If anyone had told me that by the age of 30 I would have survived two abusive marriages, mothered five children abandoned to raise them alone had a child with an incurable heart disease, raised another child from birth for four and a half precious years before I lost her, I would have screamed, “No, I can’t do that. I just could not do that.”

Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened. And ironically, I had no choice but to endure that. To not go through it would mean to stop living, which would honestly have been a possibility except for two living factors: one–I am a Christian and know suicide is wrong, and I had a deep faith in God; and two–I had five remaining children who needed at least one parent. So I lived through horrifying abuse secretly for several years, too afraid to tell anyone, but finally knowing I was going to die either way and I would rather at least die trying to get a better life for my children. Through protection from family and hiding out in friend’s homes several times, we managed to escape the nightmare in which we were living; at least so far.

One of the hardest things besides losing my youngest was knowing I could lose my second daughter to her heart disease in a moment’s time with no warning. Her heart could and was expected to just wear out and stop. To face watching a child with that knowledge every day was probably the hardest thing to do alone. I knew my children needed a wholesome and healthy and happy childhood, with fun memories and a secure and loving home, and I prayed desperately that God could somehow let me be able to put my fears, my weaknesses, my heartbreak on hold until after each precious face was tucked in bed for another blessed night: Another day together to cherish. I was young when my little girl with the heart disease was born; twenty-two and scared to death. I pretended life was happy and tried to shield them from the horror I was going through when they were not around or sleeping soundly in their little beds. For years that worked because the abuse didn’t happen in front of them. Then as abuse works, it took more and more to satisfy the sick urge, and eventually was happening with them present. That’s when I knew I had to try to get free. We were better for the absence of the other parent because he wasn’t what they needed. He disappeared completely, and has remained lost to the courts that look for him, and I pray remains so. We had a rough time making ends meet, but God provides and did for us through family and friends.

The financial part was not the hardest, not at all. The smiles, the laughter, the beautiful faces I looked into every day was worth it all. My sick baby continued to defy every medical diagnosis and as birthdays passed, I continued to pray for more. She has endured so much, and has taught me so much about real faith and the power in prayer. She has been hospitalized more times than I know to count; has endured three open heart surgeries, though none of them could “fix” her permanently, and has undergone her first valve transplant, which she will require every few years to continue living. Medically, they say it is impossible to demand a body to endure enough open heart surgeries as she would need to reach the age of even 40, but maybe they don’t know my baby’s faith. She has lived to be the age I was at her birth–what an awesome miracle we have enjoyed!!! She graduated with honors from high school, even undergoing her valve transplant that senior year. She immediately enrolled to fulfill her dream of becoming an RN and was the youngest to graduate with that degree where she attended. As for me, I still do the same thing I have done all of her life, as well as the lives of the others, I keep praying for one more day, one more week, one more month, one more year….

If this sounds like a bad story, or my life sounds like a bad one, it is not. Of course, I wish I could take the heart disease and spare her the pain and all that goes with it, but I can’t. However, that I have been blessed with beautiful children to adore, an extended family and church families to support me with the heartaches, makes my story a good one. A piece of advice: don’t ever say you can’t do something, because you just might have to. And amazingly, if you have to, you can. You truly can. I know because I did. It’s all uphill, sure, but at least we are moving in the right direction–up. That’s our final goal, where there’s no suffering, no pain, no loss. Until then, we have no choice but to endure. And it’s always worth the effort, more so than the human mind can imagine. I feel very blessed, and I hope that our lives have in some way encouraged yours.

S. C.