Extract from Chapter 22
The day Shirley gets the cancer news – 14 June 2013 – she doesn’t want to be alone. Nick drives her home after the consultancy. His hugs and gentle words soothe and encourage her. But, once he’s gone, she knows clouds of darkness are just waiting in the wings.
So she picks up the phone.
“Hi Katy,” she says, relieved when Katy answers. “Listen, could you come over? I wouldn’t ask, but I really need you.”
All sorts of alarm bells ring. As soon as Katy’s got four-year-old Amelia to bed, she gets in the car. When Katy sees Shirley’s face, she hugs and hugs her.
Katy believes that Shirley is such incredibly good, easy company when she’s in a good place. Then she’s so open, spontaneous and lovable, that you just wanted to hug her. But – for quite some time now – Katy’s known a different Shirley. And she’s tried to be there for her.
One of the things that worries Katy is Shirley’s yo-yo relationship with God. Now she walks and talks with him; now she cuts off all contact.
One minute Shirls says:
“I’ve been finding it a lot easier to involve God in the details of my life and so I feel very peaceful.”
The next minute, she’s angry, and dismisses him for letting her down all over again.
At a conference, Katy felt God say:
“Take special care of Shirley. Love her, be there for her.”
And that’s exactly what Katy’s done – taken God’s directive to heart. It’s helped her to be mega-kind whenever Shirley phones – sometimes in the middle of the night.
Now they talk for quite some time. Shirley needs that – and Katy listens willingly. Numbed by shock herself, she tries hard to respond appropriately and gently. It feels the most natural thing in the world to pray, and so they do. And there’s something about the peace they feel that smacks of joy. Impossible? And yet it is, most remarkably, what they feel.
As Katy drives home – and over and over again – she says to herself:
“Shirley of all people – she’s got cancer? How’s she ever going to cope? She’ll never cope with this.”
Thy skilfully tells a gripping story that is far more, because the story is an intensely personal, vulnerable reality with a powerful, moving and multi-faceted message. Nothing can prepare the reader for the impact of the profound loss, yet remarkable victories that unfold. I could not put the book down until I’d read the last page.
A thousand emotions and tears of sadness and joy later, I finished reading this most unusually tender book… What an amazing tribute to a beautiful, most courageous girl and a faithful pursuing saviour. Thank you, Thy, for sharing this with the world.
Dr. Karen Cerff (COO: Transformational Leadership Institute)
…This book gives a searingly honest account of Shirley’s less-than-perfect life and, in particular, her struggle with suffering. She prayed for healing, but God had a deeper healing in mind than physical recovery from cancer.
I count it a privilege to have known Shirley and to have seen a transformation that can only come from the same power that raised Christ from the dead. It is wonderful that even after her death this story can be told by her grieving mother in such a compelling manner.
Rev. Dan Hayward (Rector, St Andrew’s Church, Oxford)
This exquisitely written narrative reaches the depths of both the tragedy of a life cut short and the bottomless love of the saviour. Reader, be ready to experience for yourself a wide range of ultimately beautiful emotions on the pathway to eternal ecstasy with the Lord.
Prof. William F. Cox, Jr. (Christian Education Programs, School of Education, Regent University, Virginia Beach, USA)
This poignant and moving story will take you on an emotional roller-coaster that will leave you breathless, and tearful, but also full of hope. It is the account of a young woman’s struggle to trust God and how faith returns when all the odds are stacked against it.
While it is the account of a parent’s worst nightmare, that of losing their only child to cancer at the age of thirty-nine, it is a bigger story than that. It must have cost Thy a great deal to tell it. How grateful we are to her for an excellent book.
Thy has a rare gift in writing. She uses words in such a way that the reader is dragged into each moment and feels every pang of hurt or movement of hope. The story ends on a magnificent note of hope. This hope would have been impossible if Christ, his cross and resurrection were not real. Thy captures the struggles of believing this great truth and places us firmly in the presence of Jesus and at the foot of the cross.
Rt. Rev. Frank Retief (Retired Presiding Bishop of CESA, now operating as REACH SA)
Thy’s beautifully written and searingly honest book struck a chord with me on many levels. As a mother, daughter, Christian, and as someone who has struggled with a serious disease, I found that Shirley’s journey from emotional torment to deep spiritual peace made me want to find that peace for myself, for now and for always.
But it is in Thy’s depiction of Shirley’s growing understanding that God loves her that my heart soared. Shirley changes from someone who feels she can’t please God and needs to perform in order for him to love her, to someone who has experienced, tangibly, God’s presence, and knows that she doesn’t need to do anything for him to love her; that his love is unconditional. That knowledge, and the trust it engenders, is utterly beautiful. In Shirley’s case, as Thy writes, God has been knocking on her heart for a lifetime, but “cancer turns the key”. I put the book down wanting to keep my heart open every day, and to remember always that God loves me – as his daughter, unconditionally.
Katie Cartwright (Wife, mother, consultant researcher, with MAs from Oxford and Cape Town Universities and a diploma in freelance and feature writing)
Because I have a daughter too and have witnessed some of Thy’s immense suffering, I found it really hard to get down to reading this book. While it addresses so many issues very relevant to modern life, in me it stirred deep emotion. Times without number – when I could at last speak to God again – I whispered, “Why so much? Why like this? Why allow hope when you knew you would take it away?” At times I wondered if I would ever again believe he heals.
What was I left with, that last late night when I had finished reading? Strangely, one thing only: that his name is “I will be what I will be”. My mind floundered, but my very bones knew he is the Eternal, he is my Father, I want no other.
I cannot find words to speak of what I experienced. This book is so relevant, so powerful…
Marzanne Leroux-van Der Boon (Experienced popular writer of Christian historical fiction set in modern-day Israel)