Why Did My Mother Die?

Written by: Pastor Juanita Kapp

I am reminded of the saying “Wake up and smell the roses” when reminiscing over the events of the last few months. Normally this phrase denotes the fact that we need to slow down with our work and busy schedules and make time to enjoy the simple things in life. The things that bring us laughter and joy and leave lasting memories that we appreciate. I found myself having to “Wake up and smell the funeral bouquet” as I was standing at the pulpit about to deliver a sermon on my mother’s funeral.

I would like to bring your attention to the fact that life generally waits for no-one. It is an anomaly. Healthy people get sick and die whilst some of those who are not health conscious get to live on and age naturally. It is a paradox. This is the thought that I kept circulating in my mind as I sat next to my mother’s deathbed. How could such a healthy, happy, vibrant person become so sick and experience so much pain? How could someone so full of life and positive find herself in such a dark and gloomy situation? It did not make sense. I re-calculated the variables in my mind repeatedly. Healthy lifestyle + relationship with God = long life and happiness. Isn’t that the answer to life? This equation was but a figment of my imagination as I had to stare reality right in the face. My pre-conceptions of life were wrong. My mother was dying and there was nothing that the doctors and I could do about it.

What was I supposed to do now? How was I supposed to help her in the moments when she had severe pain and discomfort? There was crying and frustration as she slowly began losing her grip on what used to be her dream life.

My mother battled with cancer of the spine in 2019. She went through chemotherapy which caused her hair to fall out. She also lost a distressing amount of weight. On 9 January 2020 she received good news from her oncologist. She was healed! She was not even required to go for any further check-ups. We were all overjoyed! Only to receive the devastating news on the 26th March 2020 that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. She had been treated for middle-ear infection for two weeks when she started vomiting and lost hearing in her left ear. An MRI brought the sad news to the doctors’ attention. Mother had weeks possibly months to live and her situation was terminal.

Anger and disbelief created a whirlpool of anxiety and stress for the whole family. How do you approach such a situation? Is it appropriate to tell the patient that everything is going to be ok? Is it appropriate to say that she must be strong and focus on the positive side? What was the positive side? Well, for one thing if you are a believer, you’d understand that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). End of story. Even now, I remember how I kept telling her to hold on and to fight! I did this for one reason alone: My mother lived in Pretoria and we live in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. All of these events transpired during Stage 4 and 5 of the lockdown and we were only able to travel to her during Stage 3 with a permit that we had acquired from her oncologist. The police station couldn’t assist us  due to the fact that they were all awaiting to be tested for the Covid – 19 virus. Every night we would either video-call my mother or I would speak to her on the phone as she still had hearing in her right ear. Then one evening I realised she could not hear me anymore. The next day, I noticed that her What’s App messages started to dwindle and I knew the end was near…. My son Joshua (who is 8 years old) had promised her that he would visit her and make her some delicious jelly. We had not been able at that point to do so and I felt my heart clenching at the idea that it might never happen.

On the 30th of June 2020 I received the call from my family that they were possibly going to take my mother to the emergency rooms at Unitas hospital in Centurion due to the fact that she was vomiting a blood-like substance. Our plans were to travel to Pretoria the next day but due to the situation, my children and I jumped in the vehicle and drove 11 hours to Pretoria.

It was 10h30 pm and it was very cold. The windows kept fogging up and the stop and go’s made the journey exhausting. By God’s grace we made it there safely on the 1st of July 2020 at 10am. The last 5 days of my mother’s life were spent eating Joshua’s jelly and reminiscing on the good old times. Joshua had fulfilled his promise to his grandmother. I was thankful to God that she was able to stay at home and be monitored rather than going to the hospital where we would not have been able to visit her.

Many times, even more times than I can remember did people ask: Where is God in this situation? Why was God not healing her? Someone even tried to start up a conversation on the fact that I always preach about the power of the blood of Jesus. These questions were not posed with any evil intent. Everyone was trying to cope with the situation. The biggest challenge I had in those 5 days was to explain to my mother that God was not punishing her for anything and that He loved her. She kept asking God for forgiveness of all her sins. Some days she would be mad at God. Other days she would cry because she had so many things that she still wanted to do with her children and her grandchildren. I did not have all the answers. I only said the following few phrases: “God loves you mom.”; “God is love.”; “God doesn’t bring illness, it comes from the enemy.”; God wishes to release you from this horrible pain.”; “God is waiting for you and will make sure that you are alright.”. I said these phrases with a smile. I told her how beautiful she still was. I smiled and kissed her on the head many times, but inside my heart was breaking.

She weighed 38 kilograms. Her face was swollen and red. She couldn’t walk anymore and had trouble swallowing and eating. On day 4 she went into a semi-coma. On day 5 I noticed the “death gargle” noise whilst she was breathing. That afternoon she passed on to be with the Lord. Because she couldn’t hear anymore we had to write notes on a little white board when communicating. My last message to her was “Mamma kan gaan rus” (“Mom you can go and rest”).

It was the hardest 4 words I have ever had to write.

It meant that I had release her into God’s hands, but I wanted to still hold on because I didn’t know how on earth I would ever survive without my mother?

Thousands of people are dying every day from the Covid-19 virus and ironically my mother died of an inexplicable scenario where in the blink of an eye she suddenly had stage 4 brain cancer. The world is full of horrific illnesses and viruses. The world is filled with devastating events each and every day. To some the future looks bleak. Many people are falling into depression and have lost their hope. They have been catapulted into uncomfortable circumstances. Nothing will ever be the same after the Covid-19 pandemic. The way we live and work has been adjusted drastically. Trust has been marred between governments and individuals across the globe. Many other issues have arisen within this time and suddenly life as we know it is unrecognizable.

Children cannot play heartily and carefree anymore. Friends cannot enjoy each other’s company the way they used to. Churches cannot come together and worship God as they did in the days of old. Everyone is stating that the pandemic was a sudden attack on humanity, but I believe that if we look at history humankind was clearly on a path of self-destruction and something was about to happen in any event.

I do not believe that my mother developed stage 4 brain cancer within the span of two months. I believe that she was ill for quite some time but that she did not want to concern us with stressful details. Only God knows how long she was sick.

All the facts above sound dreary and depressing and sad. Though I believe it depends on how we look at it. We are all destined to die at some point or another. The fact that people get ill and die has nothing to do with a lack of God’s love or care or guidance. Life happens and it does so for a reason. God is still in control of the universe and God allows certain events to transpire, because He views the whole picture of reality (1 Corinthians 13:9). God is good. God is forever the same. God heals and restores. God balances. God cares and will forever be the one we can turn to in dire circumstances.

What we must take away from these sad moments is the courage and hope that we find only in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. That is why we press on. We cannot give up. We have to take it day by day. Some days we will be in denial at the loss of a loved one. Some days we will feel angry with the world. Other days we will feel like we are coping. None of the emotions we experience affects God. God is not moved by our wants and needs and opinions. God is Sovereign. We have to trust Him in all things.

This article serves as an encouragement to those who are going through a tough time at the moment. I want to plead with you to not give up. Do not ever give up! Do not ever feel like God has abandoned you. When my mother was lying on her death bed I realised how fragile life is.

Since her passing I started to approach my own life differently. I am living without fear now. I am seizing the day and doing the things I have always wanted to do. I am enjoying life because I realise that it is not worth crying over something that cannot change. Does it mean that I am not sad? Of course not! I cry for her every day. It means that I will not let this situation kill my joy and aspirations for life. She would have wanted me to carry on with a smile.

Let us decide today to never give up. Let us decide today to live life to the full. Let us decide today to trust God. He cares for creation and He will make sure that there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. There are great things that are yet to transpire! Never let this speedbump take you off course.


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