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From Hell to Hope

we are fearfully and wonderfully made

I have an inspiring story to share going from physical and emotional abuse from my schizophrenic father to serve others. I am still fighting on shining my light for my Lord with His strength and the love of Karen,  my wife, my sweet butterfly, the love of my life second to God. Hev Saing, speaker and author, who is a new connection of mine on Linkedin, shares on his profile a message that inspires me.  We should celebrate our differences.

All too often many of us hide what makes us unique. Instead of seeing our perceived imperfections as obstacles let us think of them as a message of hope that will motivate others to achieve their goals. Keep saying to yourself, “I am beautiful. I will live my life embracing my uniqueness. ” Today and every day celebrate the beautiful creation of God that you are because if He says you are fearfully and wonderfully made believe it, live it and you will change many lives forever, as they maybe for the first time begin to believe it too.

My mother is over 36 hours in labour with me before I am born. Did I say my mother is stubborn? The doctor joked with her to make her feel more at ease saying, “June, would you please hurry it up. I would like to go on my fishing trip.” A top neurologist in Toronto will report five years ago that he thinks that as a result of oxygen deprivation I have a mild form of cerebral palsy.

I cannot crawl like other infants. I could not walk like other children. My mother would have me lay down because I would get so exhausted by early afternoon. I would have one flu after the other. I missed weeks of school each year because I was too sick to go.  I do a lot of my school work at home.

The flame of hope for a kinder and more just society burns within me even as a five year-old. My mother realizes that there is a challenging call upon my life. She approaches my teachers to ask that they encourage the development of my beautiful mind. She wants  me to know that along with poor eyesight and poor physical coordination, I possesses a fine mind. My mother arranges for me to read about the lives of others with challenges, like Braille and Keller. I read about how they helped many people. I read stories about scientists like Pasteur, who discovered a technique to pasteurize milk. I learn that one person with a determined will can make a difference.

The Lord has my mother see in me what I could not see. My father would belittle me. “You’re clumsy. You’re stupid. You’re brother’s smarter than you’ll ever be. You’re a mama’s boy. You disappoint me. Do you work at being stupid? Why are you so awkward that you can’t tie your own shoes?”

I could not understand how my father could be Dr. Jekyll one moment and Mr. Hyde the next. The wonderful image of my father carrying me piggy back while ice-cream dripped down my face on to my father, stands in sharp contrast to my many spankings for no reason. Those haunting hate-filled words from my father’s mouth burn in my memory: “The hand or the book. The hand or the book.”

Tears come as my father’s destructive, cold and cruel thoughts play over and over in my mind.

As I cry myself to sleep so many lonely nights, something larger than me says in my terror, “Hold on. Don’t give in. Fight. Believe that life can be beautiful. There is a purpose for all you’re going through.”

The abuse remains hidden, controlled, exacting like the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel to cut me deep in my heart. My father erodes my self-confidence. If I dare show any uniqueness, any flair of creativity, any intelligence beyond what he would allow, I will be beaten and killed.

I use my vivid imagination to paint a different world, one where I am in control, where I am powerful.

In the cool and refreshing breeze under the willow tree by our home, I close my eyes and dream that I am a World War II flying ace. I attack my father and kill him with a machine gun. Rat a tat tat. Rat a tat tat. Mission successful. I rejoice as I see the blood flow out of him. That mean and vicious man is dead.

Then, I awake to know in my sorrowful heart that this is only a dream. This terrifying reality looms over even the joy of splashing in mud puddles.

At age five I see my mother hanging by a belt. She attempts to commit suicide, because the mental and physical torture from my father is too much to endure. I scream out, “Mom, please don’t die! Please don’t die!” My father cuts the belt in a lucid moment. My mother is choking and gasping for her life. But she lives, live more years with the horror and the burning certainty that her husband will beat her again and again. I see how my mother’s feeling of helplessness that she could not escape her abuse, causes her to be blind for several months.

We move from Thornbury, Ontario to Owen Sound, Ontario. The first night I hear my father beat my mother. He yells out to her, “This is God’s house! We’re just living in it!”

No, I cannot go to sleep. I must not go to sleep. My father will come in and smother me with a pillow like he tried to do in Thornbury.

I see at age eleven what no boy, no one should ever have to  see. I come home from school. I cannot find my mother anywhere. I call out, “Mom. Mom! Mom!”  No answer. I look everywhere. Then, I hear her faint voice calling out, “I’m down in the basement.”

I rush down the stairs. I hear my mother crying out, “I’m in here! I’m in here!” I open the door of the basement storage room. My mother is huddled in a corner in the darkness as I turn on the storage room light.  She is bruised, blood dripping from her legs, shaking all over. There are pieces of wood from the basement stairs in her legs.

The call of vengeance grows in my soul. I think of how I will  kill my father and get away with it. I come up with a plan that I will get him so mad at me he will attack me. I will plunge a knife into his chest and give it a quick upper thrust like I see in movies.

I thank God that I never get that opportunity that would have destroyed my life forever.

My prayer at age five under the willow tree is answered six years later. The night before leaving my mother says to my brother and I, “Pack one bag only of your clothes. Tomorrow morning we are leaving your father.”

I cannot sleep that night. I pray that my father will not see us leaving. Terror fills my heart. I am frightened that Dad will see us leaving and he will murder us.

Dad thinks he can run a taxi business without any experience . This is only one of his many delusions that he can succeed at a business he knows nothing about. He buys a blacksmith shop knowing nothing about being a blacksmith.

So many times he drives to where no one else can see. He gets out of the car, kisses the road and says that he is God. He goes to several churches saying to us that he is Jesus Christ visiting all of the churches.

Morning comes and with it Mom’s plan to escape. She calls out to my brother and I, “Hurry! Your father is out driving taxi. We need to go now!”

I take my paper bag filled with clothes in my arms. The bottom of the bag rips. I pick up the clothes as they keep falling out of the bag. Images of my father saying how clumsy I am flood my mind. I think of how stupid I am to have packed my one paper bag too full of clothes. Perhaps, thinking to myself, I am as dumb as my father says I am. When you hear that destructive programming without ceasing you begin to believe that what your abuser says is true. But they are lies from the pit of Hell.

My brother and I get in the car. Mom tells us to lay down in the back of the car in front of the back seats.

My stomach churns inside and feels nauseated for fear Dad will see us and we will be killed. We finally escape our living hell of abuse as we see the sign for Owen Sound, Ontario, fade from our sight. We are finally free from our living hell.

My father beats my mother too many times to remember. He says to her that she is a failure. He belittles her beautiful landscape paintings as being worthless, meaningless, a waste of her time. I hear in my memory those cutting words of ridicule he would speak. “What makes you think there is anything that people will like about your paintings? You have no talent.”  In manic rages he would often run a knife through my mother’s paintings destroying the beauty she created with his ugly acts of inhumanity.

My mother proves my father wrong.  Many people buy her paintings. When she is in her early forties she gives a lecture on painting at Seneca College in Toronto that when students hear about it, they skip classes to attend it. She tells me students are lined up outside the classroom listening to her every word. The professor and students see my mother take an empty canvass and teach them how to bring trees, water, mountains and skies to life with each brush stroke.

When God makes my mother He throws away the mould. Three days before Christmas 1992 she dies from her third heart attack  at age 57. Mom, you are a unique masterpiece, a beautiful work of your Master’s hands. I miss you. I know you are in Heaven fully healed where you have no more sorrow, no more pain.

As a man of 51, I go on to be a missionary in South Korea, social advocate, loving husband, graduate counselling student, writer, journalist, singer, songwriter, professor,  counsellor and a healer of wounded hearts and broken lives. I forgive my father for those seemingly never-ending years of abuse. I take back the vow I made that I would find a way to kill him. Forgiveness is born in tears of healing as my stepfather challenges me to forgive and not have my life ruined by the cancer of my abuse.

I promise my Lord that I will grow up to rescue as many people as I can from their prisons of abuse to live a life of victory, where they celebrate what makes them unique.

I have now received a pathology report from a skin lesion that confirms the diagnosis of the rare auto immune condition of mastocytosis. The lesion may be cancerous.  I have all the symptoms of a more aggressive form of mastocytosis. This mast cell (immune and systemic) condition affects 1 in 500,000 people in developed countries. I have been intubated eight times. Yet, I maintain that with the love of my Father, proper medical and vocational supports , Karen and I will have a quality life fulfilling God’s Kingdom purposes.

I will fight for the maximum wellness that is possible. I am believing in faith that once my lesion is removed there will be an improvement in my health.

Please pray that a cure will be found for mastocytosis and all chronic and rare conditions. You can help by reading the many stories of those with mastocytosis, including mine. Here is  the link for it . Please don’t just read Karen’s and my story. Read the stories of other people in need like the family who needs heating in this link

My doctor I had in Toronto calls me Mr. Rare.  When I would visit her Karen and her would take turns lovingly teasing me.  One time my doctor said, “Kevin, one day there will be a medical encyclopaedia with the name Kevin Osborne. Underneath it will be these words: “see all rare and undefinable conditions.” This is not surprising. My grandmother says her name is in an old Canadian medical school textbook as being the first person in Canada to be diagnosed with a pancreatic tumour. Did I say rare things run in my family?:)

According to the doctor who found my pernicious anemia (B12 deficiency) after over a year and a half of testing, the genetic form of my condition is seen in 1 in 2,000,000 people.

I have my difficult days where I ask those why questions we all ask. Why me, Lord? Why would You think I could endure such a difficult journey?

Then, I think of Hev Saing’s wise advice. Celebrate your uniqueness.  While I will have my times where I feel like doing anything but rejoicing in my uniqueness, I pray that more often I will be thanking God for the unique person He created.

I leave you with this thought.

“I would rather be what God chose to make me than the most glorious creature that I could think of; for to have been thought about, born in God’s thought, and then made by God, is the dearest, grandest and most precious thing in all thinking.”
George MacDonald

Thanks, Hev Saing, for your inspirational message, which encouraged me to share some of my life with you.

Embrace your differences. They are what makes you beautiful and special in God’s eyes and the lives of others you touch simply by being the beautiful you He created you to be.