It’s just another weekday. Ordinary for some & fairly typical for me. I won’t say “normal” because I somehow get the impression that it isn’t. I’m on my way home from school. Perhaps my greatest achievement today is getting from one end of the day to another without getting a kicking. Although whether that is a good thing….. well the jury’s still out on that one. I don’t know what’s worse, that or the subtle name-calling or ignoring and shunning. At least physical injuries heal. Emotionally it’s harder. I walked out of class today, not that that changed anything.
Anyway, I’m getting closer to my house- I can just see it at the top of the road. Instead of feeling a sense of relief, I feel a sense of dread. What am I going to walk into tonight? Is she going to break the habit of a lifetime & actually be sober tonight? It’s payday, so it’s unlikely. Which probably means another night of rows & breaking up fights. Or stopping her from threatening Dad with a knife or even threatening suicide? Maybe we’ll be fortunate & she’ll just sleep? Who knows?!
You see, I’m talking about my mum & she’s an alcoholic. Has been for years. Mind you, Dad’s not much better. They divorced a couple of years ago. I actually made mum get a divorce after Dad knocked two of her teeth out during a drunken argument. Of course I had to mop up the blood afterwards! It’s like a role reversal- I’m the parent & she’s the child when she’s like this. But the divorce made very little difference. It’s just like they can’t live with each other & they can’t live without each other! And the last family holiday we all went on? Well I laugh when I think of that! Let’s just say my brother & I ended up, on the first night unscrewing all the light bulbs in the chalet. Why? Well to stop mum stabbing Dad because he left the light on! Yes, you guessed it, another drunken argument!
This is describing a fairly typical day during my teenage years. I bet you’re wondering how I dealt with this on a daily basis? Well there is only one way. By the power & the Grace of God. You see I invited Jesus to be Lord of my life at around the age of 13. Although much of this was already happening, I knew no different at the time. But I believe God called to me Himself at His appointed time. You see I started going to church, alone, at the age of 12. I decided one day that I wanted to go. Just like that. Fortunately Mum and Dad were ok with it. I don’t really think they were too bothered one way or another. I remember the first time I walked into my local church. I chose that one because apparently that is where myself and my brother were christened and both my sisters were married, so it seemed like the obvious choice.
Anyway I can’t even remember what the service was like, or any part of the sermon. But what I do know is that there was something there that made me want to come back, that made me want to be a part of whatever it was. I guess in hindsight I know that is what is the most important thing that introduces people to the church (God’s family). It’s not necessarily styles of worship, or dynamic sermons (although it is important to be culturally relevant and move with the times!) It’s the sense that they are finding something there that is missing from their lives, that they want a part of. And this proved to be an essential part of God’s provision for me when the next major event was to happen.
I’m off round Kathryn’s again tonight. I do that usually a couple of times a week. She’s a friend from church. Her family know about what’s going on at home so they usually invite me round their house just to give me a break. I’m having dinner before I go. Mum doesn’t appear to be quite so drunk tonight. How do I know that? Well she cooked for a start! On bad days it’s usually me otherwise we don’t eat.
For some reason I still feel more apprehensive about tonight. I’m not sure why. To the point where I can’t stomach my food so I leave most of it. Then Kathryn’s Dad arrives to pick me up.
It’s a good evening overall. We didn’t do much, but I’m in the middle of my year 11 mock exams so it’s just as well. All too soon it’s time for them to drop me home. It’s only about 10 minutes. When we arrive I usually open the door and turn around to wave. This is the unspoken signal that everything is ok. However tonight is different. As soon as I open the door with my key I can hear a lot of banging and crashing and shouting from upstairs. I don’t think twice I just belt up the stairs. I find my mum and brother in the bathroom and, lets just say, it’s not exactly the “Hi Jo, how was your evening?” I was hoping for! Basically mum is knocking ten bells out of my brother. She’s had a few more to drink since I left then!
It breaks off at that point. I’m not even sure how it started. Neither is mum. But this is usually the way it is. Mum’s sloping off to her room now and she’ll probably just sleep it off now. Uh oh… I’ve just realised my friends are still outside. They’re probably wondering what’s going on. I’d better go and talk to them.
That was the last time I was to walk out through that door. It wasn’t planned that I would actually leave that day, of course it wasn’t. But looking back I can see that God decided enough was enough. He was to bring me out of that situation. Only He knows what would have happened otherwise. He sees the bigger picture because He created it! We only see the tiniest, most minute part of it at the time. We probably won’t know the ins & outs, the whys and wherefores this side of eternity. But we have to trust God.
I’m staying with my friend’s family. I convinced myself that it was only for tonight, just while things calmed down at home but, deep down I knew that once I left there was no way I could go back. It’s been a rough night. Mum sent the police around to get me but I refused to go. So we were up till around 1am while the police were backwards and forwards negotiating. On top of all that I’ve spent the whole night with my head in a bucket throwing up! Not a good start to my exams!
Only God knows how He carried me through that time in my life. This was to be the first of 13 moves during the next 12 years. Sometimes I didn’t know where I was going to be staying in the next couple of days. But I’ve never been without a roof over my head or food in my stomach. God knows what we need even before we do! And he never sees His children without. Of course that doesn’t always stop me from fretting about how I’m going to pay this bill or that bill or about having more month left than money! We’re only human after all! But God is always more than faithful- if we would only trust Him as such!
Four years have passed since that night when I walked out of home. It’s been a real rollercoaster ride- certainly not easy! But God has been with me throughout. Mum’s health has steadily got worse. To the point where she never even gets out of bed. Even before that she started to lose the use of her legs. Now she barely gets up to use the toilet. She’s still drinking of course, but according to her there isn’t a problem. She’s dying, I know she is. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Dad’s moved back in. Not that he was ever really away, he just had a different address.
It’s New Years Eve. My brother has asked me to baby sit. I never go anywhere anyway so I don’t mind. I’m staying overnight. My brother and his partner are getting ready but all of a sudden he realises he’s run out of hair gel. Remembering that he left some at Mum’s place, he goes over there.
About half an hour has passed when the phone rings. I think nothing of it at first because my brother’s partner goes to answer it. Then she calls me to the phone in a panic but won’t say why. I pick up the phone and it’s my brother on the other end. Apparently mum is in hospital. It’s serious. Deep down I know why she’s there. The hospital doesn’t appear to be holding out much hope. There’s nothing we can do tonight so my brother and his partner go out as planned. They’ve poured me a glass of wine before they left but I can’t bring myself to drink it.
It’s funny really looking back at this because even here I can see that God was at work. The fact was that mum had been in hospital since the early afternoon and we found out in the evening. How we found out was purely because my brother had run out of hair gel! Otherwise I don’t think we would have known until it was too late. I believe God intervened by using something so seemingly simple.
It’s now New Year’s day. At the first opportunity my brother & I go to the hospital. The nurse points out where Mum’s bed is. I do a double take. It really doesn’t look like her. She’s a bit jaundiced and she’s unconscious. She’s attached to a drip and a catheter. Apparently she has pneumonia but the main problem is her liver is packing up. Although we knew this day was coming years ago it still doesn’t seem quite real.
Mum’s condition deteriorates overnight so we are called back to the hospital. She’s been moved to a private room. Her chest is rattling every time she tries to take a breath. The nurse tells us that it is getting near the end now that she has a matter of hours to live. We leave after a couple of hours. There is nothing more we can do here. She actually lives for another six hours and dies early the next morning. As soon as I heard the phone ring I knew. My sister came into my room but only has to look at me. I’ll save her the trouble of telling me because I know anyway. Mum’s gone.
Even then God was in control. The fact that she died in slightly less time than the hospital gave her meant that she didn’t die on my birthday. I believe God cares about the seemingly small details of our lives. And although to my knowledge Mum didn’t have a real faith in God before she died I spent the last few hours of her life praying for her. Although I cannot say what happens on the death bed all I know is that as a child of the living God my prayers counted for something. There are some things that I won’t know this side of eternity and I fully believe that we should share the gospel in any way we can and at the opportunities God gives to us- not necessarily wait until they are at the point of death and then try to remember to pray for them.