Life is unpredictable. We go about our daily routines never imagining what could take place and change our lives forever. For Rayneld and Leta Edam, it happened on just another Friday earlier this year as they were on their way to the hospital to bring their two-month-old baby, Hannah, for a scheduled doctor’s appointment.
“We were just talking in the car,” Rayneld recalled. Their older daughter, Naiomi was at the babysitter’s and Leta was in the backseat nursing Hannah. “We were stopped at a red light. There were a few cars in front of us. The next thing I knew, there was blood on my head and on my face. I didn’t know what had happened.”
“Dia pengsan (he fainted),” Leta said. She had heard and felt the impact come from the front of the car. At that moment, something in the car must have hit Hannah, because she had a nasty bump on her head and she wasn’t crying. Leta suffered some cuts and bruises, but was able to get herself and the baby out of the car.
She managed to wake Rayneld up. “I asked, ‘What happened, what happened?’ and she said, ‘we were in an accident,’” he said. “I could feel that my shirt was all wet. And then I blacked out again. By the time I regained consciousness, I realized that my wife and daughter were not there. I asked around, ‘Where is my wife?’”
As it turns out, Leta had followed her instinct to get their baby immediate medical attention after she told Rayneld what had happened. “Saya tahan kereta, and then kami hantar Hannah pergi hospital (I flagged down a car and we brought Hannah to the hospital).”
The two boys (university students) who were in the other car were uninjured. They saw Leta, and the boy who had been driving started saying sorry, but she was too focused on finding a moving car that could bring her to the hospital to understand why he was apologizing to her. Two girls were then kind enough to stop for her.
In the midst of all the confusion, Rayneld was able to call their colleague, David. “I told him, ‘I’ve been in an accident. I cannot find my wife. I cannot find Hannah. Can you please look for them?’ I saw a lot of people watching, but was also wondering what was happening.”
David managed to get ahold of another colleague, Esmond. Unbeknownst to Rayneld, Leta had already called Esmond. “Saya risau dengan dia sebab saya tinggal dia macam tu! Saya call Esmond supaya pergi tengok dia (I was worried about him because I had just left him like that! I called Esmond to go check on him).”
The Bomba (Fire Brigade) came. Rayneld was lifted out of the wreckage and brought to the hospital. He had a busted artery on his forehead and was losing a lot of blood. They managed to stop the bleeding and then began attending to his other wounds.
Meanwhile at the hospital, Hannah was still not responding and had started seizuring. “Saya tak dapat masuk dalam ICU, tapi doctor bagi tahu saya yang dia tidak dalam kondisi yang bagus la (I couldn’t go into the ICU, but the doctor informed me that she was not in a good condition),” Leta said.
Rayneld was brought to the emergency ward at the same hospital before he was briefly transferred to another hospital to check for internal bleeding since he had a concussion. He went through surgery, and was discharged on the third day.
On the second day, Hannah actually lifted both her arms. That night, however, her heart stopped beating. They managed to revive her but she remained unconscious. During that time, Rayneld was allowed to go see Hannah, as they were prepared for the worst. So they brought him down to the ICU in a wheelchair to see his daughter.
“Initially when I asked Leta, ‘How is Hannah?’ she would say, ‘She’s ok.’” Rayneld said. “Saya tidak mahu dia susah hati (I did not want him to worry),” Leta explained. He was still in the emergency ward at that time and was about to go for surgery. Leta waited until after Rayneld was stabilized to tell him that Hannah was not doing well.
“I think what helped us during the ordeal was how our colleagues came down and they helped us.” Rayneld said. Rayneld and Leta both work with FES (Fellowship of Evangelical Students) where they are stationed in Melaka with David and Esmond.
When the rest of the FES staff heard the news, many of them drove to Melaka and surrounded them with support, prayer, and whatever help they needed. Calls and SMS-es were pouring in. It was all a lot for Leta to handle as she rushed back and forth to check in on her husband and baby.
Having their friends there to help facilitate visitations and contacting family members as well as keeping other people informed and updated was a big blessing for Rayneld and Leta. They even helped with the logistics of housing Rayneld and Leta’s family members upon their arrivals from Sarawak. Many church members also came and chipped in. “We are grateful for that glimpse of the Christian community la,” Rayneld said.
On Tuesday morning, four days after the accident, the doctors told them that Hannah could go at any time. She was only dependent on the machines, and it was just a matter of time now. So they went in and said their goodbyes to her. Rayneld and Leta brought Naiomi in to see her sister for the last time.
“We got to hold her, pray for her, speak Scripture over her, and then allowed her to go back to God,” Rayneld said. “Pagi Selasa, sepuluh tiga puluh sembilan, tujuh haribulan tujuh (Tuesday morning, ten thirty nine, on the seventh of July),” Leta affirmed, as they both remembered that moment.
“After she went, we told everyone that we will get ready for her obituary, process her body and all. That’s when the mother of the boy who drove the other car came and met us at the morgue,” Rayneld said. “Even before Hannah passed away, we already agreed that we were going to forgive him. We heard that he was just nineteen years old, and thought that no one should have to bear this guilt.
“And so when the mom came, we told her that it was important for the boy to come and meet us—for us to hear his side of the story, and for him to hear from us that we have forgiven him.”
They had a wake service that very night, and the next day, the funeral. “We didn’t want to prolong it,” Rayneld said. Many of their family members had been there since Friday and needed to get back to Sarawak.
During the wake service, the boy came with his brother and father. It was a difficult conversation—partly because of the language barrier, but also because of the nature of the situation. “We were there not to accuse him of anything but just to listen. In the end, we managed to say what our hearts really wanted to say.
“We prayed for him together with him, and we told him that on our side, we won’t be pressing any charges. I think he felt like he was in the wrong and was really seeking for forgiveness. Anyone could have made such a mistake. We hope that he is a better person because of this.
“In the midst of all of this, we feel that what helped us to be able to forgive is knowing that our own God has forgiven us. We know what it’s like to be relieved of the guilt of sin, and so it’s also about us giving that gift to other people. We felt that as children of God, we want to give that gift to this boy as well.”
The very evident support from the Christian community also helped Rayneld and Leta through this process. It affirmed them of their own faith that God is real and gave them hope that one day, that boy will encounter God himself.
“Having said all this, if another incident like this were to happen with any one of us, I’m not sure if I can take it anymore,” Rayneld laughed, “but at this point, we are doing ok.”
Coping with the loss after that was not easy. They cried all the time. There was a point where they both couldn’t even talk to one another. “Not because we hated one another, but even sharing with one another about what had happened was not easy,” Rayneld said.
“But we decided as a family to go to Camp Cam (Camp Cameron—a three week discipleship camp by FES). It was just one month after the accident and we were given the option not to go, but we immediately felt like we needed to go. If there was one thing God had spared our lives for, it was definitely Camp Cam.”
“It was good to reflect, to look back,” Leta said. “It gave us a lot of time to deal with the issues and to come before God with what we had,” Rayneld agreed, “to confront the pain and feelings. Now we’re better. But sometimes, things like Naiomi’s birthday triggers memories of Hannah. Of course we cry, but we’re still functional.”
“Saya sangat bersyukurlah, sebab saya ada mereka dua,” Leta said, “dan saya tau waktu incident also, walaupun Tuhan mengambil Hannah, tetapi Ray masih ada dengan saya. Tuhan masih beri hidup dengan saya juga (I am very grateful because I have these two,” Leta said, “and even during the incident, I knew that even though God took Hannah away, Ray is still with me, and God was also still giving me life.)
Rayneld’s right arm is covered with scars from the accident, and he does not particularly like them, but Leta has a different interpretation of them. “For her, it’s a sign that God has given life to me and spared me for greater things,” Rayneld said.
“Hannah has taught us a lot of things. Annette (a colleague) gave her the name, ‘Little Rainbow,’ and it resonates in our hearts, because as Annette says, ‘When we see a rainbow it does not last for long, but when it’s there, it reminds us of a lot of things.’
“When I shared about Hannah’s legacy, there are some things that Hannah has taught us. One is that life is fragile. Life can be short and we need to live out our lives. The second thing is to really love and cherish one another. Anger and bitterness are not worth it. Third, she taught us to forgive one another. And finally, even though death is real, salvation is also real.
“Where do we get this strength to endure this? We do not know. That is why we really have assurance in God, our hope—and the community of Christians around us. It’s about coming to terms that perfection only comes when we are in God’s presence at Home later. This is part of life, and if God is in us, then we should live the way God wants us to live. We try la.
“Personally, I used to be afraid of death and the concept of death—even though we are Christians, triggers a sort of fear. I think now I’m more ready to face it—have more courage than before. It also helps me to focus on the legacy that I leave behind for others that they may see God. I’ve also learned to be more compassionate even in the midst of troubles.”
Rayneld also spoke very highly of Leta and how he admires her strength through all that they have been through. “Though she may be small in size, throughout this whole ordeal, she has this deep courage inside of her, and for that I’m really thankful.
“Being able to know what’s important—having the courage to leave me behind and trusting that others will take care of me was not an easy decision to make at that time, but she made it. And it was the right decision. Even withholding the truth from me at the beginning and waiting for me to be in a much better condition before she told me… to have that burden on her and being able to make that decision was really courageous. And one of her biggest fears is driving. All this time—even before the accident. But after the accident, she decided that she must learn to drive again.”
Rayneld and Leta’s relationship has also been strengthened from this. “It brought us closer together in the sense that we are experiencing new chapters of life together, and knowing that if we can go through this together, we can learn from one another, and grow to be better,” Rayneld said.
“I don’t find myself angry at God, but I get frustrated.” Rayneld said honestly. There are so many unanswered questions like ‘Why then?’ ‘Why did it happen?’ ‘If I had done things differently that day, would it still have happened?’ I’m unsure about whether God allowed this for a specific reason.
“But at Camp Cam, I discovered that some of these questions will not be answered until I am in God’s presence in Heaven. And I think above all, God is asking me to really trust in Him and know that He is still sovereign.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly there is to learn, but there is so much room to just say, ‘God has allowed this. We can only hope in Him.’ So far, that is the only answer I can give, and the only answer my heart can contend with. So maybe I don’t need all the answers, but my soul is okay in knowing that God is sovereign and we still have hope in Him. At this point, I’m okay with that.
Leta admitted that she does have moments of anger towards God at times. “Especially bila saya reflect dengan kematian Hannah (Especially when I reflect on Hannah’s death).
“Tapi apa yang saya lebih lagi deeper dengan God, Dia Tuhan yang masih boleh saya percaya la, dan Dia Tuhan yang tidak memberi sesuatu beban yang lebih dari kemampuan saya. Dan saya bersyukur saya masih dapat menjaga Naiomi bersama Ray.
(“But what I feel that is even deeper with God is that He is a God that I can still trust, and He is a God who will not give me a burden beyond my capabilities. And I am grateful that I can still raise Naiomi together with Ray.”)
“The greatest struggle of all of it is the pain of losing Hannah,” Rayneld said. “We had plans of seeing her grow, seeing her crawl… I think I feel more of that. But we also take comfort in knowing that she is in a better place.
“Sometimes as Christians, we think that things like this cannot happen to us. But the truth is, it can happen to anyone. And I think, having God on our side, this is what it means la: That we still have hope, and with Him on our side, we can go through it.”
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