Monday, February 14, 2011

Pamela Frances Ball

You would have been 46 years old had you not died on this day at age 13.

So much that might have been and so much that may have been shared. Yours was a painful and short life. Born with a kidney disease. You underwent many operations in your short life. From dialysis to a colostomy bag. You underwent a transplant and your body rejected it. But that wasn't all. You were raised without what many of my Christian friends recognise as love.

Todays is a day where love is celebrated. What sweet irony that you who missed out on so much of it should pass on this day. I, your younger brother am not without fault here. I was the one who had ripped a chair from beneath you when you were stirring a pot, as you had begged your mother to do, and she was so proud to let you. Boiling water filled your shoe, spilling down your thigh. I understand surgeons had to cut away the shoe and clothing because they couldn't remove your clothing without de-gloving your skin. Or the time some bullies at school stole your bike and you wanted to use mine because you were embarrassed, or possibly threatened. I did my best to make out it was your fault. Those are two instances, I'm sure you can remember more.

Father never forgave himself, although you forgave him. It took me a long time to work it out. It wasn't really his fault, mother was quite manipulative and it suited her to live like that. She divorced father soon after you died, it seemed to allow her some latitude to be manipulative, but it failed like many of her hare brained schemes. She blamed her father. But looking back on it I don't think either mother or father understood love. They would rather score points than seek redemption or admit they lost something. They didn't believe in God so why ask him for forgiveness? Yet only one man has ever been perfect.

I heard a sermon on love recently, a good theme for Valentines Day. In it, the preacher referred to the good samaritan and compared him with the others on the scene who ignored one in desperate need. The preacher wondered at why anyone would ignore someone in need. Thoughts passed through my mind. Maybe they felt the traveller was unclean and that God didn't want them to go near? But mostly I felt "Maybe that desperate traveller was family."

I see many families being raised in the church I attend, some with people that are quite smart .. they could almost have been one of us, if we had been better, more gracious people. There is a lot to be said for raising children with love. I remember that time when dad was kicking you and me after mother had raised his temper threatening to take all of us away from him. I asked him to stop kicking you and to kick me instead, you had been worrying about your colostomy bag breaking. He never forgave me that, years later he would ask if I enjoyed being kicked. He never forgave himself either, trying very hard to erase anything that might remind him.

I sometimes wonder what if, after you had that last procedure and the kidney was rejected, you had agreed to go on dialysis again and get another kidney? It was a possibility, but you decided you couldn't go on with more procedures. What if you had known of the future with a hope for love? You asked mother for permission to give up. You forgave everyone. Mother, keen not to admit blame, said that you might be reincarnated in a better body, and I don't think anyone who heard her believed her, including herself. But what if there had been love?

You might say you had been loved. By many. That father and mother loved you. That all those family friends and doctors and nurses loved you. You had good times, enjoyed some silly movies, read some silly comics. You went bathing nude as often as you could. You stood up for mother when she had left you at a church so she had time to write letters to her friends, and the church challenged you on why your mother didn't believe in God. But what if you had known of grace and redemption? Would you have had the strength to carry on then? Or maybe it isn't about carrying on. Maybe there is another important thing I have been missing which completes this puzzle for me this year.

On this Valentines Day, I thank God for you. That what time we had we had. That there is love, there is hope. Not to say that a little girl died, having struggled a whole difficult life, but that you had lived.
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