I’ve written a blog named ‘Perspective’ on 20 June of last year, as well as ‘Dear Mother of L’ on 29 June 2018. Another piece relating to this topic was ‘Blessed are those…’ on 23 August last year. In the past week, everything written in these blogs have reached a whole new level, one that, in my mind, can only be described as ‘bewilderment’. For a week ago, a beautiful little girl died and went to heaven. She wasn’t just any little girl, not that any little girl is just any little girl. But this little one changed my life in the most significant way.
I met her more than four years ago. My children and I attended a birthday party at her place of safety. We walked in, said hallo to the other little ones and fussed over the birthday girl. Then I turned around and there she was, almost three years old, breathtakingly beautiful with her curly hair and skin as white as snow, in her wheelchair. She was recently admitted to the house. I asked the mother of the house who she was and can barely remember anything after she uttered these words, “She was a normal child before this happened…”
Everything happened in slow motion afterwards. I remember looking at my son, who, a few months younger, was running around and laughing abundantly. Then I looked at her and back and forth again and went completely numb with the realization of what must happen to a child to go from where my son was to where she was. That place of realization is indeed a very dark one. It was unavoidable that my life changed completely that day. I wrote that same night, “Tonight, somewhere in Pretoria, there is a little girl, blind, brain-damaged, paralyzed… Mercilessly battered, neglected and abused by people who were supposed to protect her. With her there are other children, abandoned, rejected… My world as I have known it has changed forever. I can’t be naïve and blatantly ignorant anymore.”
In the weeks following this, her story slowly unfolded. At two years old, her mother left her in the care of her boyfriend who hurt her incredibly and left her for dead. She miraculously survived, showing the immense courage that we have come to know and admire over the last four years. She had severe brain damage, her stomach and everything in it was beaten to a pulp and she was in a vegetative state. Doctors found many bruises on her body in different stages of healing. The mother was acquitted in a court of law, which is not a court of morals, of any wrongdoing, as she apparently didn’t know about the abuse and was never present. The police failed miserably to do their work properly. The boyfriend was sent to ten years in prison and he became eligible for parole last year. We do not know if he was released. In dealings with the mother over the past more than four years, she has always shifted blame for her daughter’s situation to others.
Over the past four years, I was privileged to be part of an incredible team of caretakers and therapists who have looked after the little girl. Women who stood in the space where her father, mother and family should have been. People who cared for her every minute of every day, fed her, bathed her, stroked her face during fits and prayed for her when she cried inconsolably. People who stayed by her side when she went back to hospital for further operations, who tried their best to relief the incredible pain in her little body. People who interceded for her and loved her unconditionally. We experienced the immense ups and downs, the divine protection over her life, the miracle of hearing that returned and how she recognized our voices. People who have over the years became her eyes, ears, legs, hands and voice.
Last year, her mother applied to have her placed back in her care permanently. We tried our best to voice our concerns, but it fell on deaf ears with people of the organization who oversaw the process. She was placed back in her mother’s care a little more than a week ago; the same mother who a judged established was incapable to take care of her child and said in so many words, “You are a bad mother.” Three days later she died. This story will take its course. What must happen shall happen and I pray that there will be justice for this little girl. I can’t elaborate much more than this. This past weekend, at her funeral, I read this letter to her to try to put in words what she meant to me.
I know that you are here with us. Of course I also know that there are much better things to do in heaven where you are, but please, just sit with us for a moment. Listen carefully when I tell you how much we love you and how special you are to us. Keep it in your little heart until the end of time.
When I think of you, my whole heart wants to burst. You changed my life completely when I met you more than four years ago and every day since. I remember vividly when I saw you for the first time. You took my breath away; you were beautiful, beyond perfect. Of course, I cried many times over the pains you had to endure. I wished that you could see the beautiful world that God has created. I wished that you could dance as only a little girl can. I wished you all the best and most amazing things that this world had to offer.
I remember, one night when I cried again over your pain and asked God why you had to go through this, He spoke to me in the most profound way. He told me, “Do you know that she is actually okay? No, she is more than just okay. I am holding her in my big, loving hands and I will not let go of her. I am with her, every second of every day and night and she is with Me. She is better off than any of you who can see and walk and do a lot of things. Of course, you see mostly through eyes contaminated by this world, but I do not. Her little eyes do not have to see ugly things. Her feet do not have to go where she can be hurt anymore. I can keep her heart pure. She doesn’t need the best and most stunning things in this world for what I have for her is much better. All that she needs is the love of people who are my hands and feet here on earth. She survived in order for your and others’ hearts to change for the better.”
I was so happy that He told me this. Afterwards, I could really focus on your special little heart. Your incredible heart was meek, yet strong, courageous, yet fragile. Your heart spoke to us in the special way you handled your pain. You were the most courageous little girl that I have ever known. Your smile could light up any darkness in the blink of an eye. And do you know what? You were far above the rest of us. You were on the highest mountain, with God. He says in Deuteronomy that He “set you high above all the nations which He has made, for praise, fame and honor: and that you shall be a holy people.” Every person that was privileged enough to be in your presence were elevated to where you and God were, on the highest mountain. Now what on this earth can be better than that? There, on that mountain, incredible healing and joy took place. Without saying a word or walking a step, without being able to do anything, you showed us where you were.
Little Poppedais, I want to thank you that you shared your heart with us. We needed you these past years. We needed you to change our hearts, to make them soft. We needed you so that we could look at life through different eyes. Thank you for teaching us what simplicity, courage and being brave are all about. Thank you for showing us that nothing is more important in this life than to be with God. You have shown me what I want to learn my little children about life. You took away all the noise that the world so often wants to teach us. Thank you for fighting to stay alive so that you could be with us for a while.
Remember how we always sang this song, “Do you know that Jesus loves you? Do you know that He likes you a lot, just the way you are? Because you are precious to Him.” And now, you are with Him. You have completed the work that He has given you and you have done it well. Now you can rest. He dances over you with joy. He is proud of you and so are we. But we are going to miss you with every breath we take. We promise to make you part of our lives until the day that we put down our heads after our work has been completed on earth. I promise to tell my children about how every moment I can. I will tell them how you changed my heart. And I believe that their hearts will also be changed and their children as well. In this way you will always live. This is just how precious you are, not was. You will always live in our hearts.
I know you want to go now. I know that there are so many better things to do there where you are now. Go, precious girl. May you dance in heaven as only a little girl can. We love you.
And this all I need to know now.