AN UNBREAKABLE WOMAN: Your Condition Is Not Your Conclusion 9781928455813, 1928455816

” Now I know that I was never a mistake; I was meant to be born! I now know that I had to go through what I went through

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Table of contents :
1: Born A Mistake
2: Troublesome Teens
3: Meeting Destiny
4: Responsible For Another Life
5: The First Time I Found Happiness
6: Tyler
7: The Three Ds: Death
8: The Three Ds: Divorce
9: The Three Ds: Depression
10: The Accident
11: Adjusting To Life As A Single Parent
12: A New Chapter
13: Establishing My Career
14: Starting My Own Business
15: Living With Pain
16: Speak To Me, God!
17: A Mother’s Cry
18: Starting Over
19: An Encounter With Death
20: Your Condition Is Not Your Conclusion
Purpose
The Earlier Years
Fear
The Bag Lady
The Void
Conclusion
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AN UNBREAKABLE WOMAN: Your Condition Is Not Your Conclusion
 9781928455813, 1928455816

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DEDICATION I dedicate this book to my Husband Gregory for encouraging me to write this book. & To my three sons: Sheldon, Justin and Tyler for being my inspiration.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner and the publisher. © Natasha Morgan 2021 Published by Inspired Publishing PO Box 82058 | Southdale | 2135 Johannesburg, South Africa Email: [email protected] www.inspiredpublishing.co.za Distributed by Porcupine Press PO Box 2756 | Pinegowrie | 2123 Gauteng, South Africa Email: [email protected] www.porcupinepress.co.za ISBN: 978-1-9284-5581-3 (print) Cover design by Inspired Publishing Typesetting by Porcupine Press Set in 11 on 17 point, Minion Pro

CONTENTS 1: Born A Mistake 2: Troublesome Teens 3: Meeting Destiny 4: Responsible For Another Life 5: The First Time I Found Happiness 6: Tyler 7: The Three Ds: Death 8: The Three Ds: Divorce 9: The Three Ds: Depression 10: The Accident 11: Adjusting To Life As A Single Parent 12: A New Chapter 13: Establishing My Career 14: Starting My Own Business 15: Living With Pain 16: Speak To Me, God! 17: A Mother’s Cry 18: Starting Over 19: An Encounter With Death 20: Your Condition Is Not Your Conclusion Purpose

The Earlier Years Fear The Bag Lady The Void Conclusion

1

BORN A MISTAKE

IT IS SAID that a child’s first years are particularly important to their well-being because they are the foundation phase of life. These years are crucial to your child’s physical and cognitive development. Unfortunately, most of my childhood years were filled with rejection, pain and tears. I was reminded that I was a mistake and that I should never have been born. My existence was a burden. There is a reason why I mention the physical and cognitive developmental phases, as these attributes played a huge role in who I, Natasha, later became. When we become older and start questioning why we are a certain way, it is always best to go back to the root of our problems. Go back to the beginning and start from there. For me, the journey goes back to a time even before I was born. Possibly to the time I was in my mother’s womb. I was born in the early hours of a Sunday in Johannesburg, in a town called Lenasia. It was Mother’s Day, not that I was a gift to my mother – rather another burden for her to care for. I am the second eldest child born to a mother who, at the time, was practically a child herself. My mother had my brother Deon when she was 16 years old, and me when she was still the tender age of 17. Her life was also an incredibly sad and painful one, with roots in a sad childhood. Growing up in extreme poverty, my mother thought that getting married was her only option for a better life. All she ever wanted was

for someone to take care of her and love her. To her dismay, it didn’t quite pan out the way she had hoped it would. When my mother found out that she was pregnant with me she was devastated. She was 16, battling to look after herself and a small baby. She went to a doctor in an attempt to abort me. The doctor gave her some medication to complete the process and she did take it. She waited but nothing happened. It seems that this mistake, which was me, was destined to be born. Another child to look after; another mouth to feed. My mother had to share my brother’s nappies with me and battled to feed me as she did not have enough milk in her breasts for both of us and she could not afford to buy baby formula. During all of this, my mother had started developing blotches of white spots all over her body, a condition called vitiligo. This is a disease that causes the loss of skin pigmentation. She was already battling with feelings of rejection, but she started developing low selfesteem as well. She was so conscious of the changes to her skin that she forgot how beautiful she was. Thinking about it now, I realise that this may have been part of the reason my father left. I was two months old, and my brother was only a year older. My mother was suddenly a single mother of two. She went back to live with her mother and siblings. The house comprised a small kitchen, lounge, two bedrooms and a toilet behind the house. My mother, grandmother, brother and I shared one room. My mother’s younger sister, her husband and their two children who came later shared the other room, while my mother’s brother slept in

the lounge. Her other brother was already married and living in his own house. The skin condition that was stirring negative emotions within my mother also fed her rejection issues. She felt that she had to try harder to receive love from the opposite sex. She yearned so much to be loved and accepted that she made a plethora of bad choices when it came to choosing the right partner. Though she moved on in pursuit of happiness, to her dismay she never found the love she so yearned for. It is because of the mistakes she made that I eventually learned so much in my own life. Four years later my mother went on to have another child. The father of my sister Nantika was an abusive man, and he would beat my mother very badly. One of my earliest and most painful memories as a child was of when I was about four years old. My mother was receiving one of her regular beatings, when I started crying for her. ‘This man’ turned around and beat me so badly that my face was swollen, and my mouth was twice its usual size. I wet myself from fear and my punishment for this was to sit in the corner until I cried myself to sleep. No child should experience such trauma at such an early age or undergo this kind of physical abuse. The fear that was being instilled in me as a little child would start manifesting in other forms when I got older. My mother left me with my grandmother to protect me from the beatings that she used to get. I remember my granny telling me that when my mother brought me back my face was disfigured. However, in my mother’s absence, I was abused in many ways by family members. I remember the beatings, the ‘abuse’, while I continuously

cried for my mother. Oh, how I missed her! How I longed for her to just hold me, or just to hear her voice. How I yearned for my mother’s love! She would visit every so often at my grandmother’s house, but she never stayed for too long, because she and her siblings never got on very well, and she had her own problems to deal with. It dawned on me that I was effectively an orphan. My father was never there; he did not even try to visit his children. My mother went on her pursuit of happiness and stability, battling to find herself. Life had given her a raw deal, and only much later in her life, when she found a relationship with Jesus, did she actually find real peace and a sense of belonging. In the interim her two children were left to learn to survive with whatever was thrown in their path. I remember being five years old and having to wash and dress myself before walking myself to preschool. I loved drawing pictures of girls in beautiful dresses, so whatever scrap of paper I could find would be covered with fantasy figures. As I drew these pictures, I would imagine beautiful fairy tales. I allowed my imagination to run wild. It was my way of escaping the pain. They say no matter how hard you try to run from the bad things in your past, they have a way of catching up with you. ‘What you resist shall persist.’ The only way to truly be free from any problem is to accept it for what it is and learn to forgive. One of my most traumatising experiences is one that I had tried to suppress for many years, but I eventually had to confront it in order to be free. When I was eight years old, I was raped by an uncle in the family. I was playing with my friends next door, and we were having so much fun, I was so happy and carefree. We were playing with our dolls, pretending to be mothers. We had

such childlike innocence. I decided to go home to fetch a doll. At the time no one was at home, besides my uncle. He called me to the room, and me being the young and obedient child that I was, I went, not knowing that he would violate my innocence. When he was done, I was shaking, filled with so much shame that I did not know what to do. I remember changing the shorts that I had on because I felt dirty. I ran to the neighbours and waited till my mother and aunt came home. Within minutes that innocent, carefree little girl was gone for ever. When I went home, I was consumed with fear, shame and guilt. I felt as if it was my fault that a grown man, who should have known that what he was doing was wrong, decided to do it anyway. For many years I lived with the feeling that I was damaged goods. I felt worthless. Although I tried to bury the incident deep in my mind, my dreams always reminded me. Living in an Indian community, people did not address such matters. They buried such ‘shame’ so deep, that if it was ever brought out, people would look at the girl or the woman as if she were indeed damaged goods. As the years progressed, I realised that I was the victim and that there was nothing that I should be ashamed about. I came to the realisation that it was because of that traumatic experience that I had adopted the attitude of standing up for myself, irrespective of how people saw me. As a defence mechanism, I learned to use words. My mouth became simultaneously my biggest strength and weakness. With words I could build people up, but just as easily break them down in the name of protecting myself.

I was brought up in a Christian home and attended Sunday school from the age of four. I learnt about God through Bible stories taught to us during Sunday school. It was also where I was taught that if you want to talk to God, you must kneel, hold your hands together and pray. I learned that prayer is a conversation between God and myself, and that I can speak to Him about anything that weighs on my heart. I would pray every night before I slept, and in the morning after I got up. I started asking God many questions from an early age. ‘Why was I born in a home without a mother and a father?’ ‘Why don’t you answer my prayers?’ ‘God, where are you when I am being beaten?’ ‘Why? Why? Why?’ I was always an inquisitive little girl, asking a lot of questions, and if I was not satisfied with the answers then I would ask more questions. I was a very talkative child, and in grade 3 I was dubbed ‘Miss Chatterbox’ by my teacher, Mrs Samuels. The name followed me throughout my schooling career. From the moment I was able to read, I loved books. I remember walking to the library as a little girl, and the excitement of perusing all the books on the shelves. I could scarcely wait to get home to read the ones I had chosen. My imagination would take over as I read, absorbing all the words of the story, and forming a play in my head. I loved living in my own imagination; it was where I would escape from bad situations by dreaming up my own beautiful stories. This was my sense of freedom, where only I was in control of how the story ended.

2

TROUBLESOME TEENS

AS MY BODY was being introduced to the teenage hormones raging in me, so was I introduced to emotions I never knew existed. Yes, my body started developing, but so did my identity, as I tried to navigate my way in society and fit into what was deemed normal and acceptable. That, however, did not work out well for me because I was always different, especially in the way I came across to people. I was bold and unafraid to give my opinion. I was very outspoken and to others it seemed like I just had a big mouth. Having a ‘big’ voice was not always good, especially in an Indian society. Thirty years later I met with one of my high school friends, Natalie, and asked her to give me her perception of me back in the day. This was her definition of me: ‘Natasha, what you see is what you get, no hidden agenda. No hesitation in standing up to anyone and I mean anyone. If she had a point on any matter, she was going to make sure you listened to her side, she is passionate that way. Tasha is strong in many ways. She did not have to have a friend or set of friends to fit in. Her bubbly personality made her easy to get along with. For me that was my best part of being with her. She made me laugh from my stomach. Sometimes the laugh was more from embarrassment than an actual joke. Yes, she had a way about her. Only she could make fun of you and get away with it.’

The description was spot on, but as life happened, I think I forgot how to laugh, how to really laugh. The type of laugher that would make your sides hurt and the tears run from your eyes. My relationship with my mother was very strained when I was a teenager. If I look back, I only managed to draw closer to her much, much later in life. I was not scared of anyone or anything anymore. All the negative emotions instilled in me from the time I was in my mother’s womb until now, resulted in this rebellious teenager who thought she had all the answers to life. ‘Miss know-it-all’, yes, that was me. I was born with a strong personality and it was starting to show. I had grown into a slim, average height girl, with sharp features. I started getting a lot of attention from family members urging me to pursue modelling, but I felt my legs were too skinny. I enjoyed the attention I received, especially from the boys. This, teamed up with my curious nature, meant it was not long before I engaged in my first relationship. I was still so naïve, I was in for a rude awakening. I met my first boyfriend, Donovan, at the age of 15. I would pass his house to go to the nearest café to buy bread or milk, and whenever he saw me he would approach and start a conversation, which eventually led to the connection. No one had ever said they loved me before or showed me any affection. Donovan was the first. So, when I did get the affection, I fell head over heels in love with the feeling that was taking control of my mind and body. I refused to listen to anyone. I thought I knew it all. My mother did not approve of Donovan, but the more she told me not to see him, the more I did. The fact that he was four years older than me made it even worse.

Donovan’s upbringing was quite different from mine. He could drink alcohol and have parties at home whenever he wanted to. He had freedom at home whereas I grew up in a strict environment, forbidden to talk out of line or bring friends over. I was not allowed to express myself at home; I could only really be myself amongst my friends. As a teenager freedom was something that I really wanted. But as I started seeing more of him, I started experiencing a side to him that my gut told me was not right. Whenever he consumed alcohol, he would become abusive, and he would often beat me. However, I continued to see him because I loved the other side of him. Maybe it was because I did not want to be alone, or it was the thrill I got from being in a relationship. I have heard the saying that forbidden fruit is always good. Though my mother continued to forbid me to see him, I did not heed her advice. One Saturday afternoon, as I took a walk to meet up with Donovan, a man approached and started to interfere with me. Donovan was sitting on the corner wall of his house and saw this confrontation. This man was intoxicated, and the two of them got into a physical fight. A friend of Donovan’s happened to see this and got involved. He pulled out a knife and stabbed the other man. Bystanders intervened and the man was taken to hospital. He reported the incident to the police and a case of grievous bodily harm was opened. Donovan and his friend were arrested but were later released on bail. I felt guilty, imagining that the fight had occurred because of me. On another occasion I ran away with Donovan and his family to spend Christmas at his eldest brother’s flat. The flat was in Mayfair, about 40 km away from home. Everybody was having a nice time,

dancing and drinking, just enjoying the Christmas party. Towards evening Donovan got into a fight with me and started beating me. I locked myself in the bathroom, but he was so enraged at the time that he tried breaking the door down to get to me. Eventually, I was able to get out of the bathroom while his brother intervened and tried to stop him from beating me. I ran out of the flat and went looking for safety, away from him. A couple on the first floor of the flats opened their door for me and allowed me to hide there. I was so scared. What had I allowed myself to get into? After some time, we heard a commotion outside, as people were screaming. When I eventually went outside, I learnt that while looking for me, Donovan had jumped from the second floor of the flats in his drunken stupor. His sister approached me and slapped me. It was because of me that her brother had jumped, she said. An ambulance arrived and took Donovan to hospital, and I caught a lift with his family, all of whom blamed me for his actions. I was completely consumed with guilt. I sat at the hospital alone the entire time, avoiding his family. As daylight approached, I waited to see if I could catch a lift to go home. I was so tired, cold and consumed with sadness as I sat outside the hospital until about three in the afternoon when visiting hours started. A lady from Lenasia who had come to visit someone agreed to give me a lift. When I got home, all I did was bath, eat and go to bed, where I lay with my thoughts, questioning life. Donovan broke his left leg and was in hospital for more than a month. He was still walking on crutches a few months after the accident when the assault case went to court. His friend was sentenced to a year in prison and Donovan was sentenced to six

months for being an accomplice. I felt so hopeless, guilty, and angry at God. Nothing ever worked out in my life, I thought. All the negative emotions started consuming me again. It was only much later that I realised I had no reason to feel guilty for someone else’s actions. Why did I allow this person to beat me up and think that it was okay? I had found myself loving someone who was abusive, and somehow, I was battling to walk away from this toxic relationship. Why hadn’t I been able to just snap out of it and walk away when I saw the warning signs? I was still a child, trying to act all grown up and make the decisions of an adult. As the saying goes, I was too big for my boots, refusing to listen to my mother’s advice. What did she know, after all? Look at the mess she made of her own life. I was not taking her advice. I resented my mother for her choices in life, until I found myself having to make those choices myself.

3

MEETING DESTINY

WHILE DONOVAN WAS in prison one of my classmates invited me to a party. I remember I was so excited when my mother said I could go. I looked so beautiful that night as I admired myself in the mirror. In those days we had a lot of house parties. People would often erect a tent in their yard that would accommodate lots of people. I loved dancing and would normally dance the entire night. It always made me feel good. On this particular evening, we had already started drinking and dancing when my friend asked me to go with her and her cousin to buy more alcohol. When I got in the car, she introduced me to her cousin Gregory. I said hi to this guy with beautiful curly hair, short in stature, roughly the same age as myself. Gregory told me that he had been watching me the entire time and that he liked me. He asked me if I would go out on a date with him. By this stage of the party, I was already so drunk that it wasn’t long before I vomited in front of him, in the car. I have never felt so embarrassed in my life. The next day when I woke up, I was filled with shame and, of course, a terrible hangover. I tried to recollect the previous night’s events. All I could think was Who would ever want to go on a date with a girl who threw up in front of him the first time he met her?

I found out that Gregory still really liked me. We started dating while Donovan was in prison. He was nothing like Donovan and I really enjoyed being with him. He was not abusive in any way, and he had a gentle demeanour. Later I realised that nothing happens by coincidence: I was meant to meet Gregory. He was going to play a huge role in my destiny. There is a saying that goes: ‘You meet people for a reason, a season, and a lifetime.’ Which role would Donovan play? Or better yet, which role was Gregory going to play? I later learned that Gregory was not so innocent after all; he had a mischievous streak. One day we decided to bunk school together. He picked me up in his brother’s car. The paint of the car was stripped down to the metal, and it was in the process of being spraypainted. We parked the car next to a field near my school to chat while we were deciding where to go for the day. The traffic cops noticed the car with no paint on it and approached us. They saw that I was dressed in my school uniform and asked me why I was not at school. I tried explaining that I was on my way to school when the car got stuck. Gregory did not have a school uniform on, so they believed him when he said he did not go to school. The traffic cops escorted me to school that day, an event that can be added to the list of my life’s most embarrassing moments. Though I was mischievous, I excelled in school. That was until I started bunking and neglecting my schoolwork. I did not know where to hide my face as the principal phoned my mother and told her to come and get me from school. I got a good beating when I got home, and I was so ashamed to go back to school that I started bunking even more. I was making so many wrong choices. I truly do not know

what I was thinking back then, playing with my education like that. One of my biggest regrets is not completing school. When Donovan got out of prison, he heard that I was in a relationship with Gregory and threatened to hurt him. Gregory lived in another section of Lenasia and was not accustomed to living with gangsters and violence. I immediately told Gregory that I could not see him any more because I was scared; he would get hurt and that would be my fault again, and I could not live with such guilt. I broke his heart that day as I knew he loved me, but I did not want him to get hurt because of me. I went back to seeing Donovan. Looking back now, I know that I was not in a position to make sound decisions. I was growing up way too fast.

4

RESPONSIBLE FOR ANOTHER LIFE

AT THE AGE of 16 I fell pregnant with my first son, Sheldon. It was not long after I broke up with Gregory. I left school and my mother kicked me out of the house. I went to stay with Donovan and his family. Donovan was not working at the time and his mother was the sole breadwinner is their house. Donovan’s father, sister and her two children also lived in the two-bedroom home. One Saturday afternoon we visited his eldest sister’s place and Donovan ended up getting drunk. When we got home, I remember him beating me so badly. I was eight months pregnant, and I ended up in hospital with a blue eye and false labour pains. I could not go back home. I was a frightened young girl having to learn to fend for herself. In the early hours on 15 August 1990 Sheldon was born. I was 17, and Donovan had a temporary job. I clearly remember when I went into labour. The day before, I had walked the 10 km distance between my home and the clinic for my pre-natal check-up and I had been alone. Next day, I got a lift to the clinic with one of my uncles, but as I started the long journey home, I began experiencing sharp pains. I would stop every few minutes as the pain would come and go. I managed to get to my Granny’s house and called the next-door neighbour, Aunty Kanaga. She came over and started to rub my back, while she gave me some warm sweet milk to drink. She then

called the ambulance to fetch me. Back then it was still apartheid in South Africa, and Indians and Coloureds used one hospital. The hospital was called Coronation, because it was situated in the township of Coronation, which was quite a distance from Lenasia. I was alone and scared as I got to the hospital. The nurses put me in a room where all the women who were about to deliver their babies were lying down. As the pain got more intense, I started crying and praying, praying so hard for God to ease the pain. At about 9 pm, from my bed next to the corridor, I saw Gregory standing in the passage. I looked again, thinking I was imagining things. What would he be doing there so late at night? Later I found out that his cousin’s wife was also in labour, and he came with his cousin to the hospital. About a year later, when I met Gregory again, he told me that he saw Sheldon after he was born. Why was he the first man to meet my son? Eventually I learned that nothing is coincidental; as time progressed, I saw the bigger picture. Coronation was a government hospital, which meant that there were no doctors on duty at night unless they were called in for emergencies. The nurses that were attending to me told me that I would only give birth the following morning as my water had not yet broken. At about 2 am I went to the toilet and felt the overwhelming need to push. It was like instinct took over and I knew what I had to do. I bent down to look at what was happening and saw that there was a big ball between my legs. I called the nurses and they put me on a stretcher and broke the sac of water that was protecting my baby. They then cut me to help get Sheldon out into the world. The nurses that attended to me just stitched me up; they did not assist me in expelling the placenta from my body. Sheldon was put into my

arms while I was still shaking from the stitches. After a few minutes I put him down in a cot next to me and went to the bathroom to wash the blood from me. I remember looking at this beautiful baby next to me, realising that I was responsible for him. The next morning, when the doctor came to check up on all the women who had given birth the night before, he told me that I needed to have a scan as my tummy was still very swollen. That was when he realised that the placenta was still in me, and if I did not have a procedure called a D&C (dilation and curettage) where the remaining placenta would be removed, I could die. I was only 17 years old at the time and needed to be 18 in order to sign consent for the procedure. I was scared and alone. No family had come to the hospital to see me. The doctor proceeded to sign the consent form himself. He said he could not see a young girl dying in front of him. He then took me to theatre and did the procedure. I remember getting up, still drowsy from the anaesthetic, and Sheldon was crying next to me. That was when I knew that I was no longer only responsible for my own life, but for this precious little life as well. The next day I was discharged from hospital, and I went to my Granny’s house. My mother was also living there at the time. I did not want to go back to Donovan’s house because I was still young and wanted my grandmother to help me with my baby. When my mother came from work, we got into an argument, and I left Granny’s house with a three-day old baby. I had no option but to go back to Donovan’s house, even though my gut told me again it was not a good idea. Let’s call it my intuition.

Donovan’s temp job came to an end, and he was unemployed once again. This meant that things were tough financially. I remember that Granny was working in a bullet factory at the time and would get her meagre earnings every Friday. That was when I would go to her for money to buy Sheldon a tin of powdered milk. She used to come home at 4:30 pm daily and start to cook the night’s supper. I would go almost every afternoon to eat a plate of food before my mother got home. My heart would feel like breaking as I realised what I had done with my life. Here I was, 17 years old, staying with people who were not my family, sometimes not even having a proper meal to eat, having to beg for money to buy a tin of milk for my son. What had I done with my life? I was not ready for a baby. I did not even know how to look after myself! Was this what my life had come to? A teenage mother, unemployed, having to depend on other people for the bare necessities. I had such dreams growing up; I excelled in school. I had the potential to be anything my heart desired. But I had to look at the mess I had created, all because of my wrong choices. When Sheldon turned a year old, I was staying with Donovan’s brother and his wife, as they were renting a house in the same street as his parents. One Friday night Donovan, his brother and his sisterin-law went out to a dance. I was alone and asked my friend to come over and spend the night with me. We played some music and had some drinks until we were nice and tipsy. I put Sheldon between the two of us and fell into a drunken sleep. I do not know what time Donovan came home,

but in my drunken stupor I heard some sounds. I lay quiet in the dark and immediately realised what was happening on the other side of the bed. I felt so betrayed and hurt. Imagine the audacity of these two having sex right next to me and my son! I felt sick to my stomach. They both had no shame. I lay there, quiet in the dark, frozen with shock until the sun arose. My friend did not say anything to me in the morning as she left to go home. She thought I had been asleep the entire night. I packed a bag with some of my and Sheldon’s things and bundled him up in his pram. I did not know where I was going, but I knew, without a doubt, that I needed to leave this life immediately. Donovan was sitting outside drinking a beer, still drunk from the night before. I confronted him about the deeds between my friend and him the night before. He did not deny anything and carried on drinking. I was still numb with shock and felt so humiliated and broken inside. Obviously, he felt nothing for me. How could I stay in this relationship? The voice inside told me to run and never look back. Fortunately, at the same time, my mother and baby sister moved out of Granny’s house, to a house of her own. My brother, who was working, and my younger sister, who was still in school, were left behind. I went to Granny and told her that I needed to come back home. She welcomed me back with open arms. I was going to get a job and start a new life for myself and my son. Having settled in, I eventually went back to fetch my few belongings one day when Donovan was not at home. Donovan eventually realised the consequences of his actions and would often come to the gate of my house, apologising for his deeds,

begging me to come back to him. I was adamant that I had had enough of that kind of life and refused to go back. About three months after I left Donovan, he was murdered on his birthday; he had just turned 23. He was stabbed multiple times near his house, and on his way to the hospital he succumbed to his injuries. I was consumed with sadness and guilt again. His family blamed me for his death, saying that if I had not left him, he would still be alive. Some people always look for an excuse to blame the next person for the consequences of their own actions. I mourned Donovan’s death as I looked back on the good times we had shared. I missed the side of him I knew when he was sober. After all, he was the first person to show me love. He was only there for a season of my life, but in that season, I learnt a great deal.

5

THE FIRST TIME I FOUND HAPPINESS

BACK HOME AGAIN, I was determined to get my life on track. One weekend, I decided to visit a friend, just to take my mind off my situation and have some fun. I packed a bag and caught a taxi with Sheldon to Denise’s house. She was married to Gregory’s cousin Tony. She was also the reason that Gregory was at the hospital the night Sheldon was born, and gave birth to her son on the same day. It was at her daughter’s first birthday party that I had met Gregory for the first time. Gregory was there, visiting his cousin. I had not known that he was back in Johannesburg, because he had moved to Mogwase to work with his father and brother. At that time, Gregory’s parents were living there because his father was a manager at a company that made televisions. I was extremely surprised to see him. It seems fate was at work. You get what you ask for, whether you believe it or not. This was the first time in two years that I had seen Gregory and I was a bit shy as a lot had happened in that time. I had butterflies in my stomach as old feelings came flooding back. I felt excited when we started chatting again, and what was even better, was that I realised the feeling was mutual. He had never stopped loving me, and I had to admit that I still loved him. I was in love, and it felt so good. We immediately started seeing each other again, and I was finally so happy. One thing led to another; I was thinking with my

heart again and not my head. It was not long before I fell pregnant with my second son, Justin. Gregory’s family didn’t welcome me with open arms at first, because I had a child already. Gregory borrowed money and bought me a ring. We arranged with a pastor to marry us on a Friday evening and only told Gregory’s family the same week, that we were getting married. We got married while I was four months pregnant with Justin; I had just turned 19. We lived with Gregory’s parents because he was working in a shoe warehouse and did not earn much. Gregory loved Sheldon like his own son. In fact, Sheldon only found out when he was older that Gregory was not his biological father. Gregory came from a big family; he was the fifth of six children, with three brothers and two older sisters. Since three of his siblings were married and had children as well, there was always a birthday party or some sort of gathering. His family was very united and whenever we saw them, which was often, we always had to greet each other with a hug and a kiss. At first, I felt awkward because I was not used to experiencing such affection, but eventually it became the norm for me. So, this was how ‘normal’ families lived! We never had much money, but we had so much love and happiness. My mother and I started rebuilding our relationship when I got married, and just before Justin was born, we moved to stay with her and my youngest sister Ronell. After Justin was born, I found a job as a receptionist and that was when we had enough money to rent a place of our own. Finally, I had what I always wanted, a good man, two beautiful sons, and a home of my own. We did everything together. Every day when we got home from work, we would share

the responsibilities. While I cooked, Gregory would bath the children and get them ready for bed. Life was good! We were happy and in love. Eventually I left my job as a receptionist and started temping for an employment agency where I was placed mainly in the banks as a typist. I was particularly good at typing. We qualified for a government house, and we eventually moved into our own little home. Almost every weekend we would socialise with family and friends. I loved dancing and singing my lungs out, even though I was not much of a singer. I would sing and get lost in the music. I was a free spirit and would dance and sing like nobody was watching, oblivious to the people around me. I was the life of the party and loved every moment of it. We lived close to Gregory’s eldest brother Eric and his wife Cheryldene, and so we did almost everything together. They had three children, and we once took a trip to Cape Town together in Eric’s combi. It took us 15 hours to get there. It was the first time I had seen the sea or gone on a holiday at all. One night we went to a night club. There was a special on tequila and Cheryldene and I got carried away while Gregory and his brother played pool. When it was time to go home, I was so tipsy I insisted that they take me to the beach. I put my head out of the combi’s window to smell the fresh sea breeze but started feeling bilious. Not too long after that, the scent of the sea started smelling like vomit as the world seemed to be spinning around. I was so sick the next morning, I promised myself never to drink tequila again. Yes, blame it on the tequila. We had so many good times together. There are so many great

memories, and I will cherish them forever. Gregory and I were in love and life was good; I was so happy and content.

6

TYLER

I HAVE THREE sons. Sheldon is the eldest, Justin is the middle son, and Tyler is the youngest. On a beautiful summer’s morning in February, I went to the hospital for the doctor to induce labour so I could give birth. I had gone to the doctor the day before for a checkup and asked him if he could induce labour because I just was not feeling well. My baby was almost full term, and the doctor did a sonar and concluded that the baby was big enough for an induced labour the very next day. Another woman and I were induced at the same time. By 12 pm she had already given birth. At 2 pm I had only dilated to 1 cm, so the doctor did an internal and felt the baby’s finger. He decided to take me to theatre to have a caesarean section because the baby’s heart rate showed he was going into distress. When I woke up from the anaesthetic, I discovered that Tyler’s umbilical cord had been tangled around his neck. The doctor said that he was the first baby that he delivered with his hands on his head. I thought that was because Tyler must have been thinking: ‘Oh no, what does this world hold for me!’ My gut feeling had told me everything was not well, and that the doctor had to take this child out of my belly. We all have that inner voice, or intuition, that tries to guide us, but many times we do not listen to it. Thank God, that time I listened.

I remember holding Tyler in the hospital bed and having a feeling that I needed to protect this beautiful soul, not knowing why. When Tyler was two months old, he started developing a thick red rash over his body. We took him to a doctor who diagnosed him with eczema and prescribed some cortisone ointment to apply on the rash and cortisone medicine to drink. The rash started getting worse and the cortisone medication made his skin thin, prone to tear open and suppurate. All the doctors could do was give him antibiotics to clear the infection and more cortisone, as that was the only treatment for eczema back then. Eventually the doctor did not know what to do any more and would give Tyler Valium drops to sleep because he would cry all the time. I took him to many specialists and tried different treatments. I would go to work so fatigued – and more often than not in tears – as I did not know how to help my son. The only thing that was on my mind was finding a cure for Tyler, and I would try anything that people recommended. After doing some research, I heard of a doctor in Pretoria who did homeopathic and biological medication. He started treating Tyler homeopathically, but the eczema was just getting worse. Eventually he said he had heard of a similar case of eczema in Germany and asked if he could try the specific treatment on Tyler as he had never tried it before. By then I was prepared to try anything. I gave him permission and kept on believing and praying for a miracle to happen. The doctor told us to bring a sample of Tyler’s morning urine. This was quite a challenge because he was still using nappies, but we

managed to get some, and Gregory took it to the doctor. The doctor then took the urine and made a serum from it and gave me few small bottles of drops. The idea was for Tyler’s own antibodies to fight against the antibodies that were causing the disease. He told me that Tyler would first get worse before he got better. I was working as a typist at a bank at the time and applied for a week’s leave to be with Tyler. I took the doctor’s letter to my manager to approve my leave. He did not like me because I did not tolerate his unfairness and he told me that he would give me unpaid leave. I reported the matter to my HR department and was granted paid leave. Just as Natalie said, I would stand up for myself if I believed I was right. This made me a lot of enemies. It did not matter if the entire department was against me. If I thought something was unfair then I would fight for what I believed in. Tyler’s condition got worse. As he started to shed his skin on some parts of his body, it looked raw, like a burn victim. I remembered the book of Job in the Bible, where his body was covered in sores, and he would sit and scratch his body with a piece of broken pottery. In this case Tyler was still a baby and could not scratch himself; all he did was cry. I could hear the agony in his cries. Granny stayed with me at that time and she and a helper would help look after Tyler when I went to work. I remember her crying out to God, asking if she could take Tyler’s sores and pain instead. One of the greatest pains a mother can endure is to see her child suffer and not know how to help. After a week of hell, Tyler’s condition was reduced to an eczema that was treatable by a normal specialist. I had heard of a doctor in

Durban who made a cream that cures all kinds of skin problems. So, Gregory and I packed the boys into the car and went on a sevenhour journey to see the doctor. The doctor gave us a bottle of cream to apply over his body. In less than a week his skin started healing and the eczema was almost gone. This was truly a miracle! We decided to have a little thanksgiving celebration and invited the pastor of our church as well as some family members to celebrate this miracle. We were so grateful, and we wanted everyone to know what Jesus had done for Tyler. I just knew that God had guided me to the proper doctors and that through this journey I had some lessons to learn. There is always a lesson in every trial we face. By the time the eczema was gone, Tyler had developed full- blown asthma. As the one allergy left his body, he developed another one, and was often hospitalised until he was nine years old. I remember every time I could not control his asthma attack, I would have to pack a bag for Tyler and one for me as well because that meant I was going to have to sleep in a chair or on the floor next to Tyler until he was discharged. At the age of six, Tyler could put his own medication in the nebuliser. He knew which medication to take and was aware of his allergies and what he could not eat. When he got a chocolate in school, he would first check to see if it contained peanuts or other allergens before he ate it. He was a resilient, well-behaved, respectful and intelligent boy whom any mother would be proud of. He was the light of my life, probably because he had to overcome so many obstacles in his young life.

As I had realised before, one of the most painful lessons of being a parent is to see your child suffering and not being able to help them. In the following years, I had to endure so much more pain with my other children as well. From the time a mother conceives, she already has so many dreams for her unborn child, but seeing them suffer is not one of them; it is actually a nightmare.

7

THE THREE Ds: DEATH

ON 12 NOVEMBER 1999, my beloved Granny passed on, and not long after that I lost myself. I woke up early on that dreadful Friday morning still tired as I had not got much sleep the previous night. I had been at the hospital the entire day before because my grandmother was critically ill and did not have much time left. The doctors had kindly allowed her family to be with her and we had begun praying for a miracle, even though they had advised us that she was dying. How could this be? Granny had left my house on Monday morning to go to hospital. She hadn’t been feeling well, as she suffered from asthma and emphysema. She kissed the boys and told my helper to take good care of them. When she climbed into the car, there was a sadness in her eyes as she said goodbye to me. During the week, though her condition had rapidly deteriorated, I began to question how the doctor could be certain. He was not God. I guess it is human nature to never want to believe that your loved one is going to die, even though it is staring you right in the face. Gregory had left his job the year before and was working as a temp in a call centre, as a technical consultant. His department’s Christmas party was taking place on that day. He told me that he was not going to be long and that he would meet meat the hospital. I

thought it peculiar at the time that he needed to attend the party even though he knew I needed him that day, but I did not confront him because I had too many emotions going through me. Being the middle of summer, it was a hot humid day. As I sat on a bench next to my grandmother’s bed, I noticed that there were many pigeons sitting outside on the window ledge, and imagined that they were angels, waiting for her soul. The room was filled with many close relatives and church members who had come to pay their last respects. After noon, one of the pastors came into the room and began anointing Granny with oil on her forehead in the sign of the cross. Many of the people in the room had their eyes closed as the pastor commenced in prayer. For some reason I happened to open my eyes in the middle of the prayer and saw that Granny was struggling to breathe. In a panic, I went to call a nurse, who explained that what I had witnessed was my Granny taking her last breath. I battled to comprehend what had just happened. Somehow, I was very calm and stayed next to Granny’s body for quite some time. After a while, the hospital staff came to take her away. I remember looking outside the window again and noticing that the pigeons had all flown away. What a beautiful way to die, in the midst of prayer! She must surely be an angel, I thought. On the day of the funeral, as Granny’s coffin was being carried into the church, I saw a sparrow fly in and sit on one of beams above the coffin. After the service, as the body was being taken out of the church, the sparrow flew out as well. I thought again about the birds outside the hospital’s window, angels come to fetch her soul; now I

had no doubt that she was an angel sitting up on the beam looking at her family and loved ones bidding her farewell. I realised that life was a mystery, and my curious mind began wandering again. I started thinking about what happens to our soul once we die. There was definitely a bigger picture here. Why would God allow us to become so attached to each other only to allow death to take us away? What was the purpose of this short life anyway? Where does the soul go to once we leave the body? Oh, the questions started coming and coming. I mourned Granny’s death deeply. This was the woman who was there for me my entire life; the woman who looked after and loved my children. I never realised just what an impact she had had on my life until I lost her. In fact, I was so consumed by my grief that I did not take notice of what was happening in my marriage. Gregory’s new job required him to work shifts, so I started seeing less of him as he would come home when I was already asleep. I noticed that he was becoming more and more distant towards me. I needed him so much at that raw point in my life, but he was becoming another person. One I did notrecognise.

8

THE THREE Ds: DIVORCE

WHEN A VASE is broken into many pieces it will never be the same again. This is the chapter where my life was broken into so many pieces that I thought I would never again be whole. About three months after the passing of my grandmother, I was at work daydreaming, trying to figure out what was happening to my marriage, battling to understand what was so wrong that Gregory had become a stranger overnight. I then received a dreadful call. A friend informed me that her sister-in-law had seen Gregory over the weekend at the shopping mall, holding hands with another woman and looking very much in love. It felt like a knife had just pierced my heart. I literally felt the pain in my chest as I tried to comprehend what I was hearing. I put the phone down, still trembling, grabbed a cigarette and immediately went outside to have a smoke. I simply could not come to terms with what I had just heard. I had never thought that Gregory would ever cheat on me; he just wasn’t that type of man. There must be an explanation. As I battled to rationalise what I just heard, I could not wait until I got home to confront Gregory. So, I phoned him and told him that I needed to meet with him after work. He picked me up and we went out to have dinner to talk. He confessed that he had been seeing someone at work, but told me that the affair was over

as the woman had since left the company. He said he wanted to try again and work on our marriage, but he did not seem sure. I could not sleep that night. So many thoughts were racing through my head. What had gone wrong in my marriage? What was wrong with me that he had to look for love with another woman? Was she more beautiful? Where did I go wrong, that I had to chase him into the arms of another woman? Why? Why? Gregory was still distant and withdrawn towards me in the weeks that followed. He would somehow always be working the late shift. In the morning his discarded shirt would smell of women’s perfume. When I confronted him, he would get mad and start arguing with me. Gregory worked on weekends as well and on Fridays he would go out drinking with friends after work and only come home the next morning. Then he would sleep until it was time to go to work. He could not stand to be in the same house with me. He started having arguments with me just so that he could move out of the bedroom. How did we become strangers? I knew that he had never stopped seeing this other woman. I did not want my marriage to end, and have my children grow up in a broken home just like I did, without a father. I was prepared to fight for my marriage, but first I needed to know who the other woman was. I knew he worked shifts with a woman called Eve, and they would carpool in order to save the petrol costs. But she was a married woman and had three children who were older than ours. I had never met her or seen her face, as I thought she was just part of his lift club. So who could the woman be?

One Saturday when Gregory was off from work, I asked him if we could take the children out for the day. He agreed and said that he would take us to Carnival City, where they had games for the children and a big casino as well. When we got to Carnival City he went missing in the casino. I kept on phoning him, but he did not answer. I booked the children into the crèche and started walking around the casino looking for him. After some time, I saw him talking to two women. As I approached them, he introduced me to Eve and her sister-in-law. Her husband and brother were busy gambling on the other side of the casino. Eve immediately gave me a friendly hug and said she was happy to finally meet me. She was beautiful and seemed so genuine that I took an instant liking to her. We later met up with her husband and the men started having some drinks together. I took this opportunity to get to know her better and we went for walk to the toilet together. I told her that I suspected that Gregory was having an affair with someone at work. She told me that he was seeing a lady by the name of Samantha, but she had since left the company, confirming what he had told me. I told her that he had become a stranger to me, and I did not know what was happening to my marriage. She sympathised with me and told me that her husband had also had affairs and that it was the worst thing that a woman could experience. She told me that she would keep an eye on him for me and let me know if she saw something suspicious. It seemed that I had found a confidante, someone who understood me. We picked the children up and we all left the casino together. We got home very late and I put the children to bed and went to bed as well. After some time, Gregory thought I was sleeping and went silently to

the lounge. I overheard him talking to someone quietly on the phone and tiptoed to the passage. That was when I overheard him talking to Eve. He told her he was missing her and loved her, and that he could not wait to see her at work later. I cannot remember what else he said after that. My whole world fell apart as I burst into tears. I had just met the devil who was seducing my husband, pretending to be an angel. I was so angry that I waited for him to end his conversation so that I could confront him. He started apologising as I told him that I was going to phone Eve’s husband and tell him what his devious wife was doing behind his back. Gregory begged me not to do that. I phoned Eve the next day and told her that I needed to see her immediately. She came over and started crying and she kept on apologising for what she had done. She told me that she would rather put a gun to her head and shoot herself before she broke up another woman’s home. The devil incarnate; sweet like honey, but bites like a venomous snake. I soon realised that Eve was a mentally sick, pathetic woman. She was lying all along, and never had any intention of removing her filthy claws from my husband. She was the kind of woman that gains joy by tearing other women apart; the woman every mother tells their son to stay away from. Gregory was cold as ice. I battled to get through to him. I had become a desperate woman, as I begged and pleaded for him to love me again. I lost myself in the process, as I became a hopeless wreck. I persuaded him to meet up with a pastor to get some counselling as a last attempt to save my marriage, though in the back of my mind I knew it was over. The pastor told us that divorce is

worse than death. Death is quick and you have no option but to accept it, while divorce is a slow and painful death with repercussions that could last a lifetime. Not long after that, Gregory moved out of the house. The pastor was right; my divorce was a slow torturous death, with pain that I thought would last a lifetime. All my dreams were shattered. To me, this process was a long, cruel awakening. It felt like someone was taking a knife and piercing it through my heart, turning it slowly until there was nothing left. I was broken into so many pieces that I did not think I would be able to carry on living. I became a pathetic, weak woman. I could not recognise myself. Abandoned women tend to think they must have done something wrong. Why else would their man be paying attention to another woman? Being rejected by someone you love is an indescribable pain. It broke my self-esteem. I blamed myself for speaking too loudly, for not being a better wife, a better lover, a better person.

9

THE THREE Ds: DEPRESSION

AFTER GREGORY MOVED out of the house, a darkness befell me which took many years to lift. Within the space of four months, I had lost my grandmother and my husband. The two closest people in my life. I dreaded going home after work each day to an empty house. I wanted to sleep and never wake up again. I fell into such a deep depression. The loneliness was horrible! I would cry the entire night and could not pick myself up out of bed in the morning. The pain was so intense that it hurt everywhere. I could not eat, much less function. I was in the land of the living dead. Why, God? Why me? Where are you when bad things happen? Why must some people endure so much more pain compared to others? Why was I born? I felt so sorry for myself all the time. I had finally had a chance of happiness, but it was so short-lived. One night, after the boys were asleep, I had been crying for hours and decided to try and commit suicide. I took a handful of pills. It didn’t take long before I started throwing up everything I had taken. I lay in a stupor, shaking, on the bathroom floor. I could not even do that right. Nothing I did in life had a good ending. So why should I keep trying? I sank deeper and deeper into this black hole. I was hospitalised for depression and took the anti-depressants and tranquillisers the doctors prescribed. I remember sitting in the chair in the psychologist’s rooms whilst listening to her giving me advice. She

was young, not married and had no children. I looked at her and thought, ‘Lady, you don’t know my pain, you were never in my shoes.’ I had already made up my mind to never consult with her again. The first anti-depressants I was on had me walking into the furniture like a zombie. The doctor adjusted my medication, but it didn’t make much of a difference because the pain was always there. I diligently took it, hoping it would help me get out of the black hole that I was in. Nothing seemed to make me happy. I forgot how to smile. I was quite close to Cheryldene (Gregory’s brother’s wife); she was my best friend and I used to confide in her. She always tried her best to motivate me and encourage me to pick myself up. I could not drive a car because I had been fully dependent on Gregory until then. When Tyler was sick, I would have to walk to catch a taxi to take him to the doctor. On one occasion it was raining, and I was standing on the sidewalk of the main road with an umbrella holding Tyler, when I saw Gregory drive past us with Eve in the car. He didn’t even see me. If I could have jumped off a cliff at that moment, I would have. I felt incredibly angry, sad, bitter and hopeless. How could this man just carry on with his life, being happy and in love, while I was battling to look after our children? I was the one trying to put the broken pieces of our lives back together after he chose to abandon us. Our house was situated on a corner with an empty piece of land at the back. There were no houses across the street, only bushes and trees. It was very deserted, and it was not safe for a woman alone with children. The house had been broken into before and I was

scared. It was so bad that my two older boys and I would push the kitchen cupboard against the door at night before we went to sleep. I did not get much sleep at night and sunk deeper into depression, feeling anxious all the time. I remember once I had just gotten home from work and my aunty came to visit. She and I got into an argument, and I do not remember what happened after that as my mind went blank. I was later told that I ran out of the house and into the bushes across from the house and they could not find me. A few hours later I had arrived at Cheryldene’s house. Gregory’s father and my mother picked me up and I was taken to hospital the next day, where I was sedated. The doctor said I had had a nervous breakdown. I was 27 years old at the time. I recall this dark cloud hovering over me, and not knowing when the sun would shine again. About a month later I was back in hospital with pneumonia. It is strange how our bodies function. Depression not only affects your mental ability, but your physical ability as well. Once your mind tells you that it is not feeling well, your body will then start showing signs of sickness. If your mind does not fight to live, then how can the body fight back to heal itself? Why was life so unfair? Come on God, give me a break! A hundred questions would be going through my mind while I spoke to God. I spoke to God all the time. I prayed so hard, pleading with God to bring my husband back. I also fought with God because He seemed to ignore my plight. Depression is a serious disease, and not well understood. Many people will tell you just to snap out of it and pull yourself together. Unfortunately, it is not so easy. Depression is a chemical imbalance

in the brain and should be treated like any serious medical condition. That was the darkest and loneliest time in my life. Even when I was with people, I was still alone. I would cry myself to sleep, pleading with God for this nightmare to end.

10

THE ACCIDENT

AFTER I HAD my breakdown, I moved out of the house as I was tired of living in fear, and I needed help with the boys until I got stronger. Sheldon and Justin would stay with Gregory’s parents during the week because the school was close to their house, and I would pick them up on the weekend. I took Tyler and went to stay at my mother’s house until I could find another place for me and my boys. It was within the first month of sending the boys to their grandparents that another tragedy happened. On 29 January 2001, I was sitting at my desk at work. I had just come out of my manager’s office after having a meeting with him regarding my absenteeism. The phone in the office rang, and one of my colleagues had answered the phone and told me that there was another woman on the phone wanting to speak to me. It was Gregory’s mother’s neighbour telling me that Sheldon was in an accident and that he was in hospital. She said that he and his cousin had gone to buy bread when a combi knocked him over. I took my bag and rushed out of work in tears as I went to catch a taxi. While I sat in the taxi, I was pleading with God to intercede for Sheldon. I could not wait for the taxi to reach my destination; I just needed to get to my child. ‘Oh Lord Jesus, please let my son be fine,’ was all I kept saying in my mind until the taxi stopped.

When I finally got to the hospital a lot of family members were already there, Gregory included. Sheldon was lying on a bed, and he was being wheeled out of radiology where they had done some Xrays to determine the extent of the injuries. He told me he was fine and that his tooth had been chipped. He showed me some of the bruises on his arms and he was on strong painkillers. I told him not to worry and that the doctors would fix his chipped tooth. My child was still too young to understand the impact of his injuries. The doctor took Gregory and me to a room and explained the findings of Sheldon’s injuries. He said that Sheldon’s left leg was broken in two places and the extent of the injury was quite bad as the combi that knocked Sheldon had dragged him for a couple of metres before realising that he was underneath. I shuddered to think what trauma my child was going through while he was being dragged under that combi. The doctor said that Sheldon needed to have an operation immediately so that they could put the bone together with some sort of device. To be honest, I was not really paying much attention as I just wanted my child’s leg to be fixed, whatever it took. I was still in shock, trying to absorb what was happening. Sheldon went to theatre and had an external fixation device inserted into his leg to keep the fractured bones stabilised and in alignment. After the operation, the doctor said that Sheldon had lost a lot of blood and needed a blood transfusion. He was put into a ward on his own. Gregory and I stayed the night with Sheldon, but we did not speak to each other. The energy in the room was uncomfortable. I could not understand why God seemed to be so far from me. Was it not enough that I had to endure so much heartbreak in my life? Now my son had to undergo such trauma at the age of ten.

‘Don’t kick a dog while it’s down,’ the saying goes. So how much more must I be kicked, God? Until there’s nothing left of me? Please, Lord Jesus, I am begging you, please help me. I kept on going to the nurse’s station throughout the night to ask them where the blood was for the transfusion. He only received the transfusion at about 6 am the next day. Apparently, the nurse had forgotten to send it from the blood bank. It was also extremely hot in that ward, and I kept thinking that his leg would become infected in that heat. I requested that the family make some phone calls to have Sheldon transferred to another hospital because I was not happy with the treatment he was receiving. I had an instinctual feeling that I had to move my child out of the hospital. At about 5 pm, 14 hours after the accident, Sheldon was transferred by ambulance to Milpark Hospital where a team of doctors were waiting for him. He was taken immediately into theatre where the doctors battled to save his leg. At about 9 pm the doctor came out of theatre and told us that they managed to save an artery and they were moving him into ICU. The doctors were appalled with the treatment he received at the other hospital. Sheldon’s leg was badly infected, and they worked hard to save it. The other hospital was too focused on putting the bones back together instead of focusing on saving the leg. Had I left my son there for even a short while longer, he would have lost his leg. I remember looking at Sheldon with all the tubes connected to him, as he lay there so helpless. He was only 10 years old, still so young. ‘Come on God, give me a break,’ I pleaded again, ‘Why did you allow this to happen to my son?’ I remember fighting with God but simultaneously praying for him to heal my child. If I look back throughout my life, I have often been angry with God, yet at the

same time, somewhere inside me I always had hope that God would answer my prayers. I realised, next to the hospital bed, that Sheldon needed me. I had to get stronger to be there for him. I had to take the focus off my situation as I realised again, that I was responsible for this life. Sheldon had chosen me to be his mother, and I was going to fight that depression. I was going to fight to pick myself up again. I was going to fight to be the mother that my children needed. Sheldon was taken to theatre every second day so that the doctor could debride the wounds and stop the leg from getting infected. A week later he was wheeled into theatre to undergo a huge operation for doctors to try and build his leg back together. On the day of the operation, lots of family members came to the hospital to support us. I remember a lot of people were fasting and praying that day for a miracle. The operation was about eight hours long. Doctors removed muscle from his back and transplanted it into his leg. After the operation, the doctor came out of theatre and said that the operation had been a success. He said that a miracle had taken place and that the muscle that was removed from his back fitted perfectly into the leg. I remember thanking God that day as He had answered my prayers. So, you are still here, God. You have not completely abandoned me, though many times I could not feel your presence. I stayed off from work for more than a week and was anxious to see what disciplinary measures awaited me. My manager was quite sympathetic to my situation this time, but I had to ensure that I did not take any more time off from work because I had exhausted my leave and sick leave days. I also knew that I had to look after my

job because I needed my Medical Aid benefits now more than ever. I would take the bus at 4 pm daily from work to the hospital to see Sheldon. I remember sneaking out of from work 10 minutes early to ensure I did not miss the bus. I would sit by his bedside until 8 pm as I waited for family members to visit so that I could catch a lift back home. Sheldon had to undergo many operations after that, including a skin graft and bone grafts as doctors had to rebuild what was left of his leg. He stayed in hospital for more than a month before being discharged. Over the years he had multiple operations to adjust the bones, having plates inserted and to treat infections in the leg.

11

ADJUSTING TO LIFE AS A SINGLE PARENT

AFTER SHELDON WAS discharged from the hospital we stayed with Gregory’s parents while my mother- in-law, Cynthia, helped nurse Sheldon, bathing him and cleaning his wounds with boundless patience. We moved back and forth between my in-laws’ house and Granny’s house, which was now my mother’s. All families have drama, so when my mother and I got into an argument I would move, and when I was not happy at my in- laws’ place then I would move back to my mother. All I wanted was a place of my own and to give my children a home of their own. Sheldon had a huge external fixation protruding from the cast on his leg. He had missed an entire term of school, and when he did go back, he had a hard time adjusting. Children can be cruel sometimes, and they made fun of him, calling him ‘Cripple Archie’. I saw the sadness in his eyes, but he was a brave little boy, always managing a smile while he tried to remain optimistic. Those were some dark days that my children and I had to experience. Sheldon and Justin missed their father a lot. At least Tyler was very young when Gregory and I parted ways, and he adjusted easily to the new norm. Every time I saw fathers playing with their sons, I felt so sad as I realised just how much my boys

needed a father figure in their lives. There is a reason God created a father and a mother. Their roles are different, yet both vitally important. There is a stigma attached to being a divorced woman in society. Your married friends start distancing themselves from you, as if they feel you are after their husbands. I began to feel uncomfortable around married couples, as my so-called friends would hold on tighter to their husbands when I was around. I started making friends with women who were single or divorced and I started going out with them on weekends. Welcome to the Single Women’s Club! But the loneliness was indescribable. How I wished I had someone to hold me and tell me everything was going to be all right. When I went out with my friends on weekends, trying to build my self-esteem again, I always felt guilty. I felt as if I was neglecting my children somehow by being out instead of at home with them. My friends would pick me up because I could not drive. I was so dependent on people to help me get around and I hated it. I had many good friends thrown in my path back then. There was Jackie, who was divorced with three children, Taseela, who was also divorced with three children, and Marilyn, who worked with me at the bank. All of them were strong, independent and beautiful women. Taseela lived in Pretoria, which was quite far for me, but some weekends when the boys were with their father, I would get a lift there on a Friday after work with one of my colleagues. Taseela would pick me up and the two of us would get drunk and have deep conversations about life for hours. We would laugh, cry and just talk, which was the best form of free therapy. Jackie was the friend who

told me I was a hypochondriac because whenever we got back from a party, I was always feeling sick. She was right, because I was always tired and had some or other pain or flu to complain about. It was only much later that I learnt I was not a hypochondriac at all; I actually had a disease. It was not easy for me to move on and have a relationship. I was slim and trim back then, and everybody told me I was beautiful, but my main fear about having a relationship with another man was whether or not he would accept my children. After all, we came as a package. I was obsessed with the possibility of a repeat of my own childhood. Already, my children had no father; if I spent most of my time with someone else, then I would most definitely be neglecting them, because they needed my time all the more. I could not let history repeat itself and allow my children to go through what I went through. My children needed their mother. I was going to have to put my own desires on hold. I needed to sacrifice my happiness because these three lives were much more important than my own. When I stayed at my mother’s house, Tyler and I would share a bed while my other two boys shared a bed in my mother’s room, as the house only had two bedrooms. As I looked at this little angel cuddling into me every night, I was determined to give my boys a better future. I did not know how, but I believed that I would take us out of poverty. I would learn to drive, buy a car and a beautiful house. I would give them everything I never had. I had big dreams for us.

12

A NEW CHAPTER

IT IS SAID that when one door closes, another one opens. But sometimes we are so focused on the door that is closed that we do not realise that another door has opened. We need to close the old chapter and make room for a completely new one. Three years of being divorced had already gone by and I was much stronger. One Saturday afternoon while I was blow- drying my hair in preparation for a family function, an old acquaintance came to my mother’s house looking for me. He and his wife had been with some people at the club I had been to the weekend before. We had chatted and danced for a while until I left with my friend Jackie. He told me his wife had sent him to get my cell number. I thought it strange at first; why had his wife not asked me for my number when I met her? I wrote it on a scrap of paper and escorted him to the gate, quite forgetting that my hair was half -dried, while the other part was put together in a wet bun on my head. Another man was sitting in the van smiling at me, and I had to scold the boys for jumping on his van, trying to get their kite off the electric pole. He kept on smiling and said he had given the boys permission, and all was fine. He was extremely polite, as he got out the van to give the boys a hand. A week later, I got a call at work from a man named Victor. He said he had seen me around and that he would really like to be my friend. I told him that I did not speak to strangers and put the phone down.

He phoned me back after a while and said he had heard I was a cheeky, no-nonsense type of woman and he really wanted to get to know me. He also told me that he had been the man in the van that came that weekend, and that my cell number was for him. He said he had just moved to Johannesburg and was looking to meet some friends. For some reason I had not taken notice of his face and could not remember what he looked like. I started interrogating him. Where did he work? Was he married? Did he have children? He answered that he worked at the airport fixing aircons on the aeroplanes, was divorced with three children who were older than my children and lived with his ex-wife. Where was he originally from? He said he was from Kimberley, but I later heard he lived in Welkom as well as Klerksdorp. How old was he? When I heard that he was 10 years older than me, I told him that I had a friend who was about his age … maybe I should introduce them? He was not interested in meeting another woman. He told me he only wanted to be my friend. For the next few months, we would talk on the phone often. He was a good listener, and I enjoyed his company. After about three months of speaking to Victor on the phone, I decided to meet him in person. It was a Saturday and Sheldon and I were at the shopping centre. The weather became cold and windy and I started to panic as it was a long walk back home. My phone rang, and it was Victor. Coincidentally he was near the shopping centre. He asked me if I needed a lift. He described the van he was driving and where he would meet us. When I jumped into the van, I was surprised to find him much older than he had said; he was also overweight, which was not appealing to me. We made small talk about the weather until he dropped us at home.

I was a bit disappointed with Victor’s appearance, and decided not to engage in a relationship, but rather keep my distance. When he phoned again and wanted to go out for supper, I told him that he was too old for me – could I hook him up with one of my work colleagues who was closer to his age, as she was single and a good person? He got the picture and stopped calling, but three months later he phoned to say that he had met another woman, and they were seeing each other. I was happy for him, and we started chatting again. Later, of course, I found out that he was lying. It was just an excuse to start speaking to me. Victor became a good friend to me. He entered my life in my winter season. I prayed to God to make a way for me, to send someone my way to help me out of my financial difficulties. I needed to be able to get a place of my own and provide for my children. Well, this person arrived. It was just at the right time. I was just not aware that it was Victor. When I really got to know him, I realised he was a great blessing to me, always ready to help wherever he could. He was kind, caring, a great person to talk to and, most of all, great with my children. He spoilt them, buying them bikes, toys, and whatever they needed. He helped me get on my feet, even paying a driving school to give me lessons. He motivated me by helping me pay for my studies so that I could get a better job. I eventually looked past his age and saw him for the person he truly was. After a year, I married him. I needed the stability, and he was good to my boys. From the time we got married Victor worked in Botswana and Witbank and would come home on weekends or every second weekend. This worked out great for me, as I did not feel like I was neglecting my children in any way. It was a marriage of convenience

for me as he looked after me and the boys so well. The fact that he was much older meant that he was mature and that was what I needed. God sent him to prepare me for what he had in store for me. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ After four years of instability, I finally had a comfortable home for my children, where they would feel safe and happy. I was grateful to God for not abandoning me. Even though at times I failed Him, He never failed me.

13

ESTABLISHING MY CAREER

BEING A TYPIST at the bank did not satisfy me. Somehow, deep inside, I knew I was destined for greater things. I came across the quote ‘Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ I typed it out in bold and stuck it on the side of my cubicle. I read it whenever I felt despondent or bored with the monotonous work I had to do. I needed a challenging job; something that would motivate me, make me look forward to going to work each day. I would look at the quote and start imagining this great job, so much so that I eventually started believing it too. I typed for a lot of managers and did not have a problem reading their handwriting. One senior manager who was transferred to our department went by the name of Mr du Plessis. He had the handwriting of a doctor. I was the typist allocated to do his typing. He was a stern and meticulous man. Many of the managers beneath him appeared to be fearful of him. One day I walked into his office and showed him that he had made a spelling mistake. With a look of thunder, he told me that he did not make mistakes, to which I responded by challenging him to look at his dictionary. When he saw that I was correct, he asked me why I was not scared of him. I had the guts to stand up to him and challenge him. I told him that irrespective of his status he was not greater than I was and in the

end, he was a person just like me. From that day on, he looked at me differently. He had noticed my boldness and work ethic. I always had a big mouth and never kept quiet, especially if I thought I was being treated unfairly. There were many times that my mouth landed me in trouble, but I always found a way to talk myself out of a difficult situation. Mr du Plessis wanted to know what I was doing as a typist, as I had the capability to do so much more. He encouraged me to study, as I needed a qualification to apply for a better job. My capabilities and experience were not good enough. The irony was that I had witnessed incompetent people being hired just because they had a degree or diploma. When it came to actually applying what they had learnt, they did not do well. My supervisor had taken a transfer to another department in the bank, and her position became available. I took the opportunity to apply for the post. Unfortunately, I did not get it. Nevertheless, I was made responsible for teaching the successful candidate what to do in the department. That was the cherry on the cake! Management felt I was not good enough for the job, but I was good enough to teach someone else what the job entailed. I was fuming in anger as I grabbed my bag and marched to Mr du Plessis’s office and told him I needed to hand in my resignation. He told me to calm down and not make such a rash decision. He picked up the phone and spoke to someone regarding a vacant post. He told me to take my bag and go to the second floor and assist that department to set up a new data program. Immediately my emotions went from anger to excitement as I thanked him for the position.

After a few months in the new department, I had accomplished what I was hired to do. I was then transferred back to the third floor to be an assistant to a manager by the name of Anneke. She was the best boss to have, and I learned so many interesting skills from her. She was petite, beautiful inside and out, soft-spoken and a real angel. Anneke was much younger than I, but I learned so much from her. She became my friend and motivated me to study again. She was always encouraging me to do my best. God was placing people in my life who were going to help me establish my career. I remember telling Anneke that it was impossible to be a single mother to three boys and study as well. At that time, my body was beginning to show signs that I was not well. I was tired all the time, started suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, and felt aches and pains crawling their way into my body. She persuaded me that it was important to study if I wanted a future in the corporate world. I decided to register with Unisa to do a programme in business management. I was scared because I had left school so long before, but I would look at those faithful words in bold: ‘Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ They motivated me to persevere. The availability of work was decreasing in our department as we were merging with another division. Anneke told me about another position that had become available in the department we were merging with. It was assistant to the finance manager. I laughed as I told her I had no finance experience at all; why would she even consider me being a candidate for that job? It seemed Mr du Plessis and Anneke had more confidence in me than I had in myself; they even went as far as arranging an interview for me. I asked Anneke

for a quick lesson before I went for the interview, like what a debit and a credit were. I had forgotten what I had learned in school as accounting was not my favourite subject back then, but I needed to know the basics of finance. When I entered the interview room, I was so nervous. I felt way out of this league. The person I was hoping to replace had a B.Comm. degree and I did not even have my matric certificate, let alone any experience. I wanted to run out of the room. I was interviewed by the finance and HR managers. The finance manager, Allan, looked very young. He was probably in his late twenties. He had a serious look on his face which made me feel even more uncomfortable. I could have kicked myself for agreeing to that interview. Things went well until he started talking about journals, trial balances and balance sheets. That was when my brain froze. I eventually came clean and told him that I did not have a clue what he was talking about. I was a fast learner, I assured him; I liked a challenge because I knew I had the ability to master any task given to me. After the interview was completed, I ran to Anneke and burst out laughing as I explained what a joke I had just made of myself. There was no way in hell I would get that job. A week later I got a call telling me that I been chosen. Wow! I was shocked and scared at the same time. I later found out that I owed it to Mr du Plessis and Anneke, who advocated for me to get the position. The new department was on the 7th floor. There were only two people: Allan and me. Allan was a strict and disciplined man. The first three weeks, I kept on taking the lift to the 3rd floor to ask Anneke for help with the journals. She was not always available and

that is when I would panic. I soon realised I could not keep running between floors; I needed to learn the work. I started using examples from the previous journals I had done with Anneke. I decided to take the bull by the horns and educate myself. I prayed for a miracle, as I was in way over my head. After a month I started understanding what I was doing. After three months Allan told me he was impressed with my work. That was all I needed to boost my confidence. After that I never looked back. I knew that I would achieve anything I put my mind to. I was still studying, using my lunch hour. The subjects I did not like were finance and accounting. I read most of the textbook and did not understand how to do my assignment. I told Allan that I needed help. He then sat me down in his office and started writing on the white board, in no time I understood what to do. He is one of the most brilliant people I have ever met. It was because of him that I passed Finance and Accounting with a distinction. God was moulding me for my destiny. I believe that nothing – no one we meet in life – is coincidental. When we look back, we see how the puzzle fits together.

14

STARTING MY OWN BUSINESS

VICTOR STARTED COMPLAINING about his job. He felt the company he worked for was using him and not paying him accordingly. He was an earthmoving air conditioning technician on the coal mines. Earthmoving machinery is designed to move large quantities of earth or rubble, for example your tractors, dozers, caterpillars and many others. As I mentioned earlier, he looked more than 10 years older than me; he was actually 17 years older. His job entailed manual labour, and with his age catching up with him, he was getting tired of his job and realised that he would not be able to do it for much longer. In my first year of marriage with Victor, I decided to register a company, making Victor and myself shareholders. It was not long before I realised that Victor had told a lot of lies. A lot of what he told me about his life and his job was not true. Within the same year of marriage, I realised I was married to someone I barely knew. I was expecting him to have a big pension fund to start the company, but it was not the case. When he left work, he had nothing. Even the van he drove was his company’s. I decided to use my credit card to put a deposit down on a small van to get him on the road so he could find work. Not long after that, he had found work at a coal mine in

Witbank. I hired another young man to assist Victor there. I soon found out that Victor was not good at reading and writing and I had to do all the paperwork for the company. I must say that he was gifted with his hands and knew what he was doing when it came to all types of air conditioners. The company soon started growing as we were both good at what we did in the business. In the evenings when I would get home after a long day of working in the bank, I would do my own company’s paperwork. Anneke was a good friend to me, and I would go to her every time I needed some educating when it came to VAT returns or the basic tools of accounting which I needed to apply in my business. As I mentioned earlier, my body had started acting up. I battled to get up every day because of severe fatigue that would take over my body. I soon decided to resign from the bank, as I could not manage two jobs any more. I was finally doing well at the bank. I had just been promoted to a better position with the new section because we were merging once again. It was a huge decision to give up my security and career in the corporate sector to step into the unknown, but the inner voice in me told me that I was making the right decision. I had spoken to God concerning this big risk I was about to take, and somehow, I felt at peace in my heart. The business started growing and soon I was buying more vans and hiring more people. We also bought another house in Witbank. I was learning a lot. No one gave me a manual on how to run my business. I would pray and ask God to lead me and guide me when it came to making decisions and God never failed me. He was with me throughout the entire process. Many people start businesses which after a while they are forced to close. That is because they fail to

listen to what God, or some would say their ‘inner voice’, has said when it attempts to guide them. I learned that Victor had had many businesses before, but they all had failed. This time, however, the business was not going to fail, because it had Natasha running it. The business was doing so well that Victor decided to open another shop selling car accessories like wheels, mags and sound equipment. He started sitting in the other shop all day, neglecting the air conditioning business. Victor eventually started taking from the money to set up a company for his son in another town. We were having a lot of problems because at the same time my eldest son started taking drugs and stealing from home. Victor and I fought a lot because of this. He stopped coming home, as he was establishing his own life in Witbank. It was not long after that that we decided to get a divorce and split the companies and all our assets. I am grateful that I met Victor. It’s because of him that I got back on my feet again. I met him for a reason, and I do not regret anything. I am grateful for the lessons I learnt. They made me stronger. It is strange how many people would congratulate the men in the business world, always forgetting the woman’s worth. Many people have told me that I got rich when I met Victor. No one believed that I had the capability of actually running my own business. The same girl who begged people for money to buy her son a tin of milk had indeed become a director of her own little empire. People are envious of each other. Although they congratulate you for your achievements, behind your back they despise you. Be careful who you associate yourself with, because people steal things. Yes,

they steal your joy, happiness and peace of mind. I worked hard, stressed a lot, and fought a lot.

15

LIVING WITH PAIN

IN 2006 MY GP, Dr Collins, diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. That was the first time I had heard of that name. I went home and searched the Web. This is what Google came up with: ‘Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men are. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, sensitivity to heat and cold.’ It described all my symptoms. I was determined to fight this disease and Dr Collins prescribed pain medication for me, but I struggled severely with fatigue. Looking back, I was always tired, even as a young girl. In the years leading up to the diagnosis, being a single mother to three boys had not been easy. Victor was never around to help me, as he spent most of his time in Witbank.

I had just bought a new house in the next town, and a normal day comprised waking up early to drop Justin and Tyler at school, rushing home to my office to complete my daily duties, going back in the afternoons to pick them up from school and then rushing home to cook while I worked. Sheldon was already rebellious and had started experimenting with drugs. On many occasions he would not come home, and I would have to go and look for him. The stress took its toll on me and the aches and pains got worse. I went to specialists until I found one who dealt specifically with fibromyalgia. The rheumatologist who saw me the first time in Milpark Hospital admitted me into hospital and ran lots of blood tests as well as X-rays. He diagnosed me with having rheumatoid arthritis as well as fibromyalgia. He gave me about 20 cortisone injections in my joints and muscles and prescribed a lot of medication. When I got home, I was so weak and nauseous, I was sick for more than a week. After that, I started seeing the doctor every two months, because that is how often my body would flare up. My body started adapting to the injections and medication. As time went on the doctor treating me emigrated, and the doctor who replaced him was Professor Solomon who, to this day, still treats me. He is truly the best in town. After meeting so many doctors I finally found a doctor who understood what I was going through. I educated myself on all the medications on the market and now I know exactly which medications treat which pains. I have been in treatment for this crippling disease for 10 years now. Over the years, the cortisone contributed to my weight gain, which I still battle with. At times I feel like I am a burden, because I often need help. Being injected 20 times or more over one or two days is no joke, and

people often ask me if the injections hurt. The truth is that when I have a flare up, my body becomes so numb from the pain that I barely feel the injections going into my knees, joints, ankles, hips, fingers, back, or anywhere else. Sometimes the pain becomes so excruciating that I have tried everything to just get some relief, from cannabis oil to schedule 7 drugs and herbal remedies. All I normally do is cry out to God to ease the pain. He is the only one that can help me. I would often question God. Why me? What have I done wrong for me to live in this body? Being confined to my bed so often, I spoke to God more than I normally would have. I realised later that we all have a purpose, even if the journey is not smooth. Being in hospital countless times for pain relief, I have learnt to be a beacon of light to the other patients by motivating them. I also learnt so much from the other patients who made me look at life from a different perspective. It was all the negative emotions and abuse I endured from infanthood into my adulthood which later manifested as physical pain in my body. I finally realised that the root cause of this disease was in my mother’s womb. Her fear of having another baby was the same fear I felt, as well as all her sadness and emotions. The negative emotions like rejection, anger, hate and sadness which I carried in me from childhood into adolescence eventually started to manifest as pain. The negative energy started attacking the cells in my body, which later attacked the nerves, muscles and bones, ultimately causing widespread pain. Later this disease attacked my organs, which almost killed me. Yes, my own body created a virus that took me to death’s door.

The constant pain and the side effects of the medication used to treat the pain, affect me mentally, emotionally and physically. The same medication I use daily to treat the condition will eventually kill me. Doomed if I do and doomed if I don’t. It has taken me longer than it should have to write this book. Every day was a challenge. Many times, the pain only allowed me to write a few paragraphs. Other days the fatigue and brain fog were so bad I wrote nothing for weeks. When I did in fact have energy, I used it to complete the backlog of work in my office. It has not been easy. Each day has its own battles. But with God by my side, I get through my days. But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Matthew 19:26 ESV.

16

SPEAK TO ME, GOD!

EVER SINCE I was a child, I have questioned God’s purpose for me. I can clearly remember when, in primary school, I asked one of my teachers why we are born to die again. It did not make sense. When Granny died, I asked my pastor about what happens to us when we die, because in the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 15:44, it states, ‘they are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.’ I asked him if, when I died and went to heaven, I would be able to identify my granny, since we would both be in spirit form and no longer in a human form. I was never content with the answers I received. I wanted to know more. My mother told me not to question the pastor, because we were brought up to believe and not to question our elders. We were to accept what we were told and keep our mouths shut. That is how most Indian people were brought up. But I ignored her, as I was prepared to do whatever it took to find the answers to my questions. I appeared to be in control of life, but when I went to bed every night, I would question God. On a tombstone you will find the date you were born, a dash, and the day you died. My understanding of the dash was that it represented the life you lived or the race you ran. The day we are born is when we start the race, but we do not all run the race equally or fairly. Why is it that some of us have more

disadvantages, like being born to poor parents, single parent homes, orphans, born physically challenged or into abusive homes? These are the questions that plagued my curious mind for many years. I felt sorry for myself. It seemed as though I crossed one hurdle only to find a bigger one waiting for me. We do not all start the race fairly, but what actually matters is how we finish the race. One day while shopping for stationery in CNA, I saw some books advertised: three for the price of one. I thought it was a great bargain, and bought the set, thinking at first that they were Christian books. I automatically associated the word ‘God’ with Christianity. As I started reading, I realised that these books were different, and immediately wanted to stop reading as I thought it to be a whole lot of hypocrisy. It did not have much relatable content, as the Bible did. However, my curiosity got the better of me and I continued reading. After I read the first book, I never looked at life from the small box I was used to again. It opened my small mind from the way I normally thought. I started finding answers to some of my questions. This was the first spiritual book I had ever read. I started buying spiritual and Christian books together as I found God in both books. I searched for God in the movies I watched, in the kind acts of people. In fact, spirituality has made me become a better Christian today. We are indoctrinated from a young age with the religion we are born into. We kill each other in the name of religion; we despise each other because of our different skin colours. We have a certain entitlement over other people because of our material wealth. We look down on people because of the circumstances they are in. Sometimes I was good and practised what I learned by applying it to

my life. Other times, life’s pressures would get the better of me and I would forget what I had learnt. But that is part of the process of growing. We will continue learning until we die. I am constantly searching to become a better person in this uncertain life. Much later, I came across this verse from 1 Corinthians 2:9 for the second time: ‘However, it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’ This time I understood the verse much better, and it made sense to me. I could never find the answers to some of the questions because in my human capacity, my mind could never fully comprehend the works of God. I now read my Bible with a different mindset, knowing that God is love and His teachings are like a toolbox, with different tools to assist us in this lifetime. Eventually God started to speak to me, because I was finally ready to start listening to Him. God was always with me, directing my footsteps, guiding me, teaching me, preparing me for this moment. I told God I wanted to work from home because my health was already not in the best condition. I did not know how it was going to happen, but I believed that it would. I had to meet Victor, who got me back on my feet again, as well as planting the seed as to the type of business I had to pursue, while God sent Anneke and Allan to teach me and prepare me with the tools I needed to start my business. I was bold and outspoken, a much- needed trait for the kind of business I started, which was in a male-dominated industry. God had prepared me for what He had in store for me. Again, the verse in Jeremiah 29: 11 become apparent in my life: ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’

It all came down to my faith. Yes, I did have faith even when it stormed: that little voice inside always told me it would get better. I would look at that quote ‘Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve’ – even when I had the worst days, I believed. In spirituality it is the law of attraction, in Christianity it is having faith. Believe, even if the odds are against you, believe it will get better and it will!

17

A MOTHER’S CRY

ONE OF THE worst pains any parent can endure is the pain of seeing their children kill themselves slowly and not knowing how to help them. Sheldon started experimenting with drugs when he was 17 years old. In fact, when he turned 14, he started giving me endless problems. Sheldon felt sorry for himself because of his accident, and the fact that he stayed out of school for so long whenever he needed to have operations meant he lost out on his schoolwork. When he got to high school, he battled to adapt to the schoolwork and he lashed out. He had to repeat grade 8 in a new school as he blamed the previous school for his bad results. He felt sorry for his disability as he could not do sports or any physical activity. He started smoking, experimenting with alcohol, bunking school and stealing from home, which ultimately caused Victor and myself to have arguments. I never received help from Victor when it came to Sheldon because Sheldon’s behaviour turned everyone away from him. I was so occupied with trying to help Sheldon, I was not aware that Justin had also started experimenting with drugs with his school friends. Sheldon dropped out of school when he was 16 and I enrolled him in an FET college, only to find out after a few months that he was not attending classes. I also started getting regular phone calls from school about Justin’s behaviour and absenteeism because he was

bunking school on a regular basis. Justin was a very sweet child and never gave me many problems, he was always home playing PlayStation or sleeping. He loved sleeping from the time he was born; he inherited the sleeping bug from me. His behaviour started changing and he was often angry. I enrolled him into a clinic for 21 days for anger management and counselling. I did not know then that he was experimenting with drugs. I was devastated when I heard much later what Justin was really doing. I was still working in the bank and was often called to school to address one problem or another regarding Justin. When I got home from work I would cook, give the children supper, and then work on my own business at night, while battling to handle Sheldon at the same time. I was burning out mentally and physically, and constantly felt sick. Sheldon got worse when I left work and bought a house in the new town, which was about 7.5 km from the original one. There he became entangled with the wrong friends and eventually became a full-blown addict. I was losing my mind as I battled to get help for the boys. I eventually put them in the car and, with my mother, drove down to Durban to put them in a rehab that specialised in a different treatment using a drug called Naltrexone. When we got to Durban, Justin stayed but Sheldon refused. For the next few years, I ran from rehabs to psychiatric hospitals, wherever I heard of places that could help my sons. I refused to give up on them, I was adamant I would get help for them. People would point fingers at my children, commenting on me not disciplining them properly, always finding fault but never helping.

Yes, you get people who think their children are perfect and would always point fingers at someone else’s children. Many people criticised me. If you never walk a mile in someone’s shoes, then you have no right to judge. Being a single mother to three boys was not easy; in fact it was hell at times. Sheldon eventually started stealing everything he could find at home for drugs. He would regularly leave home to stay in the shacks in a town called Eldorado Park which was known for crime and drugs, and I would drive around looking for him all hours of the day and night. I cried out to God to help my boys. I could not understand how the children I gave birth to, raised and loved became monsters in front of my own eyes. Sheldon became aggressive and would break my doors in rage. I feared my own child, yet I would still run to help whenever he called. Sheldon began stealing anything and everything he could find to feed his habit. I was too afraid to leave my house for any length of time in case he came for a ‘free’ shopping spree. I would sleep with the keys under my pillow when Sheldon was at home, so that he did not empty my house while I was sleeping. He was also locked up many times for stealing, and each time I would have to get my lawyer, Mark Pienaar, to fight his cases. Mark had become a friend to me and over the years I always sought his help. Although Sheldon did so much wrong, I could never find it in myself to let my son rot in prison. A mother would go to the ends of the earth for her children, and even give her life if she has to. I nearly did that: in the end, I almost paid the price of losing my life.

We live in a world that is evil, and the enemy is waiting, ready to devour our children, by destroying their lives even before they begin. Drug abuse destroys relationships, families, and the individual. I came across this poem on drug abuse and needed to share it with my readers: ‘I destroy homes, tear families apart – take your children, and that’s just the start. I’m more costly than diamonds, more costly than gold – the sorrow I bring is a sight to behold. And if you need me, remember I’m easily found. I live all around you, in schools and in town. I live with the rich, I live with the poor, I live down the street, and maybe next door. My power is awesome – try me you’ll see. But if you do, you may never break free. Just try me once and I might let you go, but try me twice, and I’ll own your soul. When I possess you, you’ll steal and you’ll lie, You’ll do what you have to just to get high. The crimes you’ll commit, for my narcotic charms, will be worth the pleasure you’ll feel in my arms. You’ll lie to your mother; you’ll steal from your dad, When you see their tears, you should feel sad,

But you’ll forget your morals and how you were raised. I’ll be your conscience, I’ll teach you my ways. I take kids from parents, and parents from kids, I turn people from God, and separate from friends. I’ll take everything from you, your looks and your pride, I’ll be with you always, right by your side. You’ll give up everything – your family, your home, your friends, your money, then you’ll be alone. I’ll take and I’ll take, till you have nothing more to give. When I’m finished with you you’ll be lucky to live. If you try me be warned – this is no game. If given the chance, I’ll drive you insane. I’ll ravish your body, I’ll control your mind, I’ll own you completely; your soul will be mine. The nightmares I’ll give you while lying in bed, The voices you’ll hear from inside your head, The sweats, the shakes, the visions you’ll see, I want you to know, these are all gifts from me. But then it’s too late, and you’ll know in your heart, that you are mine, and we shall not part. You’ll regret that you tried me, they always do. But you came to me, not I to you. You knew this would happen, Many times you were told, but you challenged my power, and chose to be bold. You could have said no, and just walked away.

If you could live that day over, now what would you say? I’ll be your master; you will be my slave. I’ll even go with you, when you go to your grave. Now that you have met me, what will you do? Will you try me or not? It’s all up to you. I can bring you more misery than words can tell. Come take my hand, let me lead you to hell.’ Signed DRUGS I could not understand how my children could not see how their drug addiction was draining the life from my body. Justin told me that he did not have respect for his own life, so how could he then respect someone else’s? The drugs numbed their emotions, making it hard to feel the pain that they inflicted on the next person. This is a powerful poem and describes everything I witnessed with my own children. This chapter is dedicated to Sheldon and Justin, as well as all the other children who are caught in the grip of drugs. Some have lost their lives, some are in jail, while others are still battling the vicious effects of drugs. After all my prayers and tears, Sheldon changed his life and fought his addiction. He has been drug free for the past seven years now, with a few slip-ups in between. I was thanking God for giving my son back to me when Justin started going down the path of self-destruction. He started stealing to feed his habit and I was back to square one. He has since been on a path to recovery, trying to get his life back. When our children are born, we have so many plans and aspirations for them. We want them to excel in life, to become better than us. I

battled to accept the path they chose for themselves, until I came across the poem from Kahlil Gibran. ‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.’ Today I love my children through their imperfections; they are what make them unique. I had to let go and leave them to find their own paths. After all, they too must find their own strength and learn in this school of life.

18

STARTING OVER

GREGORY LEFT ME in pursuit of a happier life, or so it seemed. He was infatuated with Eve and went on the rollercoaster ride of his life. There is a saying ‘a new broom sweeps clean, but an old one knows the corners’. He enjoyed the love and attention she gave him. She spoke sweetly and had a soft voice; she was much more affectionate than me. She was the opposite of me. We had nothing in common. I am loud, bold and what you see is what you get. The worst part of our divorce was that Gregory not only divorced me, but his children as well. I could not understand how this once loving father could abandon his children just like that. In the interim he underwent a complete metamorphosis. I did not recognise this man. I battled to understand what had become of the Gregory I once married. Later, I learned that not long after we got divorced, he started experimenting with drugs like the famous club drug Ecstasy, and he spent a lot of time partying. He and Eve started having problems. It seems reality kicked in when he realised that he left his own children behind to play stepfather to three older children. She did not want Gregory to see his own children because she was jealous of ‘the ex-wife’, thinking he was coming to see me. Never break up another woman’s home and think you are going to live an awesome life. If you think you can build a life of happiness on other women’s tears, think again. There is such a

thing as karma, which is the same as ‘what you sow, you reap’. It is also one of the universal laws ‘What you give is what you receive’, so you had better think twice about what kind of medicine you are willing to give out. Gregory and Eve eventually had a daughter, Cassie Lee, who is nine years younger than Tyler. He later got a job at a reputable photocopier company, where he worked his way up to becoming a sales manager. He enjoyed the social life of drinks after work with colleagues and taking clients out on a regular basis. His new lifestyle also came with new friends, and it was not long before he started taking stronger drugs with his newfound friends. Gregory later lost everything, and his life took a downward spiral. He realised he had made a huge mess of his life and there was no going back; using drugs as a crutch to numb himself had resulted in him becoming a full-blown addict. For Eve to have control over Gregory, she started laying false charges at the police station as well as obtaining an interdict against him for assault. She was a great actor and liar, as Gregory never laid a hand on her. For all the years I knew him he had never beaten a woman. Even when I provoked him, he would rather walk away. He started phoning me as most people had turned their backs on him and he needed help. I recalled Gregory’s mother’s tears for her son, as she tried everything in her power to help him. It so happened that Victor had sent me divorce papers at the same time. It seemed that he had a new life In Witbank. I decided to help Gregory get his life back in order; after all, he was still the father of my children. I sent him to rehab to help him in his recovery from

drugs. I also got Mark Pienaar to sort out all the false charges that Eve had made. I got the wrong person to help me run my business from Witbank, and it resulted in me almost losing my business. Gregory needed a job, so I sent him to Witbank to run the business for me from there. There were many hurdles we had to overcome, as the business was doing extremely badly. Somehow, I trusted him to help me pick the business up again, and we did better than before. Fourteen years had changed Gregory and me. We had become totally different people, but we complimented each other in our different ways. One thing led to another, and we eventually rekindled our relationship. I helped Gregory fight for custody of Cassie Lee, which I will not go into detail about here. When Cassie was seven, she came to stay with me. Today she is a well-grounded young adult, and the daughter I never had. It is strange the way life turned out. Who would have known that I was going to be the mother to the child of the same woman who tried to destroy me? Gregory and I were destined to be together. Even when we were teenagers, we left each other but somehow found each other again. My family was against me taking Gregory back after what he did to me and the children. Lots of friends wanted to know if I was mad to forgive this man. At first it was not easy, but I chose to forgive him, and by doing so I set myself free. I like this verse from Mark 11:25: ‘And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.’ The truth is I had forgiven Gregory

many years ago. I realised God had a greater purpose for me than I had for myself. I had to be broken to be moulded. I had to go through the fire to burn away my impurities so that I could come out refined.

19

AN ENCOUNTER WITH DEATH

I KNEW MY soul was in danger. I was trapped in a black tunnel, where life and death stood face to face. I could not see myself, but I felt this energy which was mine. I was not ready to die! How did I get here? What happened to me? I could not see God, but I knew He was there, I felt His presence. I was scared as I cried out to Him to heal me, I wanted to get out of the darkness, I wanted to go back to my body. I asked Him to have mercy on my soul! I was not ready to die. I still had so much to do. I heard a voice telling me that my return would depend on the faith and prayers of others, as well as my own. To me it was like God would then show me mercy and send me back to my family. . I did not see God or hear His voice. We were communicating mentally. ‘God, are you testing my faith? Is this some sort of a test?’ I could not see my family, but I was trying to connect with them telepathically, if there is even such a thing – that is the only way I can describe it. I cried out for them to pray on my behalf. I was fighting for my life! Oh Lord Jesus, have Mercy on my soul! I was praying in my spirit, communicating with God. That is all I remember, while I lay in an induced coma. Then I was opening my eyes in a daze, with machines all around me and no recollection of where I was or how I got there. The last memory I had was shopping in the mall with my family. I tried moving

my body with no success, I felt pinned to the bed. I looked down at my arms and saw how bruised they were, probably from restraints. I started panicking. What had happened to me? Why could I not move? My mind raced. I must have been in an accident coming back from the mall, as this was the only logical answer. I saw a nurse at the foot of my bed and asked, ‘Where am I?’ I was so confused and felt as though I was dreaming. The nurse told me I was in hospital. I asked her what had happened to me, and she proceeded to tell me that I was very sick and that my family would explain the details. The nurse was not very friendly; in fact everybody around me seemed so serious. I was scared, although a voice inside told me that I was going to be fine. Some time later, Gregory and Tyler walked into the ward. Gregory had a huge smile on his face. I was so happy to see them, as though I was seeing them after a long time. I had so many questions. They hugged me and kissed me and told me they had just come from church to give thanks to God for my life. Church? What day was it? Yesterday was Friday. Gregory then explained that it was Sunday, and that I had spent the last week on a ventilator as my organs had failed. He began to explain that while we were in the mall, I had told him that I was not feeling well. I was nauseous and wanted to go home and lie down. He said that when we got home from the mall I went straight to bed to lie down. I climbed under the blankets because I was getting cold. I kept on going to the toilet as I could not urinate. He started taking my blood pressure and could not get a pressure reading because the machine kept reading an error. Throughout the course of the night my body was getting colder and

colder; he wanted to take me to hospital but being the stubborn person that I am, I refused to go. At about 5 am on Saturday Gregory took me to the emergency room. The nurses tried to take my pressure reading but after attempting with three machines, they realised there had to be a problem as they all gave an error reading. In the interim, my body was swelling because I could not urinate. They inserted a catheter and took a blood test, which showed that there was an unknown infection in my body. It was then that the doctor told Gregory they needed to admit me. It was Gregory’s sister’s fiftieth birthday party that night, and she was having a huge celebration. We were looking forward to the party; I had already booked our accommodation because the party was about an hour’s drive away. So, the news wasn’t good at all. Gregory laughingly reminded me that I had told the doctor I could not be admitted because I was going to a function that evening. The doctor’s response was that I simply could not go because my body was not functioning by itself. I laughed when he told me all of this. Being the stubborn person that I am, I insisted that I first go home and have a bath, pack a bag and then come back. I got my way and Gregory helped with all of this. Once back at the hospital I told Gregory to go to the party with the children, and that I would be fine. I honestly do not remember any of this. My subconscious mind must have taken over and my conscious mind was in the process of shutting down. Gregory called regularly to check in on how I was doing, but I wasn’t making any sense. He thought that this was possibly because of the

medication they had given me. My mother and sister later arrived at the hospital and were asked to answer questions on my behalf since I was slipping in and out of consciousness. My mother later told me that my body was as cold like a corpse’s, and the nurses had warmed towels and were trying to wrap my body in them, in an attempt to warm it up. My blood pressure was plummeting so low that I was on the verge of being taken to the ICU. When Gregory arrived the following morning, he found the doctors indeed rushing me to the ICU, as they were battling to save my life. They had to tie my hands down as I was fighting with them while they were cutting me to insert the tubes. The doctor who cut me told me later that I was strong as I kicked some of the nurses while they were holding me down. They were inserting tubes for a ventilator to be inserted as well as dialysis treatment to be administered. I was in renal failure and my lungs were inhaling oxygen but not exhaling the carbon dioxide. The doctors had spent four hours battling to save my life. I was in septic shock and had multiple organ failure. My blood tests came back showing my CRP level to be 625 and my creatinine to be 310. A person’s C-reactive protein (CRP) test is used to find inflammation and infection in your body. It does this by measuring the amount of CRP in your blood. CRP is a protein made by the liver and sent into the bloodstream. If the reading is higher than 5 it means you have an infection or inflammation, mine was 625. Creatinine is a waste product produced by muscles from the breakdown of a compound called creatine. Creatinine is removed from the body by the kidneys, which filter almost all of it from the blood and release it into the urine. This test measures the amount of

creatinine in the blood and/or urine. If the level is 90 that means you are in kidney failure: my creatinine test was 310. My GP, Dr Karen Eienkamerer, told me that I was dead. As dead as you can get. That you cannot get more dead than that. She had never seen levels as high as mine before. Family members started filling up the hospital premises as they prayed for me. My mother went down on her knees beside my bed and cried out to the Lord for mercy. She had such a strong faith and fully believed that God would bring me back. Yes, the faith of a mother is powerful. The next few days were critical, as my family cried out to the Lord on my behalf. I was later introduced to the doctors who saved me. I thanked them for bringing me back to my family. The lead doctor treating me was a young female doctor named Dr Dlakane. She told me that my recovery was an act of God, that a miracle must have taken place. I realised that death is only a breath away and that we live our lives as if we’ll never die, taking so much for granted in the process. Wow! Now I knew that I was never a mistake, I was meant to be born! God was protecting me from the time I was born. Even when I questioned him, He was there right beside me, guiding me, teaching me and preparing me for my purpose. I now know that I had to go through what I did. It was to become who I am today. I am in awe of God’s love.

20

YOUR CONDITION IS NOT YOUR CONCLUSION

Purpose WE ARE NOT defined by our past or present circumstances, nor by what society or family thinks of us. The hardest part about writing this book was telling the world how I was molested at an early age. I feared what people would think of me. As I mentioned, in the Indian community such incidents are kept silent. But I had to be true to myself because that incident had scarred me. I love this quote from Neale Donald Walsh: ‘Yet I tell you this: So long as you are still worried about what others think of you, you are owned by them.’ This quote helped me realise that I am owned by God and not by man, because God loves me with all my imperfections. I am grateful for the lessons my experiences taught me. They have moulded me into the woman I am today. When I look back on all the things I have done, the situations I found myself in, the pain I endured, I realise God was with me, preparing me for my purpose. I came across another quote: ‘The teacher is always quiet during the test.’ So often I questioned God and cried out to Him, thinking He had abandoned me. I now realise He never left my side. He was just silent while I found my own strength.

I always used to tell God: ‘Let my pain be someone else’s gain so that my life was not in vain.’ I always loved to motivate people with my life’s testimony. When I see the smile of hope I give people, I feel as though I am living my purpose. When God brought me out of that dark tunnel of death and gave me a second chance at life, I asked Him to show me what unfinished work there was for me to do. That is when God placed this book in my heart. I immediately knew what my purpose was: to be a beacon of light to the next person. I once read: ‘Who better to nurse a patient than the one that was a patient herself?’ I know what it is to grow up without parents, to be molested at a young age, to have a child at a young age, to live in poverty, to go through divorce, to be a single parent, to be a mother to children who are addicted to drugs, to be sick and live with pain. My life has been extraordinary, filled with a multitude of obstacles. Although I so often felt like giving up the fight and just accepting the raw hand I was dealt, I got up, dusted myself off and carried on. The lessons I learnt and the wisdom I gained have been priceless. Romans 5: 3-4: ‘Not only so but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, character, and character hope.’

perseverance;

I love the words ‘This too shall pass’. They are a perfect representation for this second part of the book, which I have chosen to share with you. These are some of the lessons I have learnt along the way and how I have overcome my obstacles. As the section is called ‘Your condition is not your conclusion’, remember that whatever you are experiencing right now is not permanent. All things are temporary.

Life is a journey filled with all kinds of emotions, changing constantly. Many times in my life I found myself searching for the meaning of life. My curious mind was always searching for answers, trying to understand the mysteries of life. I once read these words – Remember to remember – and they left me thinking. There are moments in our life when we face obstacles and we need God’s help, that’s when we read the Bible or whatever holy or spiritual book we can find, and we also pray more earnestly. Once we overcome that bad patch we forget the lessons we learned. There are lessons to be learned on your journey: after all, you chose your journey before you were born. Some people learn and become better people, while others hit their heads so many times but never evolve. I myself battle with this issue: I go on a spiritual journey, read uplifting books, practise good eating habits and feel empowered, but once my road gets bumpy I fall off the course, I forget so easily, and repeat my bad habits. Then I have to remember to remember the good lessons I learned along the way so that my journey can be a bit easier. Life is normally a balance of good and bad. Sadly, for some there is more bad than good in their lives. Remember that pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. How we choose to go through our life is determined by how we respond and react to our situations.

The Earlier Years WHEN I REMINISCE about my earlier years, I realise I was being moulded from the time I was in my mother’s womb. I knew that the world was not a fair place from an early age, and I needed to find answers to all the questions that plagued my mind as a little child.

Reading became my escape from dealing with the harsh realities that I was exposed to, and later reading was also going to be the key to me finding the tools I needed to handle life in a more appropriate way. I was a dreamer. Every night before I slept, I would tell myself that it was going to be okay; life would get better when I was older. I always imagined having a beautiful house, my own family and a husband who loved me. It is good to dream, it gives us hope. The beatings I endured from Donovan and falling pregnant at such an early age shattered my dreams. Facing my harsh reality was so hard when I realised the life I had was nothing like what I had dreamt of. For a moment, I accepted that the beatings would be my new norm. It is funny how we judge other women in abusive relationships, not fully understanding why they do not leave their partners. Others would say they are ‘suckers for punishment’, but only when you go through it yourself can you point a finger. Life is not black and white. There are shades of grey too. We may not understand the grey areas, but they are necessary for our growth. Later, I learnt on my journey that no one should harm or control the next person by instilling fear. I was not emotionally strong enough to have a baby, and felt that my life was somehow over because I had not finished my schooling. Once again, the lesson that nothing is forever, everything in life is temporary, came into play. Every situation in my life was preparing me for my purpose. My strength and my faith were growing in the midst of the storms, and my purpose was being discovered. I never knew my capabilities until I overcame life’s tests.

Fear FEAR STANDS FOR False Evidence Appearing Real. As Paulo Coelho wrote, ‘The Fear of Suffering is worse than suffering itself.’ When I read those words, I thought they were incredibly profound. I had never looked at fear from that perspective before. We spend so much time fearing the unknown, but when the unknown comes to pass, we instantly learn to deal with it, and we realise it wasn’t so bad after all. We fear life, we fear sickness, we fear pain, we fear unemployment, we fear each other, and we fear death. Our biggest obstacle of all to face is fear. It paralyses us, and it blocks our growth. Sometimes it even blocks us from living. Fear causes anxiety and all the negative emotions that come with it. We need to look at our fears for what they are and ask ourselves what exactly we have learnt from being fearful. Did we benefit in any way? If your answer is no, then only you know what to do. I had to face my fears so that I could live my purpose. The only person standing in my way was myself. I had to overcome my fear of being alone. When Gregory left me, I was so scared of being alone that I went into a major depression. It took a while to come to terms with the fact that I was alone and a single mother. I wanted someone to love me, to hold me and tell me everything was going to be all right. Being alone taught me to love myself first; only then would I be ready to love anyone else. I learnt how to become independent by learning to drive a car, and how to provide for my children on my own. Conquering my fears enabled me to build my own business with sheer will and determination. Having your own business requires you

to take a lot of risks. I had to be bold in my decisions, taking into account the consequences at stake if I failed. I am glad I took the risks I did. If I had not, I would never have achieved what I did. I had to face a lot of adversity in my life, but I came out stronger and wiser. ‘Fear clings to and clutches all that we have; love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close, love holds dear. Fear grasps, love lets go. Fear rankles, love soothes. Fear attacks, love amends.’ Neale Donald Walsh While writing the last part of this book, I came across the story of the Bag Lady. Fourteen years ago, I was preparing a sermon to be the guest preacher at a church in Witbank. I copied this story in my sermon. It was my first sermon and was extremely successful, I looked forward to empowering women and wanted to write my book back then already, but once again life found a way to distract me and take me off course. I got so busy with my business and my children’s battles with drugs, as well as my deteriorating health, that I never preached again. Everything I preached about the bag lady happened to me: my bags got heavy with all my problems, causing my body to give in, and I found myself at death’s door. There is a well-known saying: ‘Practise what you preach’, but it is strange how many of us forget what we preach. I have come back better and stronger than before! Here is that part of the sermon by Pastor Joann Browning that I included in my sermon:

The Bag Lady THE AME CHURCH Women’s missionary society had a sister’s summit at Bethel AME in San Diego. The speaker was Pastor

Joann Browning from Ebenezer AME in Fort Washington, Maryland. When she stepped to the podium to speak, she told the women of the need to let go of their baggage (i.e., grown children still in the home, abusive husbands, rejection, etc). Her speech referred to Erykah Badu’s song, ‘Bag Lady’. Here is the gist of her preaching: ‘Bag Lady, you gonna hurt your back draggin all them bags like that.’ Holding on to pain, hurt, anger, and disappointment manifests itself in our bodies. The end result runs the gamut (extent) from chronic illnesses to life threatening diseases. Sooner or later, our baggage causes our bodies to give out. ‘Bag Lady, you gonna miss your bus. You can’t hurry cause you got too much stuff.’ When we spend our time focusing on negative experiences, we end up missing opportunities and blocking our blessings. We can’t see the future because we’re too busy living in the past. Meanwhile our perpetrators go on living their lives, oblivious to the hurt they caused. ‘So why are we really hurting? When they see you coming, they just take off running? How many relationships have come together on crutches? Most women know they have no business getting involved when there are unresolved issues within. Still, due to fear of being alone, or of “missing out” on a good man, we cover our wounds with tight hairdos, beautiful clothes, and a fake smile. For going ahead into an alliance with someone who has no idea we’re still hurting over what that so-and-so did to us in 1995, or over the father that never came home. As time passes, the wounds get harder and harder to hide. When they’re finally exposed, he’s history. In the

grand scheme of things, the only thing that is stopping us is US! True, we have no control over what others do or say to us, but we can control our reactions. And as for the baggage, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all have issues. The shame is not in having baggage, it’s in keeping it.’ I loved this story of the Bag Lady as so many of us women can relate to her.

The Void WHEN I CONSIDER life, I see that we are all born with a void, with an emptiness. We human beings are never content with what we have, we always want more. We get what we thought we wanted, only to want more, something different or someone different. We are never satisfied with just having or being enough. I always thought that if I got married, I would be happy; if I got a better job, a car, a house, enough money, and the list goes on. Only in my later years did I realise that it is only God who can fill that void. ‘There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.’ Blaise Pascal God designed us with a void so that we may ultimately find Him, by seeking a relationship with Him. He is the only one that can make us whole. I was so empty inside. I knew God, I went to church regularly, I knew my Bible fairly well, but I was wrong. I could never find fulfilment in life. It was only when I made the choice to look for the answers to my questions that I embarked on a journey of finding

God. I realised that knowing about God was not the same thing as knowing Him. Many people battle with that emptiness within themselves leading to depression, addiction to alcohol, drugs, medication, etc. Many times our destructive behaviour ultimately leads to our downfall. Once you realise that you are not in control of your life any more, then I urge you to get help. Speak to someone, read inspiring books, pray, do whatever it takes to heal yourself. I also believe that once you find your purpose that void starts to become whole. You get up each morning excited to fulfil your purpose each day. Why is it that many of us never find our purpose? Is it that maybe we are not looking for it, or rather let me say you are not attracting it into your life? You see: what you think ultimately becomes what you attract. Imagine having two forces living inside you, one good and one bad? The force that ultimately wins is the force you feed. Watch what you are feeding your spirit and ask yourself if it is beneficial for your growth or not.

Conclusion › It didn’t matter where I came from, but who I became. › My riches are not determined by how much I have but by what I give, because being rich in money is not the same as being rich in love. › We all have a purpose. No person’s purpose is greater than the next, but many leave this earth without finding their purpose. › Although my earthly father was never there, my heavenly father was always there. › This too shall pass.

› God is love! › Watch your thoughts, because you might just be shaping your destiny. ONE OF THE most valuable lessons I learnt on my journey is that the mind is our greatest weapon. You can use it to attract negativity or positivity into your life. Be careful with your thoughts, as they may just be the reason for your life turning out the way it is. I can honestly admit that my life was shaped by the thoughts of my mind. The mind is a powerful force. It can enslave us or empower us. It can plunge us into the depths of misery or take us to the heights of ecstasy. Learn to use the power wisely.