance, that He will see to it that I do not slip. I am reminding myself to hope in Him and remember that He will continue to carry me through.
With love, I encourage you to do the same.
Scarlett Jones resides by the seaside and loves reading, films, craft and quality time with friends and family.
Scarlett Jones' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/scarlett-jones.html