When I first found the knife, I thought nothing of it. But I did wonder why it wasn’t in its usual place. It had been wiped clean and was lying beside a bottle of vodka and some lighter fluid which belonged to my mentally ill older brother. I put them neatly aside, back in order.
I couldn’t have known it then, but my life was about to go spinning wildly out of control as the night progressed.
I had come home after attending the Global Day of Prayer event in my church to discover that my mother was nowhere to be found. My younger brother was looking troubled because he could not reach her by phone. The older one had locked himself up in his room.
Something began to twist within my heart, so I called my uncle to come over to talk to my older brother, who was often very unpredictable due to his schizophrenia.
After coaxing him out of his room, we questioned him about the misplaced items and my missing mother, only to hear stories from him which made no sense. It became disturbingly clear that he was lying about everything.
My younger brother then told my uncle to check under my older brother’s bed because he sensed that he was hiding something. Boxes and bags had been moved around. As my uncle stepped into the room, my older brother jumped up and followed him with a feral look in his eyes. The atmosphere had become charged with danger.
After pulling out one of the boxes below my brother’s bed, my uncle shouted in horror, “Her legs are there! What have you done?”
My heart seemed to shatter into a million pieces as I started to put together what had happened while I’d been out. The words that escaped my lips were not articulate, and I began to wail. As a desperate scuffle broke out between my uncle and brother, I ran into my room where I locked the door and repeatedly screamed as the tears fell, “I want my mother back!”
Things quickly escalated into a hostage situation when my older brother locked the front door and demanded to have everyone’s phones. My younger brother threw his phone on the floor and distracted him from reaching for another knife. My uncle tried to placate him.
My eyes darted to the landline in my room.
I know that God was surely with us that day, because we were ultimately able to contact the police three times throughout the ordeal. And as my younger brother made his escape to safety, my uncle singlehandedly restrained my older brother.
To this day, my uncle testifies that it was God who held my brother. My older brother has the strength to break a door down. When he was finally arrested that night, it had taken five policemen and my uncle to handcuff him.
As the dust settled, I turned to my uncle and asked tearfully, “Is she really gone?”
But this was the question I was really asking: “Are we orphans now?”
Grief gripped my life in the years to come. At home, I would often find myself in a pool of tears, crying out to God as I lay brokenhearted on the floor. There was no answer most times, but peace would eventually sink in and I would get up again.
In a way, I was happy that my mum was with Jesus. She would experience no more pain from all the surgeries she had and from the arthritis she was battling. She wouldn’t have to worry about how long she had to keep working, or who was going to look after my paranoid schizophrenic brother.
But little things would remind me that I had been robbed of a mother. When I watched other young women with their mums on the street, my heart would squeeze with anguish as tears flowed freely. As I walked home weeping at night, I’d hope that the darkness would mask any evidence of my pain from passersby.
My mentor and friends stood by me and sat with me as I wrestled and struggled, wondering if I could ever be who I used to be. Of what use was I to the kingdom of God? With tears in their own eyes, they listened and believed in me when I could not even believe in myself. They spoke hope over my life and truth into me.
Healing came one day as I was sobbing and praying. I saw Jesus in a vision, not in white-robed glory, but as the scarred, disfigured and crucified God-man.
In the vision, He took my hand and placed it upon His devastated body. Then He spoke these words to me: For every single person who goes through unspeakable pain, I too went through this. I know.
It wrecked me to hear. He knew. He had been with me every single time I cried. He had seen me walk home with tears streaming down from my eyes. He had seen my broken heart every time I thought about all the birthdays Mum would no longer spend with me. He heard all my regrets of not having loved her enough.
He knew. And that has been my comfort to this day.
For every single person who goes through unspeakable pain, I too went through this. I know.
I still have no answers for the horrors of that night. But I have His love and understanding. We live in a fallen, broken world where bad things happen to good people. Satan is a hell-bound enemy who loves to drag people along with him (John 10:10).
I know this is not our home. When Christ returns, He will restore things to the way they should be. There will be no more pain and no more tears, and the loved ones who are with Him will be reunited with us (Revelation 21:4).
In God, I will rise from the ashes of defeat. I have not fought this fight alone and I know that those who stood with me in the darkest times will continue to stand with me as I position myself to live on this earth as one who truly follows Jesus.
I live for the God who took unspeakable pain upon Himself so that every single person could have life, and life to the fullest.