EDITOR’S NOTE: When tragedy strikes, we all often wonder why it had to happen. For Byron, losing his sister caused him to question God’s existence. He could not believe a loving God could allow her to die. In the end, however, Byron came to know God personally and He gave him a peace that surpassed all understanding.
Byron has also written a book based on his experiences and at the end of his testimony, we have attached a link for you to check it out! The book is free for download from 4/12-4/14.
I was born in South Africa to amazing parents. I was the middle child, having an older brother and a younger sister.
Growing up we went to church, but for me at least there was no relationship with God. Most Sundays I would pretend to sleep in as long as possible so that I did not have to go to Sunday school. One of the few memories I have of church back then is that the pastor spoke about hearing God talk to him. At the time, I remember thinking, “God doesn’t still talk to people.”
Our lives as young children were fairly normal I suppose. We were a middle-class family with only my Dad working, and at times, there was “more month than money.” Our home environment was good, nonetheless, and both my parents loved us very much. Life, however, was about to change.
When I was twelve my sister Lynda began to suffer from very frequent migraines and headaches. She was eight years old at the time and after a few doctor appointments, as well as couple of weeks of constant headaches, they decided to investigate further.
About a week later, my parents said we were going away for the weekend to the beach. That Saturday morning, my mother and sister stayed at the accommodation, and my Dad, brother and I went down to the beach.
My Dad sat us down and said he needed to tell us something. He said the doctors had done various tests and discovered that my sister had a brain tumour. It was really big, and the doctors needed to operate as soon as possible. They had scheduled her for an operation the next week. The operation would take six or seven hours and she had roughly a 30% chance of survival.
How are you supposed to respond to news like that? At the time, all I could think about was how selfish I had been with my sister, how I always made her sit in the middle seat of the car and that now she may be dying. It’s funny what goes through your mind when you are in shock. My brother and I both said we understood, but who at any age can really comprehend that kind of news?
The next week we were introduced to her doctor, and he said that he would do his best.
My sister was very calm. She had believed in Jesus since she was a little child; she would never let my Mom or Dad put her to sleep unless they first prayed with her and asked Jesus to look after her.
As I recall, she went in for the operation on a Saturday. To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of the day, I only remember wondering if she would die and then my parents telling us that she had pulled through. The doctors had removed as much of the tumour as possible but were concerned that if they removed all of it she would be left with permanent brain damage.
She spent a long time in the hospital and when she was released, she and my Mom moved into accommodations at the hospital in Durban, where she was receiving radiation. My Dad, brother and I stayed in Pietermaritzburg, about 60 miles from Durban, where he worked and where we went to school. But we spent the weekends with my Mom and sister in the flat in Durban.
The radiotherapy had many side effects which left my sister feeling extremely unwell. It also affected her walking and due to the cortisone treatments it caused her to retain a lot of water and she got really big. This period of time was very difficult for Lynda and my parents. Unfortunately, people can be very insensitive. Lynda was often stared at because she was large and had lost her hair due to treatment.
Despite this the radiation seemed to work, and for the next year or so things seemed to be fairly smooth. However, my sister then started experiencing a lot of complications and ended up in the hospital for many weeks. During this time she had another operation to insert shunts that would release the pressure on her brain.
After she was released, she went back home and life carried on as normal for a few months, or as normal as it could be in that situation. Looking back now, it must have taken an immense toll on my parents, but my brother and I never really saw it, as they both always put on a brave face for us.
Around two years after finding out she had cancer, Lynda began sleeping more and more. Then one day she began to have seizures. An ambulance was called and she was rushed to hospital. At the time her doctor was away on holiday, and the only other neurosurgeon in Pietermaritzburg was covering his patients. The new doctor did some tests and spoke to my parents and asked them what her doctor had told them. They said her doctor told them, considering what she had been through, she was doing okay.
The new doctor looked at my parents and said he was very sorry, but the brain tumour had grown substantially. There was nothing he could do. She was dying and would not leave the hospital alive. He didn’t know how long she had, but he was certain she would die.
Nothing can prepare you for that. I suppose you just go numb. You never really think about death, or at least I didn’t at the time. It can just sneak up on you.
We spent the next two days by her side 24-7 and some of our family members from around the country started to come to say goodbye. Through all of this, I don’t remember my sister Lynda ever being angry, cursing God or losing faith in Him. If anything, I remember her still praying and asking Jesus to look after and protect her, as well as us.
On the second day, my brother and I had just returned home to get some rest. My Dad arrived shortly afterwards crying. He told us my sister had just passed away in my mother’s arms.
We all hugged in disbelief. He then took us to the hospital so we could see Lynda and say goodbye. We lived literally across the road from the hospital, and 10 minutes later we were in her room.
I remember walking into the room and seeing my Mom still holding her. Lynda’s body was there, but she had left. My Mom put her down, and we all sat in the room and cried. I remember a nurse came in to prepare the body to take to the mortuary. My Mom was furious and told her we hadn’t even said goodbye yet.
The next few days were a bit of a blur, and about a week later we had the funeral. At that time, I didn’t believe in Jesus or that a good God could ever let something like this happen. We had even taken Lynda to a healing meeting at a church, and they had anointed her with oil, prayed for her, and she still died. I was angry towards God.
At Lynda’s funeral there were so many people that there wasn’t enough room in the church. The only thing I remember clearly of that day was that we sang the hymn “The Lord is my Shepherd.” To this day when I hear this song, I think of Lynda.
The next few months and years were very difficult on our whole family, especially on my parents. I think we were all disillusioned with life and didn’t really know what to do or where to turn. My parents decided they could not live in Pietermaritzburg anymore as it brought back too many memories of Lynda. They decided we would move to Hillcrest, just outside Durban.
Losing their daughter was very difficult for my parents and only now being a parent myself can I begin to imagine what it must have been like for them. In the next few years that followed, we all just moved on, or tried to.
I really enjoyed school, excelled in swimming and spent most of my spare time in swimming training. I remember having a few Christian friends at school, but to be honest they really irritated me because I did not believe in this God they were telling me about. After all, why did He kill my sister and destroy my family?
My first year out of school, I worked for a transport company based in Durban. My role was to drive down to the port and make sure the company’s trucks had the right documentation and were loaded correctly so they could be released from the port.
A few months into the job, I was driving in the car, and my vision disappeared. I couldn’t see. I felt extremely dizzy and my vision began to blur in and out. I managed to pull over on the side of the road. By this time, I was getting really scared, and I thought perhaps I had been drugged. I had one of those original mobile phones that had a speed dial on it. I called the office and told them what was happening. They weren’t sure what to do, but they called my brother and got him to come and pick me up.
My brother came and took me straight to the doctor. He examined me and said I needed to go to the hospital for observation. At the hospital they did some tests. At this stage I could now see again, but was still very dizzy.
The tests came back and showed nothing wrong. The doctors said I needed to go for a CAT (CT) scan to see what was going on in my brain. Fear gripped me. I was nineteen years old, and I wasn’t ready to die. Did I also have a brain tumour like my sister?
They took me up to have the CAT scan and when I got there, one of the Christian girls I went to school with was working there, and she said she would pray that God would protect me.
The scan came back clear. I had never been so relieved in all my life! I was released from hospital a day or two later but still with constant dizziness.
The doctor said that there obviously was something wrong, but I would have to wait it out. That didn’t help my nerves, because I thought at that moment I was going to die of some unknown disease. A few days later I went back to my General Practitioner (GP), and he said he would check my ears again. The hospital staff had done this a few times already and said my ears were fine. The GP looked in my ears and said he would like to flush my ears out as they looked dirty. While he was flushing my right ear, all of a sudden I heard a pop and something dropped out of my ear. Instantly the dizziness stopped, and I felt normal again. The doctor then discovered that the thing that had popped out was a piece of a silicone earplug I had used for swimming training. It had obviously broken off and lodged itself onto my ear drum.
That evening I received a call from a friend’s mother, who always told me about Jesus. She said to me, “Byron, how’s your ear doing?”
“What do you mean?” I asked. I had not told anyone about what had happened at the doctor’s office.
She said, “I have been praying and God told me that there was something stuck in your ear and when it comes out you will be fine.”
Wow, she really got my attention! How could she know this? Had God really spoken to her?
I began to get interested in this Jesus and decided to put my feelings about my sister aside for a while and go and see if there was anything to this “God thing.” I called a Christian friend, Dom, and asked if I could go to church with him. I still remember asking what I should wear. He said, “Byron, our church is very relaxed. You can just wear underwear if you like.” I was pretty nervous to say the least, and wondered if he was actually joking about the underwear.
When we arrived at church, it was weird and not what I thought it would be at all. Everyone seemed like they were really happy. “This is obviously one of those happy-clappy churches,” I thought. “That’s not for me.”
But there was a strange peace there, and I was uncomfortably comfortable. I went back a few times and finally surrendered my life to Jesus after an altar call.
A new peace and joy began to flood my life. God had begun to reveal Himself to me, and I had an encounter with the Living God. God was no longer this guy who was mad at us and who sat in Heaven; He was this guy who was with me, right where I was, broken and all. God slowly began to restore me and more and more, I began walking in wholeness.
I have asked God many times about what happened with Lynda. I believe He has spoken to me and given me peace that it wasn’t His perfect plan, but there are some things in life we are just not going to understand. I have all eternity with Lynda and plenty of time to chat with her and God about what happened. My role here on earth is to move on and allow God to remove all the hurt and live victoriously as a victor and not a victim.
No one in life has it easy and it’s easy to think that we are the only person to go through hardships and that no one else understands. The truth is everyone has issues and troubles. We need to see the light at the end of the tunnel and see that some things will be left for eternity.
I encourage you if you have been through a loss, to look to Jesus and decide to let Him be Lord. Instead of spending your whole life asking why, make a decision to walk forward in victory and leave some chatting to Jesus for eternity. You can move forward whole and complete in Him.
I can honestly say that God has removed the hurt and sorrow in me from my sister passing away. I will never forget her, nor will I forget what happened, but I will not allow it to define the rest of my life. God is good all the time, even when I don’t understand. I suppose for me, I’ve realised that everyone dies, and it’s eternity that is important. Philippians 4:7 NIV says “The peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” There is peace available in the midst of not understanding.
It won’t be all that long and I will be reunited with Lynda again. So I look forward to that day, but until then, I want to live every day full of hope, full of joy, knowing the future is bright because Jesus has my future. He has my life, it’s in His hands, and He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb (see Psalm 139:13). He knows how to restore me.
It’s so interesting that we sang the hymn “The Lord is my Shepherd” at Lynda’s funeral as it’s from Psalm 23 (NIV), which reads:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death. God has restored my soul and He has given me a place of peace. I am seated at His table, and my life is full. I am a blessed man! I have a wonderful family – all of whom now believe in God, a beautiful wife, a beautiful little daughter and a new born son. God is so good; He has restored my life. If He has done it for me, He can do it for you.
I encourage you to let Jesus in to your whole life, even into those places you don’t want Him, those places in your life that have caused you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Stop camping in the valley. Come out instead, and sit at the table God has prepared for you. It’s a good table, a feast set up just for you in the presence of your enemies. Don’t allow hurt and fear to hold you back anymore. Jesus wants to give you rest and peace and joy that overflows. You can dwell in His house for evermore.
Here is a brief description of Byron’s book “Testimonies of a Good God: Seeing God’s Goodness Through the Clouds of Life”.
Do you struggle to see God as a good God? Do you doubt His goodness when life doesn’t go your way?
This is an amazing true story, of God’s goodness, grace and miracles.
Through the death of his sister, the near death of his brother, a heartbreak after a failed relationship, attempted shootings, car wrecks, bad medical reports, and many trials, Byron testifies of the goodness and grace of God even when life just didn’t make sense.
But this book is not just about trials, it’s about faith, hope and victory in Jesus. It’s about the amazing victory Byron and his wife Tammie have experienced in Jesus, even through the times when it felt like God was absent.
Finishing the book you’re left with an excitement and joy to start reading your Bible. Eager to learn more how to practically apply God’s Word more in everyday life. If God did it them, then surely He could do it for you too.