A couple years ago I noticed I was losing my balance whenever I turned. Not long after that I found myself unable to walk. Six months of tests and waiting passed before I received a final diagnosis. I had a rare syndrome which needed immediate surgery—speed was the key. I was told that whatever walking ability was lost, may never be regained. And still another month went by before I found a surgeon, for a surgery that should have been done “a few yesterday’s ago.”
I was put on a ventilator during the seven-hour operation—just in case. Thirteen screws in my neck later, the post-surgery side effects were a painful reality. The doctor explained I wouldn’t be able to buckle my belt, a male point of view meaning I wouldn’t be able to look down. What he didn’t tell me about was The Monster: chronic pain.
(I never realized how heavy my head was until I couldn’t lift it anymore. Now, my inability to walk is because I can’t hold my head up!)
Nothing was as I’d imagined. My hopes had been pinned on a final recovery. I thought the surgery would “make me all better,” which was illuded to, but never guaranteed. I believed what I needed to.
Why am I going on about this? Because my road was jam-packed with hair-pin turns.
It was hazardous and scary. Sometimes I’d crash. There were times when my fragile sense of joy was hurtled through space like a spinning asteroid out of control. God appeared negligent. I thought He was supposed to be watching over me. I had to remind Him that I needed His help.
Recently, my husband, Yip, was given the grim diagnosis of Parkinson’s, the most recent of our hair-pin turns. We are in a new stage of life, one where being useful or helpful to anyone seems impossible. For us, the words hope and purpose have to be redefined.
As we braced ourselves coming around the latest bend, we found a treasure.
One day, as my husband and I were talking with God, Yip suddenly lifted his head from prayer and looked at me.
“He just wants us to love Him.”
Simple words without condemnation or threat of punishment. All those damming hairpin turns were not signs of God’s judgement or wrath, even though my wheelchair has the unfortunate name of Karma. The dictionary meaning of Karma being the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence as deciding their fate in future existences.
God says “Love Me.” Whatever physical, mental, or emotional state Yip and I were in, God was with us. He never left. He’s loved and accompanied us every perilous step of the way. Our difficulties, measured against the weight of God’s love are treasures in disguise.
One day, when I was in so much pain and feeling worthless, I said to God, “I know that You had the suffering, and we get the joy of heaven. Lord, I know suffering is really meant for martyrs, but would it be okay to count my pain as suffering for you?”
“Yes,” He said.
He said, “Love Me.”
Love me. Love me. And to you, it’s all the same in a storm, or sunny day. The night stars light the way, it’s all the same to you. You say, Love Me. You say Love Me. My vision may be dim, but with eyes pinned on You. The treasure stored on high… is that you Love Me, It’s healing oil for me, flowing fast as a stream. Its love covers me like a flood, And I know that I’m cleansed through your blood. You say, Love Me. Love me. I Love you. You say love is everything I need, You say, Love Me.
God is watching over us.
*Pen illustration by Sheva Leon, drawn on a paper napkin
By Sushila Ailawadi
Illustrated by aspiring artist, Mia
Intro; by friendly neighbour of Sushila
My friends, this is the true story of the leopard tiger which haunts Selaqui to this very day. Indeed, many claim to have seen its stripes, and others swear by its spots. Some have seen a tail more than a meter long, dangling against the full moon. To this day it roams the road in front of the village school, where children hide behind rocks in order to jump out and scare it. Yes. But, without further ado, we wander into the dark night…
Spotted a tiger in the dark of the night, with polka dot stripes, all black gold and bright. Or was it a leopard, all shorn of his spots wit polka long bands all stripey and stout? One way or another, dear sister brother We’ll never knows, It’s hard to get close unless you desire to face his deep ire and descend his gullet with fresh chips and mullet, a glass of sweet claret, 3 cakes, a few carrots An annoyed pink parrot, A villager who took to the field for the loo, A very sad demise… all chewed up inside.
~Thus end’s the ballad of a spotty-tiger salad.~
Rajat knocked on my door yesterday and held up a very swollen foot. “Uncle Yip told me to ask you for ice.”
While he was chopping wood for the kitchen, a bee stung him. I gave him an ice-pack and said he could take it with him and go lie on his bed if he wanted. He chose to stay, so I sat down with him while the ice-pack slowly melted.
I opened the conversation by mentioning a story I heard about his broken chappals (flip-flops). We laughed about how the cobbler mended his chappals and they soon broke again. Afterwards he went barefoot for a couple months, preferring it to any kind of footwear. I looked at his feet, remarking on his nice looking, new chappals. He lifted up one foot, staring with admiration. “It’s good to wear chappals, because it’s easy to step on thorns.”
I asked Rajat about his family.
“I was born in Bihar. When I was a baby my family moved to Dehradun, into a colony called Chor-kala, meaning black thieves. And that’s how it was. Dark and sinister. No one was trust-able. It wasn’t a nice place.
My father never went to school, but had a job working on cement trucks. He married my mother when she was 14. I have a sister four years younger than me. She is 12. I’m sixteen. My mother is 29 now. My father was not good. He drank a lot, and when he did, he would beat all of us. The doctor warned him about his drinking, saying one day it could kill him. He didn’t listen.
When I turned 6, my mother wanted to put me in school. My father was against it. He thought school would make me turn out bad, like him. My mother disagreed and they argued. She thought school would be good for me and was determined for me to go. They kept arguing about it. The result was he drank, and then beat my mother, my sister, and me. In a real act of bravery, Mom enrolled me in school anyhow. She got another beating for that. I was in school for one week. Then Dad died.
Mom married again. My stepfather is okay, though he drinks and beats my mother, and us, sometimes. I call him Father. He is not as bad as my real dad was. My relationship with him is improving. From their marriage, I have a little brother. He’s 5 now.
My birth father had AIDS. My mother has AIDS. My stepfather has AIDS. My sister has AIDS. Only myself and my little brother do not have it. When my brother was born the doctor advised Mom not to breastfeed to give the baby less chance of being infected. She spent extra money and walked daily to the bazaar for his milk. It kept him safe. My mother just put my brother into school. I’m glad she did that.
My family now lives in the mountains. I was stuck at home during the covid lock-down and couldn’t return to school. My father had me work in a chai shop. I didn’t mind, but it’s difficult at home when he drinks and beats us. His doctor told him to stop drinking and eating so much chili, because one day it may kill him. Like my first dad, my stepfather doesn’t listen to the doctor’s advice.”
Rajat came in to my house in the evening for another dose of the ice-pack. I fed him cake and showed him pictures. In the morning he came again for the ice-pack. This afternoon his foot was less swollen, so he asked my husband, Yip, for permission to play soccer. Yip playfully raised an eyebrow and looked down at his foot. “I suppose your shoe will fit over it?” He winked.
After Rajat left Yip told me why he let him play. “Boys will be boys.”
Seemed reasonable, but I also knew boys sometimes need an excuse to be brave… brave enough to talk. For Rajat, it was a bee sting.
Ankur was 18. He walked as though he was an old man with an anchor around his neck. Three times Ankur climbed to the top of the building and looked down, contemplating death. His life seemed unbearable… until, late one night.
Ankur stood outside his hostel supervisors’ door and knocked.
“I’m sleeping.” “Open the door.” “Go away.” “I want to talk.” Silence. “Open the door.”
The door opened. A groggy supervisor with eyes barely open, returned to his bed. “Yeah, what?”
“You know my mother died … I wasn’t sad.”
In tears, Ankur told bits and pieces of his story, yet couldn’t find words for what his heart needed to reveal. Listening, his supervisor was soon in tears as well. He later told me Ankur had a story; his background was in the dark and needed to come out. He needed to be known.
I asked Ankur to share his story with me, but he was reluctant and put me off, until one day he said, “I’ll tell you my story tomorrow.” I was surprised and pleased. Tomorrow came and went without a sign of Ankur. However, early the next day he appeared at my door, determined and ready. I invited him in. He settled himself on the couch, making sure the pillows were ready to support him.
“My mother died when I was about six months old, so I was too little to know anything about her. Only my dad actually knows how she died. He hasn’t told me. I call my stepmother Mom, since she’s the only mother I ever knew. My father remarried in order to look after me. She was a cruel woman. I don’t know how she treated me as a baby, but I survived somehow. The doctors said my deformities are from birth, so I can’t blame her.” He grinned and I laughed. Ankur had a leg much shorter than the other, and walked with a big limp. His spine needed major surgery —life-threatening hospitalizations were in his future.
“I was very scared of her. We were soon 6 children. I was number 4.”
“Once, when we were getting ready for school, Mom locked all of us kids inside the room while she went to the hospital for her AIDS check-up. It began to rain, and our clothes were hanging on the roof. We knew she’d be angry if she came home and found the clothes all wet, so we tried to yell for a neighbor to come and open the door so we could go up the outside stairs to the roof, but no one heard. We called for help, and yet were fearful to go out of the house at all —mother said not to. We stayed in the room and got ready for school. We didn’t want a beating —ever.
She was seething when she came because the clothes were wet. She dealt with her anger by hitting us repeatedly with a spoon until our skin was bright red. She hit my lower arm multiple times and just wouldn’t stop. After that she grabbed a pan and kept hitting me on the head. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I reached up and rubbed my hair and scalp and held out my hand. It was covered in blood. That finally made her stop. She took the bloody clothes off me. When Dad came home, he saw my arm and head and asked what happened to me.
Mom responded fast, “Oh, he fell down.”
“I had my head cracked open at least 10 times by her. Once, she was running after me and was beating me badly. I was trying to get away and I ran up the stairs. To make sure I wouldn’t get away she threw the pressure-cooker and it hit me square on the head.” Ankur laughed at the memory. “There are lots of stories I could share about her beating me with pots and pans and spoons on the head and everywhere else.”
“Ankur,” I asked, “why didn’t your older brother stand up for you?”
“What was he going to do? He was older, but young. We were all afraid of her, but he was less afraid and sometimes he would stand up to her.
“Because my father was a priest people gave food and sweets for his blessings. They gave us lots, daily. All that food was sufficient for our family, but me and my brother were always hungry. Our mother never fed us, and we never asked her for food. We were lucky if she gave us a little, though it was never enough to fill our bellies. Our father loved us, but he kept himself unaware of our lives and how she treated us.
“One month later I started going to school. I was in 4th class. If there was a holiday, I never wanted to stay at home. I would get up early; search or beg for food, come home in the night, get a beating. That was my holiday routine.
When my brother and I walked to school we looked for people who left food outside their door for cows to eat, while at home there was so much gifted food in our house it would sometimes rot. I began to steal food at home, and then began stealingfrom shopkeepers. I even stole lunch boxes from other students. When I was caught, a teacher started sharing her tiffin with me. She was really nice.
Our family moved to our own, small piece of land. There was a temple nearby. My brother and I wanted money to buy food, which we could easily steal from the temple. It was easy to grab, left lying where people threw it to the Gods. Being the youngest, I was always ordered to do the dirty work by my siblings. At the temple I grabbed five rupees. We used it to buy some hajmola (a sour tasting, chewable digestion pill).
“As soon as we got home my brother started vomiting; a white tapeworm came out of his mouth, about a foot and a half long. We thought it was because of the stolen hajmola we’d eaten. I was really scared. It was hanging from his mouth, wriggling back and forth, but not fully out —so creepy and disgusting. Finally, it dropped out and fell in the ditch. A neighbor saw it happen and told my father and mother. The result was a beating. They asked how it happened, and we said we ate hajmola. Then we got another beating. After that, my brother started having seizures. They took him to the local doctor. He kept on having seizures and they kept taking him to the doctor.
“We had to go quite far to get water in the morning. It was the duty for all of us kids. One day a bread truck stopped near the water tap. My sisters and brothers told me to go take a loaf of bread. I obeyed but my crime didn’t go unnoticed, and we all took off running. I ran wildly, going here and there, totally lost and separated from the rest. I started crying. A shopkeeper saw me and took me into his shop. He gave me water and biscuits. He asked where I lived. I didn’t know my address, so I had to describe it, telling him I lived near a small pond. He figured it out and took me home on the back of his cycle. By then, my sisters and brothers were already home and told our parents I was lost. For this, my brother got a beating. My mother told him, “Go! Don’t come back until you find him.” After he left, I arrived home. They waited for my brother to return until evening, but when he didn’t come, everyone went searching for him.
“At last, he was found, far away, where we used to go to school, sitting in the temple crying. My father asked him how Ankur got lost. He said, “Ankur was stealing bread.” Then I got a beating. The good thing was that my father wouldn’t beat me for every little thing. He let the “wrongs” add up to about five or six before he gave me a beating. But my mother beat me every day.
“My brothers and I always got up early and dressed for school, even though school didn’t start for another 4 hours. Our aim was to get out of the house before she got up so that we didn’t get a beating. She beat us all the time, no reason needed. I would go to the park and beg, hoping to find generous people who would share their food with me. I usually secured a little. Then I’d head for school. After school, I’d go back to the park to avoid her.
“One of my older brothers was braver than I was. Sometimes he would talk back to her. He did not like the way she treated him, or the way she treated the rest of us. We didn’t lie when our parents interrogated us on our comings and goings; we thought we would get less of a beating or no beating. I don’t know why we thought that —it never worked that way.
“One day, my father was in the temple and my mother refused to give me food. I said something to her that she didn’t like, and she took a broken piece of wood with a sharp pointed end and started beating me like crazy! She hit me seriously right in the eye. It became red and hurt badly. Because Dad refused to be anything but oblivious to what was happening, we made up our minds to do something. We decided to run away.
My sister regularly went to tuition classes held by Jains. I had gone only once. The Jains were really nice people. My second eldest sister, my brother, and I ran away. We weren’t dressed very well, but we went to their place. They treated us kindly and gave us snacks. We asked to see the Aunty who taught the studies. We told her what happened. She straight-away called the police. Then, the three of us, Aunty, and the police all went to our house. Our parents didn’t know we had intended to run away for good. They expected we would come back. They asked my mother where we had gone, but she didn’t know. We’d never have chosen to return to the house, but we had to go with the police.
“After that it became a big scene; all my relatives got involved, saying we ran away because “she” doesn’t take care of us. An uncle we’d lived with earlier was really upset, but nothing improved. My birth mother’s side of the family were always eager to see me. They loved me and wanted me to be with them. They felt bad for us. Still, nothing changed. We were back at home, living the same life of neglect and beatings.
“My elder brother got HIV. Later, my mother died from the complications of AIDS. Two years before she died, she started treating me nicer. She would even talk decently to me. I tried hard to treat her fair. We had a talk and sorted out some of our relationship. That was really important for me to do before she died. It didn’t make me too sad, though, that she died.”
Ankur leaned further into the sofa as his legs stretched onto the floor. He melted into the pillows and released an enormous sigh. A tired smile lit up his face as the weight of years lifted.
“I’ve never shared my story with anyone. I feel so light!”
Ankur’s anchor had been caste-off; nothing weighed him down. He radiated energy and life. He boldly shared what he wanted to forget. He was known.
Like Ankur, I had my own journey and was captive; frothing with rebellion, guilt, hurt and anger. Years went by. After some very dark times, I broke down. There was only one escape —talk. I opened the door… just a crack. I talked to God. He accepted me unconditionally. It always amazes me how truth and sacrificial love births freedom and changes us. I talked to God and he listened; I started reading the Bible and it made sense:
I’m on a learning curve; talking truth is an on-going experience. It takes a life-time. For Ankur, as well as for me, it’s meant freedom. Every time I open up, more light comes in.
I’m thankful for who I am and who I was — including all my experiences, both good and bad. Being known by someone is necessary; being known by God is full-proof.
Ankur talked and was known.
Freedom is available. Truth is safe.
P.S. You have a story. Talk. I’m ready to listen.
A Child is Born
Slain of God, the Lamb. Chosen for mortal pain To die the death of man Divine Light to claim. Light in depth of night Peeping into darkest hour Sparking fire, breathing life Making death cower. Seeking captive hearts and souls A Saviour crossing time Shining out from heaven’s porthole Leading all from death to life. Slain of God, the Lamb Chosen for mortal pain To die the death of man Divine light to claim
Lord, Keep Me as Your Child
Animal Poems For Children
By Simyana & Granny Frieda
Copyright 2022, Winchester Kentucky
The Accidental Poem ~by Simyana
The Bumbled Bee ~by Simyana
The Sloth ~by Simyana and Granny
The slow sloth slimmered snickily Over the brickly brothing branch It peered nose up and sniffed the air Slammed against a sticky snare “What,” It asked, “is that?”
The Deer Poem ~by Simyana
The dancing deer daintily doffed her darling dress She danced for Moonlight Who watched her dainty moves and made lunar noises So, the jungle animals could not snore.
The Woodpecker ~by Simyana and Granny
Bunny ~by Simyana and Granny
Panda ~by Simyana and Granny
The Panda bear (so panda-wick) Was named Bunny. Once he met a bunny, so funny, That he rolled on his side and laughed so hard Bunny (the panda-wick) couldn’t get up.
Monkey ~by Simyana and Granny
There was a little boy on a porch with his snack. On the tree a monkey studied carefully his plate of cookies. The monkey thought loudly, “That would be good.” And swung deftly down the branch and landed PLOP on the boy’s head. The boy looked up and saw on his head A monkey upside down. He smiled and said, “Here, have a cookie.” And soon they were friends.
Armadillo ~by Simyana and Granny
The armadillo has 4 legs and armour. Even if a lion attacks, It remains strong and continues slowly to amble along. When problems rise against you in life And you weakly amble along. Remember that God is invisible armour, Steady, ready, strong. The ambling armadillo; a good reminder. Thanks God.
Noah’s Ark ~by Simyana and Granny
Mama and papa animals went into the ark The kangaroos were not from a zoo They carried babies in pockets; two by two. The doggies barked, rounding up sheep.
The camels couldn’t sleep a wink. Donkeys brayed quite unafraid While fearsome lions lay quite tame.
Penguins in tuxedo’s, bats wore capes, Noah stood and gazed at the animal parade. He bent over and laughed at God’s funny display.
A Zebra Haiku ~by Simyana and Granny
Black, white, up and down, Sounds like a kazoo. Horsey, pony, donkey, who?
Skunk ~by Simyana and Granny
There was a skunk named Sticky Who lived under my house One dark night while we all slept We awoke with such a bad smell Baby cried, “WAAAAA!” Brother yelled, “Dad!” Sister looked sad, And mother went mad! Everyone together cried, “It’s Sticky!”
Field Mouse ~by Simyana and Granny
I once saw a field mouse Fat and fast Roly-poly in a knoll Tumbled off into the grass Whiskers lying down.
Giraffe ~by Simyana and Granny ( Simmy’s 6-year old cousin, Quintin, felt this poem was exceptional!)
Jiggy the Giraffe jumped high In his jiggling jumpers His long neck and bambling legs jammed the streets With giraffe spots Hopped up on to a cloud Down, down he fell into his giraffe home.
Fly!!??!! ~by Simyana and Granny
Monkey: “Simyana is such a poet. She will soon have a shelf full of her poetry books. Do you think Granny will be writing with her?”
Sloth: “Na, Granny is fun, but I think Simmy will do just fine on her own.
“Simmy, don’t worry. Me and Brownie are keeping shelves for all your new poetry additions. Keep up the good work.”
Look for more poems, by new author;
One Impossible thing before Breakfast
I woke up and headed for my small corner room, where I sit and read and pray. As usual, I made myself a cup of coffee and a piece of jam-toast. Baking sourdough bread became popular amongst friends during the covid years, and I joined the tasty epidemic of bread-making. I now make a fairly decent German, healthy, whole grain bread, which makes great toast. Thus, the toast.
It was a treat with a purpose—communion—or, simply put, I wanted to share a bite with God and seek His presence. It may seem like a religious or formal act, but note; I was still in my pyjamas. My way of saying, “Good morning, God. Let’s talk.”
“… sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” ~ Lewis Carrol (Alice in Wonderland)
Today was one of those days; impossible things before breakfast. Maybe not six impossible things, but at least one.
I screwed the lid on my coffee and set my toast on a plate. With both in hand I headed to my corner. As I placed my coffee down I stumbled. I don’t understand what happened, only that I’d been clumsy and distracted, and then lost control of everything before I nearly fell over. My plate clattered to the floor. My first thought was, My toast! So fresh, warm and buttery! I could scarcely stand to look.
I peered down at my feet, afraid to access the mess I’d made. It had fallen with such a racket, and oh, how my heart was set on the toast! Coffee and toast, a great morning goal.
My plate lay upside-down on the floor, but, the two halves of toast were jam-side-up on the lid of my coffee! How was that possible? Considering all the impossible things before breakfast, this was mine. The one impossible thing. God was there waiting and ready to catch. While I clattered about, distracted, with my heart set on toast, He waited. He won. Love silenced my distractions.
Don’t Listen to the Noise
Weak and overwhelmed by chaos of life Watch over me I’m the apple of your eye, Lift me up and shelter me pour out your grace Take away distractions that I can see your face Your presence is honour it wraps me in light I am your shooting star sent into the night To paradise the place you’ve prepared for me That paradise I rest in is now complete The paradise I found; I live complete.
Hidden in you, oh, I find myself so strong When I’m weak, I find its where I am kept in you I’m sheltered there and I have peace.
Hidden in you, oh, I find myself so strong When I’m weak, I find it’s where I am kept in you I’m sheltered there and I have peace Watch over me, I’m the apple of your eye.
Overwhelmed, by your love, take away distractions, remove the distractions so I can see your face Watch over me I’m the apple of your eye, I’m hidden in you I’m lifted high, you are strong and I am weak, By the power of your love, I always fly Hidden in you, I’m called to weakness for it makes me strong, and I know your fortress walls surround, oh, hidden in you, I’m always strong.
Your presence is armour, it wraps me in light I am your shooting star send me into the night And I will proclaim you to be my paradise I live in the place prepared for me in this life, yes, I live in the place prepared for me … its right.
Oh…. when my heart learned to beat… don’t listen to the noise… hear the still silent song… the whisper of the breeze.
A conversation; Asha and Granny
There was a little girl called Asha. She was also known as Ella Bella. She was very cute and could dance like a ballerina. But sometimes Asha did funny things. Her parents didn’t know why.
Her Mama and Daddy loved her so much.
That’s why they took her for some tests.
Allergy tests! Yuck!!!!
Bad news for Asha! The tests confirmed that she had many food sensitivities. Now she had to eat differently than her family. That is not very fun.
I asked Asha, “How does that make you feel?”
“It makes me feel bad.”
Then Asha turned and asked me, “How does it make you feel when your neck doesn’t bend?”
Asha was very observant to ask me that question because I’d had a big operation. Since then, my neck doesn’t bend. I have to wear a stiff neck collar that makes me look very funny. And it hurts.
“Oh! Asha, that is a thoughtful question to ask Granny. I think you understand what it is to be different. Yes, it doesn’t feel very good. It hurts.”
“Then you know,” said Asha, “how it is to have all the allergies and have to be different.”
“Asha,” I said, “I have noticed you have quite a good attitude. How do you remain happy about what you can’t eat?”
“That’s a hard question, but I know the answer,” laughed Asha. “God gave me a present of self-discipline. I don’t like to eat differently, but I can do it because of the present he gave me.”
“Wow! That is too good, Asha! I’ve never heard anyone say that and lots of people have different problems who need that gift of self-discipline! I’m going to have to ask God for that gift too.”
“Granny, you’re being silly. God already gave you that gift. You have self- discipline! Everyone has that gift cause God gave it to us all when He created us! It’s just that sometimes we don’t use the gift.”
“Asha, that must be true. Did you ever think of what would happen if we didn’t have self-discipline?”
“Yeah, Granny. We’d all eat tons of junk food that isn’t good for us. We’d watch movies that make us think bad things or give us scary dreams.”
Asha had a thoughtful look. “If I didn’t have self-discipline, I would be wild! Eating things my body doesn’t like makes me wild. I would be a wild thing! But, because of the gift God gave me, even when it’s not fun for me, I eat what my body needs because it helps me be who I REALLY am.
My Daddy says I’m a wonderful, sweet, girl—that’s who I am.”
“Asha, my Ella Bella, you are a smart girl. You are eight and already know that you are special. God made us all unique. Everyone has their unique talents and also their unique problems. You are the one and only Asha the world has. Your fingerprints confirm that. I am a one-of-a-kind Granny. You have your talents, and I have mine. You have your limitations and I have mine. And when we really understand that God made us and loves us, we are thankful … not just for WHO we are, but HOW we are.”
“Granny, God is my hero and he rescued me.”
“What a beautiful thought! And you are the beautiful thought that God had when He made you. You are perfect.”
“Granny, I love you.”
“I love you, Ella Bella. Please sing me the thought God gave you.”
—Asha sings in 3-part harmony.
Asha by Granny
Granny by Asha and her sister … and Granny
Winking at the Invisible (Maria Woodworth-Etter)
As she aged, Maria Woodworth-Etter repeatedly stated, “I’d rather wear out than rust out.” I agree.
With age, comes weariness, and I was feeling exhausted. The thought of lying on a comfy mattress without a care in the world was very tempting.
Then, I had a dream…
I was very comfortably lying on a beautiful, soft mattress, decked with lacey white silk sheets and multiple fluffy fringed pillows—all white. My body was draped in a white lacey dress covering me from chin to toes. It was a ballroom dress right out of Cinderella. My full skirt lay stretched out like a fan, across the entire mattress. I lay directly in the middle of the mattress, but sunken into a body-shaped crevice, quite like a grave. In fact, that was the significant part. I was dead.
The mattress was placed on a flatbed trailer pulled by two horses, and was held securely in place by a wooden framework that was decorative and intricately hand-carved. Above my head was a seat for the driver, a small, bright red, cushioned seat, which bounced up and down on the bumpy road—except there was no one in the seat. I was alone in my horse drawn hearse.
Though I was laying on the mattress, I watched the unfolding of this scene from high above. The two beautiful black horses wore bright red plumes on their white-streaked foreheads. Their heads nodded gayly and their hoofs pranced high in the air as in a march. I, on my white mattress, being the only show in the parade, was pulled down the road alongside the school towards the tall school gate. Not only was I the only show, but I was the only one watching.
Disturbed from my restful solitude by voices, I flung myself into a sitting position, and I was no longer watching from above, but was back in my body, alert and aware that the principal, and a woman with a child, had just crossed the cricket pitch and were entering the school grounds. I recognized the principal, turned, and waved. I wasn’t sure who the others were, but he was explaining to them who I was. They waved back. I smiled contentedly and turned towards the gate, crossed my hands over my breast and lay down in the crevice of my mattress closing my eyes. The horse-drawn flatbed turned right as I rode out of the campus, beneath the school’s tall black gate, and disappeared into a fading, misty village.
I shared the dream with a friend who came to visit. She was a psychologist. I’m not sure why I told her my dream, for I dreamt this a year and a half ago. My friend offered a brief interpretation which led me to think more about my dream, and I began to make connections. As I pondered, I saw so much more, and soon claimed its inspiring message.
When I was looking from above at the scene of the horse drawn hearse, I had not yet accepted my position in the mattress. But when the principal, the woman, and the child entered, I found peace. I jumped into my body and was able to wave them into their future. As founder of the school and the previous principal, I was tired, and happily taking my leave. I passed it on to the next, and the next, and the next generation. Then I passed on into the misty village, where no one followed me.
Having seen this from above, I have a feeling that when I do leave, I may have the joy of looking down on you (only in the most respectful and admiring way). That dream was not the first time I was high in the sky, looking down. The first time was in 2011 when I experienced a strange seizure. It is no coincidence that when this happened, I too, was walking across the cricket pitch at mid-day. It was a bright, beautiful sky day.
In the middle of the pitch, I made an abrupt stop, finding myself spiralling into the air at lightning speed. I twirled continually, but wasn’t dizzy. Reaching a great height, I looked down and saw the roof of the school, the roof of the hostel, the roof of my son’s house, and the entire cricket pitch. How I came down from that high place, I don’t know … a missing piece in the puzzle.
It was no dream—it was very real. The second time I found myself looking down from a great height was in a dream. But it’s interesting—both took place in the same spot at the same time of day; beautiful blue-sky days.
The seizure I described was caused by a brain tumour. A near death experience, but not the first. As a teenager, I survived a car accident in which another died. As a seven-year- old, I had a 50-50% chance of survival when I had open heart surgery, a surgery that was still new and experimental. I went on to survive the delivery of my first child when the hospital staff thought I wouldn’t, and had gathered around my bed to pray. Then, six weeks after my “white mattress dream,” I underwent a major surgery for a very rare condition. The surgery was done to save me from becoming an invalid, and left me with 13 screws and rods in my neck. I thought that surgery was the cherry on the cake—the surgery of surgeries—and would be my ending. That would have been okay. As I said, I’m tired.
Even though heaven sounds quite heavenly, I have a feeling my days have been counted and there are a few more. On my white mattress I was dead, but I made a point of popping up in gleeful resurrection to wave goodbye. I may be tired, but I still have a few tricks left up my sleeve—yet to be written.
Why do we fight against believing in the good stuff, like angels? Like paradise? Or deny what is real, but invisible? I’m happy to bank on hope, on miracles, on guardian angels, on peace, love and joy; they are fine with me. And I’m content to smile, look up, and wink. We have a private joke … me and Him.
Thoughts from Psalm 63
God of my life, I worship you, In this weary wilderness. My heart thirsts for you as in desert. My heart longs for you. I think about you, God, in my sleep.
I see visions in the sacred place. My dreams feed me with life-giving hope Arms wave in banners of praise to you, I praise you … I praise you … I praise you, I enter your holy place. I think about you, God, in my sleep.
I am filled with limitless hope, My joy leaps up to heaven Like the guest I will eat at the banquet, A table set for me. I think about you, God, in my sleep.
“I know about one of Christ’s followers who was taken up into the third heaven 14 years ago. I don’t know if the man was still in his body when it happened, but God certainly knows.” II Corinthian 12:2
by Dr Ann Thyle
The Doon Valley is nestled between the Shivalik hills and the lesser Himalayas. It is full of trees, hardwood, fruit, and flowering. The higher reaches of Jaunsar Bawar have deodar, spruce and pine. The tribal community, the Jaunsaris, generally work as labourers for wealthier landowners. Many attended the Herbertpur Christian Hospital for healthcare.
Early one Friday morning, the day when pre-natal patients were seen, I was waiting impatiently for the first of many patients who would trickle in from their villages. I was 36 weeks pregnant with our third child, tired and longing to go home. Discontent churned in my mind. I shouldn’t be sitting in a tiny hospital examination room where my large stomach hit the table in front of me every time I got up or leant over to write notes and prescriptions. Sweat poured down my back on that muggy monsoon day. Unlike in the big city hospital where I trained, I was the only woman doctor in this small mission hospital, seeing all the women patients, day after day, with no chance to think about my own comfort. I was cross about the prevailing culture where men would not allow a male doctor to examine their womenfolk, regardless of sometimes life-threatening conditions.
Just then, the sound of a hospital trolley being quickly wheeled in, drew my attention. There lay an unconscious, pregnant Jaunsari tribal woman in her traditional costume, a voluminous but torn ‘ghagra’ (skirt), her head covered in a skewed ‘dhantu’ (scarf). The trolley was followed closely by a man in a soiled kurta/pyjama with a ‘topi’ (hat). Clinging to him were two young, bedraggled children, ages 5 and 3-years-old. Their matted hair was a dull yellow hue, their limbs were stick-like, and their abdomens bloated—the marks of malnutrition.
I shuddered to think what their story might be.
Sharda (name changed) lived in a small village in the hills. A place without motorable roads. She belonged to the lowest caste, the ‘Doom’, also known as Dalits (untouchables). Her husband worked as a labourer in the fields of landowners, ‘the zamindars’. Sharda (26) had two children and was now pregnant with her third. Being uneducated with little knowledge of the outside world and no health facility nearby, Sharda never had a pre- natal check-up.
Sharda’s day started with her normal routine of climbing a tree to gather firewood for her mud-stove so she could make tea for her husband and start cooking breakfast. With no running water, she climbed as quickly as possible so that she could fit in a trip to the village well and draw water before the children woke up. She was unaware that she was standing on a cracked branch and had no recollection of plunging to the ground. Finding that Sharda was gone for longer than usual, her husband rounded up neighbours to help search. Her crumpled, unconscious figure lay under a tree close to their home.
I would only get the full sequence of events almost a week later.
I could imagine her husband panicking. Was Sharda alive? What about the unborn baby? How was he to get her to the nearest health facility? Where was it anyway? And how far? Neighbours rallied, placed her body in a ‘hammock’ made of a thick woollen sheet and carried her for 4 hours before reaching the hospital, a place they were told, was known for providing compassionate care. All the while she was completely unresponsive. They took turns carrying the children also.
My eyes misted over as I examined her. Guilt washed over me. An hour earlier I had grumbled about my ‘misfortune’. What greater insult could there be than to gather firewood at crack of dawn every single day, pregnancy notwithstanding, always stepping up for family who didn’t really notice, no contact with the vast world outside and a myriad of things besides. I was so privileged just by virtue of the family I was born into, my idyllic childhood, my education, my present circumstances.
She had a closed head injury, maybe a concussion, maybe a bleed. Her husband pleaded with me as I explained that we didn’t have the equipment needed to find out. Moved by his plight, the out-patient staff encouraged me, “We’ll pray for her, Doctor-ji, the baby is alive, they’re very poor. God will heal her”. In the ward, she lay unconscious for two days before going into labour. She didn’t wake with the pain, the delivery, or the cry of her new born son. For the next several days, the nurses and ward aides held the baby near her to feed, cleaned and dressed him, and we all cuddled him. Her husband and young children found place in the ‘Dharamsala,’ an area near the maternity ward designated for relatives. Other village folk shared their food. Several staff donated clothes and toys.
Most essentials of life were provided except that Sharda remained unconscious.
I mulled over what to do. We had no phones or communication systems whereby I could consult a neurologist. Sharda hadn’t opened her eyes for a week. Did she have permanent damage? Could it be fixed elsewhere? How long could we keep her? At the same time, it was impossible to abandon this precious family. My doubts continued as we did rounds in the ward that morning. Our small team stood around her bed and carried out our routine: Examine Sharda, cuddle the baby, engage with the family and pray together.
Then the impossible happened! The nurses were busy elsewhere and did not see Sharda open her eyes and stare in astonishment at her new-born son. The patient in the next bed alerted them, recovering from childbirth herself, but aware of her lifeless neighbour. Two nurses rushed to her bed while Sharda slowly sat up, looked around in perplexity and asked for a drink of water. She gathered her son into her arms and looked at him tenderly. By the time word reached me, Sharda’s beaming family stood around her bed, awe written on their faces. We rejoiced individually and as a team with Sharda. Her time of being unaware of the world around her was over, without any treatment, only by the outpouring of God’s mercy.
In the words of Philip Yancey, “In strange and mysterious ways, prayer incorporates the unknown and unpredictable in the outworking of God’s grace.”
After discharge, I never saw Sharda or her family again. I imagine she climbed trees for many years to come and lived to see her children grow up and get married. I like to think that she’s being cared for by her daughter-in-law, the one married to her miracle son. That she lives in a home with power supply and running water, a place with at least a kerosene stove, if not something better. That sometimes she recounts her near-death experience to her grandchildren.
I delivered our own son a few weeks later under vastly different circumstances. By then, Sharda had taught me an invaluable lesson about contentment. My daily life had none of the challenges she faced on a regular basis. During some of my future overwhelming situations, the remembrance of Sharda showed me how fortunate I really was, the resources I could draw on, the knowledge and means to keep me steady and the all- sufficient grace of my Heavenly Father.
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Phil 4:11
A word about Ann:
She is my friend, and more than a friend. She and her husband, also a doctor, have served our family with love. They practiced in hospitals in rural north India all of their working lives. She has many, many more stories. I, along with countless others, have valued her skills, and her heart. Thank God for servant doctors—like the Thyles.