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L'Chaim - a toast to life.

Three days ago, Johan du Toit, one of my my best friends of over forty years suffered a stroke that has left him speechless and paralyzed on one side. While the current situation is a significant shock for all of us, we know that much can change and improve over the coming months. This state is not permanent.

In light of this event, I wanted to share some extracts from our conversations in the weeks leading up to the stroke. These excerpts celebrate the remarkable path of preparation he walked. We pray for him and his loved ones that as he enters this new phase of his life, he and those who care for him will discover the profound beauty of life anew.

One thing I know is that the essence of Johan will shine brightly, like a light becoming more visible as darkness deepens. When the fabric of our competent, individual lives is torn by such events, the divine life within us becomes apparent to those willing to see beyond the human struggle and pain.

During the final journey with my mother, that I described here:

I discovered that her inner life created an energy field around her bed. Many people noticed this energy and wanted to experience it. Though she could not speak or lift her head, the absence of "normal", made the Life in her shine like a light in the dark.

On the day before his stroke, I shared this quote from the Daily Maverick on our WhatsApp group:

“My departure flight is booked and paid for,” says K, who is 62 years old, “and they’ll give me a seat number soonish.” There is no clarity on his life expectancy. It could be two or six months, at most a year. His cancer has a furious metastatic rate.

“My health is being held together by gossamer threads and this is because of modern allopathic drugs, which happen to be working for me.”

But there is no reason, he says, to hide away from death, or cancer. They should be spoken about, outed on a grand scale.

He says the passage to death is an incredible adventure:

“I am faced with an illness that has spread throughout my body and it brings innumerable challenges in physical, mental and, not least, emotional realms. Yet I have developed the ability to separate the malady that my body is going through from what my consciousness is going through. This affords me the opportunity to savour and relish all the juiciness that life is. It shimmers. I’m experiencing a life now that I would never have otherwise been afforded.”

That quote reminded me of a post here on Contemplatively that Johan posted a while ago. I felt to post a few extracts but you can read it here:

"I celebrated a birthday a few months ago and as I was reflecting on the occasion and on my life up to now I was gently, but firmly, challenged by the Holy Spirit. The essence of the challenge was to ask me a question: to what extent do I value and celebrate the unique life that He gave me. Not life in general or being alive as in breathing oxygen and existing on this planet, but my specific life with its Johan flavour, experiences, expectations and destiny.

I was aware of Him saying to me: 'As I said to Jeremiah many years ago I say to you: 'Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had My special plans for you'. I chose to give you this particular and unique life as my gift to you, it is who you are and who I designed you to be.

It is a life that is unlike any other life on earth, there is no duplicate of it. I entrusted it to you and I want you to accept it, embrace it, celebrate it and value it in the shape and form that I chose to give it to you. I entrusted it to you as a stewardship because it is also the unique way I which I want to express My character through you'.

As all of this is happening I realise how chequered my life is. It contains joy but also sorrow, boldness but also shame, faithfulness but also disregard, servanthood but also self-centredness, fulfilment but also disappointment and so much more.

Even so, I hear my Papa’s voice, I see my Elder Brother’s face and I feel my Comforter’s presence as they say to me:

'Bring everything to us, hide nothing, embrace the whole spectrum of your life because we love you as you are. As you hold the cup of your own life in the light of our loving countenance, lift it up to others and share it, encouraging one another to do the same. It is only in this way that you will be able to authentically share life with one another.'

The prayer of my heart is “Papa, help me to hold my cup, help me to lift it up to others and help us to drink this cup of life together!”


This is what I so desperately want to do today. I want to lift my glass with my old (sic) friend, and celebrate life itself. And this is my little speech as I toast you today, my friend.

I quote your Papa:

"Your life is a life that is unlike any other life on earth, there is no duplicate of it. I entrusted it to you and I want you to accept it, embrace it, celebrate it and value it in the shape and form that I chose to give it to you. I entrusted it to you as a stewardship because it is also the unique way I which I want to express My character through you."

Even now ... even today.

And while we celebrate life, I want to remind you about your last post on our group:

"My meditations during the past few days touched and moved my heart very deeply. I was keenly aware of being cared for very intimately by the Trinity. I felt them saying "you have no idea how much we love you, how much we want you to hear us say good morning son when you wake up".

The experience I had was somewhat of a paradox because on the one hand I felt great comfort and was encouraged by the Trinity's intimacy with me, yet on the other I felt frustrated. The frustration is real because however blessed the truths were that I contemplated on, they seemed elusive to my normal daily experience. Yet I long for them to be an integral part of my life.

It is something like the cry of the sons of Korah in Psalms 42 and 84:

"I long to drink of you, O God, to drink deeply from the streams of pleasure flowing from your presence. My longings overwhelm me for more of you! My soul thirsts, pants, and longs for the living God. I want to come and see the face of God....My deep need calls out to the deep kindness of your love....Deep within me are these lovesick longings, desires and daydreams of living in union with you. When I’m near you, my heart and my soul will sing and worship with my joyful songs of you, my true source and spring of life!"

Even as this is my cry I also realise how vital it is for me to embrace and make peace with the incompleteness that I experience in the midst of my yearning for shalom.

Being incomplete in experience is a reality of life even as I am journeying out of it.

It will only be consumated in eternity.  

I choose to accept that these deep longings are simply an echo of a primeval memory in my spiritual DNA of paradise lost. Yet I must not allow my longing to become a definitive malady in me. How must I go about this because I cannot perpetually live in a wilderness? I need to experience the wholeness that is so paradoxical.

Once again the sons of Korah's wisdom comes to my rescue. They encourage me to remember and draw from those times when I did experience the closeness of being included in the dance of the Trinity:

"So I speak over my heartbroken soul, 'Take courage. Remember when you used to be right out front leading the procession of praise when the great crowd of worshipers gathered to go into the presence of the Lord? You shouted with joy as the sound of passionate celebration filled the air and the joyous multitude of lovers honored the feast of the Lord!'

So then, my soul, why would you be depressed? Why would you sink into despair? Just keep hoping and waiting on God, your Savior. For no matter what, I will still sing with praise, for you are my saving grace!... How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness!

Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring. They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward."

Dig deep now, old friend, in this valley of tears. Speak to your heartbroken soul, take courage, and remember the promises our Papa gave us through the years. Penetrate the veil of your mind and break free from the bubble of self you wished to escape for so many years.

Let the Fountain of Life within you flow out from your current prison, bringing relief to anyone who enters your presence. May we feel it, see it in your eyes, and may you give words to it again soon.


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