The Power of Forgiveness
This is my story of learning to forgive after events that happened to my son which lead to his death.
My youngest son Ted had a near drowning accident when he was 3 years old in 1983, and through this he was severely disabled. When Ted was 27 his speech therapist approached us/me, suggesting to feed him directly via his stomach using a feeding tube. This involves putting a hole into his stomach and I immediately rejected this idea (I later found out this is done while the patient is conscious – nothing for the faint hearted!). With increasing pressure from her and the nutritionist, I started researching this whole matter. After discussing it with my son we went ahead one year later, little knowing about the horror this decision would bring into our lives. We thought it would make life easier as it normally took hours to feed him and when he was in respite or day care there were always problems. And being 27 years old he had the wish to move out and be looked after in his own place.
I was present at the operation to make it easier for him and right from the start wished that I had never given my consent. But this was only the beginning of his suffering.
Shortly after the operation he was put on food that was administered through this tube and he started to develop ‘Grand Mal Seizures’. Each time he had a seizure it was as if my heart was ripped apart. The nutritionist changed to a different brand of food with the same result, then another brand but it simply got worse.
It was nothing but my faith in God that prevented me from despairing completely.
I researched for months and found a way to cook healthy normal food (which could be fed through the tube) and Teds condition slowly improved. The seizures occurred less frequently and he started to put on weight. Unfortunately the nutritionist did not agree with my approach and unbeknownst to me she started to work behind my back. This escalated to the point in trying to take the custody and guardianship of my son away from me. All this turned into a very nasty battle involving all the people that were helping to look after him. At one point our doctor put his foot down and told the nutritionist that all this had to stop immediately. However before the doctor intervened, she had taken control of my son’s diet again. By this time, the seizures had become very bad and lasted for over 10 minutes - time periods during which he barely breathed. He lost the sparkle in his eyes, his laughter, and joy of living. Caring became very difficult and tiring and most of my strength went into this battle with the authorities. By that time I experienced frustration growing into hatred! Had I not been a Christian I might have done something really foolish. It was nothing but my faith in God that prevented me from despairing completely. In this situation God strengthened us in many different ways. Many little miracles happened and one night I saw a huge angel with a sword standing in our garden.
...God told me this was our last outing together.
Ted moved into a home and the only thing he did there was watch TV or look out of the window! There were no more outings and he became very sad and depressed. About 4 months later he was not well. I picked him up that weekend and took him to a bus museum; a place he loved. We met friends there and he sincerely enjoyed it, but I was worried and had the impression that God told me this was our last outing together. I thought I was imagining things and brushed this idea away. But his condition became worse and worse over the next days and I requested that a doctor should come and examine him. Our church’s house group spontaneously decided to visit him. We were all shocked when we saw him. He was in a lot of pain. The nurses there did not realize this. I begged again and again that a doctor should come or that he be rushed to hospital for I feared for his life, but nobody listened. I waited till midnight for the doctor to arrive, but then needed to go home. I asked the nurse 3 times to contact me when the doctor was there so I could talk to him and she promised to do this. At 3 am I rang up and enquired only to be told that the doctor had left and prescribed an enema. I told her that if she was going to apply the enema to Ted, he would most likely not survive it.
The next day he was so bad that the nurses were scared. He was taken to hospital, only to be discharged and readmitted 2 days later, but by then it was too late. We were fortunate that a very competent doctor was present, but sadly the news was not good. The doctor told me that the tube had ruptured his stomach and that there were two options, either to give him painkillers for 2-3 days and let him die or to attempt to operate. He did not know if an anaesthetist could be found who was prepared to assist in surgery because Ted’s condition had deteriorated so much. We were lucky. The surgeon took 3 huge abscesses (the size of a fist and hand) out of the abdomen, washed the abdomen out, mended the hole and put the tube further down right below the stomach into the intestines. He said that it would be impossible to use the stomach again. My son spent a month in the intensive care, where he was on the edge of slipping into eternity. His body tried to fight this gigantic infection and he contracted a secondary infection. His lungs collapsed several times and in the end one of his lungs was permanently damaged: half of the lung had collapsed and it could not be reversed. During this time I was allowed to surprise him twice with a group of friends who took a guitar along and sang songs. He loved it so much! His eyes lit up and the nurses were all amazed. He wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday so much and God granted it. Unfortunately the next day the healthy lung collapsed again and he had only ½ a lung left to breathe; he died in my arms.
...God had given me a supernatural strength to cope with everything.
During all this time God had given me a supernatural strength to cope with everything. But now I was really struggling: I screamed, praised, prayed, and cried to the Lord. I always believed that Ted would be totally healed and had extreme difficulties to accept his death. I knew he was with the Lord and that it was a better life for him there than here, but I was lost and missed him terribly. Thoughts about wanting to kill myself entered my mind and I was so angry about all the people that allowed this to happen and never listened. I felt like being in a dark tunnel with no light at the end, far away from God. I lost my joy and laughter felt like I was carrying a huge weight around with me. It was then that God showed me these scriptures.
“But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (MATTHEW 6:15)
And again in MARK 11:25-26 “And if ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
I knew these scriptures, and so many others, that speak about forgiveness and God’s mercy! I knew I had to forgive and went on my knees to do this, but found it extremely difficult; my heart was not in it. As a result of this bitterness, anger - even hatred - had started to creep into my life. In all the past years, again and again I had to make the decision to forgive; however, I had always been able to do so: sometimes quickly, sometimes it took a bit longer. But to forgive all the circumstances that led to the death of my son Ted was too much for me. I really needed God’s help to do this for I did not want to end up an embittered old widow. I became very sick, and by this time I was angry with God throwing all my despair at Him. I shouted, screamed, and accused Him; every time I did this a deep peace settled upon my soul, afterwards. God understood what I went through. I praised him, laughed, and then I was angry again. This lasted a long time.
I could never ever have done this out of my own strength.
Sometimes I prayed more, sometimes not at all. I read the Bible or distracted myself by watching films. I cannot say that I loved God very much during this time; rather the opposite. I felt pressurized, compressed, and very far away from Him, and this must have hurt Him and I am sorry for this. I went into a water fast for several weeks and hoped this would help and it did. During this time God showed me that I should not only forgive, but be thankful for everything He did in my life. The way He revealed this to me was stunning. However, it took several long months until I was able to forgive from my heart and not in words only. It took a lot longer for me to become thankful for these circumstances, and more than a year to get through this dark tunnel. I have to give God all the glory for it. I could never ever have done this out of my own strength. The scriptures showed me so clearly I needed to forgive or He could not forgive me - and this forced me to search for this forgiveness, knowing that I myself am a sinner and far from perfect. The desire God had put into my heart to be with Him in eternity helped me through this terrible battle. I love Him dearly and today am closer to Him than before. He is a loving, very understanding and caring Father and Friend!
About a month ago during a worldwide water fast in our Assembly, He lifted this weight from me that was caused by Satan’s accusations (thoughts like: "You put him into this home to die because you had enough of caring for him," or memories of me saying to the doctor: “It’s enough, let him go”).
I praise God with all my heart for His love and care!
It has been 3 years at the time I write this testimony in 2014, and today I can say that God’s timing is always right (even though we don’t understand this very often)! Since then, He has also given me a very precious gift – a wonderful husband at my side. After all these years of battles it is the greatest blessing! I would never dare to take a step in this direction with Ted still around for the lack of time and strength to look after a husband as well.
Thank you so much Jesus! Life is a beautiful and great present!