A needle in a haystack, picking someone out of a lineup you have never seen before, or finding the exact location of Santa’s Workshop in the North Pole. These are all things I could do much easier than what I have been asked. Describe one incident that shaped who I am today. I believe that God used a series of events divinely placed together to shape who I am today. He constructed me, knowing what I would need and when I would need it. But if I must choose, and I must, I will attempt to go as far back as I can, to what I believe first began my transition to who I am today. Admittedly, this is the hardest story to tell.
I take you to a time in my life that was not a happy one. I think, if asked, most people would start transitions here, at moments of sadness. My father in law had just passed away the day before. My husband and I were newlyweds; we had been married for just over two years. Our one month old baby was on his way back to our home with a very caring cousin who saw an opportunity to love. I was a new mom, a new wife, and a newly distraught woman who was unsure how to keep it together for her grieving husband. I had never lost a parent. But here I am, completely unsure of what words to say or motions to make. His life had just been ripped in half. His father, whom he was very close to, had just left us so quickly, in such an unimaginable way. No one knew what to say or do.
When I got the call that he had been taken to the hospital, I was already packing to go see them. Our new baby boy was scheduled to be dedicated that Sunday by him at their church. When my mother in law called, she sounded frantic, unusual. It’s true; you can always tell something is deeply wrong by the person’s voice. I knew instantly that this was not a normal visit. My father in law never went to the hospital. I quickly stuffed the rest of the things I could think of into overnight bags, while getting a hold of my husband at work. I remember thinking I needed to bring church clothes because of the impending dedication. I never once imagined those same clothes would be worn for much different reasons that very same weekend.
The three hour drive took us two hours.
I had never been with someone when they passed. I had seen it on TV, the beeping of the machine becomes a constant, the actors look so sad, their expressions begin to change. Some cry, some cry out, some don’t cry at all. But in real life, it’s not that way. Similar, but not the same. The machine’s beeping goes to a dull noise, the air tightens around your throat, your brain suddenly stops what its doing and waits. It waits to hear the person in front of you gasp for air, for his eyes to open, for his smile and kind voice to fill the room. None of that happens though, and you realize this is not a nightmare, this is really happening.
I am put in charge of calling everyone in my mother in law’s address book. To give this bad news over and over again to people I barely knew or had never met at all. I am strong, courageous, and there solely as help. But inside, this moment has been felt by my heart and my soul. This event that I would normally only share with my husband as my rock and confidant, I cannot. I must be his rock, his confidant. I must provide for him, the exact things I needed at that very same moment. This is definitely where who I am today began to take shape.
The days that followed were the hardest and most awkward days I had ever experienced. My hormones were already out of control due to the fact that I had just had a baby barely a month ago. They were even more so with the situation at hand. I was confused, sad, and scared. I needed to be helpful, making dinner plates, cleaning, hugging, smiling, praying, answering the phone; the list goes on and on. I was also needed as a peacemaker. As with any death in any family, stakes were high, and everyone wanted something. My poor mother in law sat for days, like a statue, moving when someone moved her, hugging when someone embraced her, sleeping when someone told her to, and crying. I think she cried for days without stopping. Even in her sleep, I can imagine her crying. Her brain seemed to have stayed with her heart in that hospital room.
Most importantly, I was to be my husband’s rock. His shoulder to cry on, his sounding board when creating nice things to say to people who had stopped by, and his bouncer when people got to close or mistakenly said the wrong thing. It was my turn to carry him. To pick him up in my arms and hold him as he cried. The pain I could see in his eyes was almost too difficult to look at. I had no idea what to do. How could I be someone’s rock when I had built my house on sand? How could my arms hold him when my muscles were so weak?
There were two funerals. One with his current church, which he pastored and one, at home, where he would be laid to rest. Each service filled with people he had loved and served, just like Jesus. Each person that passed us, true sorrow was in their eyes. I remember thinking, how in the world did he find time to touch all these people in a deep enough way that their sorrow was so visible to me? He did, though.
Those two July weeks, began to shape me in a way I never would have allowed if I had not experienced his passing. I don’t believe he was taken just to make me a person of true faith, but I believe it shows how God can connect Heaven and Earth. It was his time to go. But on Earth, we felt sorrow, pain, and confusion. God, in only a way that God can, made good come from what we considered a tragedy. It took many years to come to this conclusion and many more to speak it. It is so hard for us to admit God is right when it comes to accepting the things we do not want to accept. In our souls, in our hearts, He molds us by each circumstance. I am thankful he did. I have a strong marriage, and a stronger faith.
As I said before, it took a series of events to create the “strong and courageous” me. This was, however, the beginning.