It was a bad year; it was a good year. It was a sad year; it was a joyful year. This is how this author describes the events of 2016 in the lives of his family and some of his friends.
The year 2015 ended with the death of my mother who had lived to the ripe age of ninety-eight. About that same time, one of my sons was not feeling well. He had to take a few weeks sick leave from work.
He attended my mother’s funeral but had not fully recuperated from his illness.
Meanwhile, in mid-October, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Subsequent tests showed that the cancer had not spread. We had to make a decision on the method of treatment after reviewing the available treatment options. That year my wife and I had a quiet Christmas. We were not able to get out to church or attend our favourite Christmas concert. For the six years we were married, my wife was battling an illness that doctors could not figure out. She constantly felt sick, tired and by this time had lost feeling in her feet. Her neurologist, the best we have here could not find the reason for her problem.
2016 started with the realities that I had prostate cancer, my wife had an unknown illness and my son
was dying and we did not know it. One of my sisters who came home from England for our mother’s funeral had decided to spend some time in Barbados before returning home. Her stay was cut short by the bad news that one of her sons was found dead in his house in England. Our troubles had begun. It was around the middle of January that we realized the seriousness of my son’s illness. At this time he had to be admitted to hospital where he remained for a few days before returning home. His situation did not improve but got worse. Two days before I was scheduled to have the radical prostatectomy, he had to return to the hospital for a short visit. I had the surgery and came home within five days. My son’s situation deteriorated and he had to again be hospitalized. This time he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. While he was there and not getting any better, I received a phone call from a friend. He did not know of my surgery but proceeded to tell me of the passing of another close friend. She had passed the previous night while praying on the telephone with other friends. She was a regular visitor to our house and often looked after our children while my former wife and I attended choir practice. Six days later my son died.
At the same time, my wife’s mother was not well. My wife had to go to the house to help with her. Normally I would drive my wife but since I was incapacitated and she was not driving because of the problem with her feet, she had to find alternate transportation.. Imagine the pressure, grief, sadness and stress we had to endure. How did we manage? All I know was that we had to manage. We knew that God was with us. My daughter did all of the planning for her brother’s funeral. That made life easier for me.
A friend and neighbour took me to the funeral of the lady who baby sat our children. I was still healing from the surgery but I was feeling fine. After the funeral, bad news hit again. This time another Christian lady. She was dressing for the babysitter’s funeral but started to feel sick. She sat in a chair hoping to feel better. When her transportation arrived, relatives found her dead in the chair. That was enough, Lord, I thought.
My son’s funeral came. That was four weeks after my surgery. I drove for the first time after the surgery. All went well until we got to the cemetery. My wife had what we now know was a lupus flare up. My sister and some other persons got her into the car and I drove to the nearby medical centre. The doctor did a few tests and gave us a letter to take to the hospital. We went home instead. I did not feel I could handle the hospital that night. Early in the morning, we headed for the hospital. By this time she was feeling better. After a medical examination and some tests, the doctors seemed baffled. They gave her letters to attend the outpatients’ clinic of a cardiologist and a neurologist. We returned home from the hospital after midnight.
A month later on April 22, my wife’s mother was admitted to hospital. The following day, her sister, my wife’s aunt had a stroke and was admitted as well. My mother-in-law died three days after being admitted to the hospital. Her aunt died about a month later. My wife handled these deaths remarkably well. It was a harrowing year, but that was not the end.
In August my brother and his wife came home to attend one of his sons’ wedding. They intended to stay for a few weeks after the wedding and then return to their home in Canada. He became seriously ill a week after the wedding. His wife found him sitting on the toilet and vomiting blood. He was also unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with stomach cancer. In September the surgeons removed his entire stomach. They returned to Canada in October to begin chemotherapy. That being finished, he now has twenty-five days of radiotherapy. He said he is doing well and has more strength now that the chemotherapy is over.
My PSA’s for months after the surgery have been good and so far there has been no need for further treatment. However, my wife’s health began to deteriorate. Lots of pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, dizziness, and back spasms came like never before. In June we started working with another doctor. This doctor was dedicated and intended to get to the bottom of the problem. She left no stone unturned in her quest to find a diagnosis for my wife. It was about late October that the doctor did the blood test for lupus. The following visit, she gave us the results and explained what she found. From there she turned my wife over to a specialist for further evaluation. A week before Christmas my wife was diagnosed with lupus. We knew this was the right diagnosis since our search on the Internet revealed she had many of the symptoms of lupus. The medication has helped so much. A huge load has been lifted off our shoulders.
Last Christmas we attended church on Christmas Eve for the first time. It was so refreshing. We lit candles and took the Lord’s Supper. Christmas day we spent some time with my daughter and her family. We had not done this for a long time because of the health problems my wife was experiencing. What started as an awful year ended with satisfaction and relief. But how did we make it?
I am sure we did not make on our own strength. We constantly cried out to God to help us We had friends and brothers praying for us constantly. Many times I felt frustrated at my wife’s illness. I had come to the conclusion that she would be dead by year end if God did not intervene. Many times she told me that she was dying. On one occasion after being anointed and prayed for, the pain in my wife’s feet subsided for some time and then returned. Another time after receiving prayer, the pain immediately became worse. Our faith was tested to the maximum during these trials. We have not given up and will not give up. We are still here by God’s grace. We can say like Paul, “…We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2Cor..1:8-9 NIV)
What to do when all hell breaks loose? Hold to your faith in Jesus Christ as never before and if you do not know Jesus get to know Him real fast. Meanwhile, we say together with the Psalmist, “Sing to the Lord, you his saints; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:4-5). We have much to be thankful for. Through all the suffering, sadness and pain, we had no idea how it would end. We knew that God could be trusted. So we waited on Him. It took perseverance, faith and strength; all of which our God provided. At times we doubted, at times we feared the worse. That did not change God’s love towards us. God brought us through the worst of times. If you are going through a rough time in your life, remember to trust God. He will never leave or abandon you. He will see you through.