Last Wednesday, February 22nd, I sat paralyzed with fear in the same spot that I sit now. My little corner in my dorm room. The thought had struck me that tomorrow, March 1st, just a week from that day, would be the 10th anniversary of one of the most tragic days of my life to date. This past week I have lived in fear, and have asked God not to let tomorrow come. Unfortunately, unless God returns or I die, tomorrow will come. I have also been wondering if I should blog about this day, as it is a part of my testimony, a sort of tribute to my Pap, and a way to share how God has shaped me into the person I am today. I have tried, and I have thought about it numerous times, and finally, here I am, the day before the 10th anniversary, sharing my story.
I was eight years old, and all alone with my Pap when he suddenly had a heart attack and died. That’s the shortened version of the story. Now, allow me to rewind a little to that afternoon, and to go into depth about what happened. I wasn’t supposed to be with my Pap that night; however, he had called that afternoon, while I was doing school, and had asked if one of the three of us kids could spend the night, because Nana was going to a Bible study at Grace Fellowship. Mom was going to send one of the boys, but Pap then specifically asked for me. So I agreed to go, I packed up my school books, Mom packed my bags for the night, and we headed over to his house. We had no idea what would go down that night.
Sometime during the night we were playing checkers. I remember struggling to make my moves, because I had not played the game before, or if I had it wasn’t often. While I decided where to go, Pap would lay his head down on the table and fall asleep. Naturally, I just thought that he was tired, and I would wake him up when it was time for his turn. There came a time; however, when he didn’t wake up. No matter what I did, he wasn’t getting up to take his turn. So I did the only thing I could do. I called 911. I remember not knowing what street I was on, or what the address for the house was, which made it harder for the medics and police officers to find me, but they did. I remember holding the door for them as they came in. It was a cold, dark, Thursday night; and if you asked, I can remember it almost perfectly. I can remember the house too, although I haven’t been there in nine or so years. I remember seeing Pap on the floor, the defibrillator on his chest. I saw that right before Officer Dan took me to the guest room to ask me where Nana was. I told him that I did not know, so he asked where my parents were, and I could tell him that. They were at the Lincoln Way bowling ally, where they were every Thursday night.
I partially remember the ride to the hospital. Officer Dan was going to have me sit up front with him, but I told him that I couldn’t because I was only eight. So I rode in the back of the police car. I don’t remember much of the hospital, except for the fact that we were all together and Officer Dan gave me his Bible, which I have to this day. He also highlighted, with a crayon, his favorite verse in the Bible, and I kept asking Dad to find it for me, because I would lose the page. To this day, those verses are the only verses highlighted in that Bible. I remember asking why Nana wasn’t with us, and my parents told me that she was with Pap. I don’t think I really knew what was going on, even at that time, but I did know that something wasn’t right.
I was the last one to see my Pap alive, and was the only one in the house with him when it happened. It’s been a night I’ll never forget, and really the only thing I have to hold onto him of. This night has haunted me and has put immeasurable fear in me, but it has also drawn me closer, so much closer to God. Two or three years ago, I was plagued by the fact that I can only remember Pap’s head lying face down on the table. Unless I look at pictures, I cannot remember what his face looks like. Just that picture. His death. I was also plagued by the fact that when asked if I could do CPR on my Pap, I didn’t. I lightly pushed his head over to see if I could, but I thought it to be weird to have my lips on his, so I did not try as hard as I could. And I am left with the thought, what if I had performed CPR? Would he still be here today? Did I unintentionally kill him? These two thoughts, and simply asking “Why, God? Why did you allow me to be there?” haunted me. There were several nights where I would cry myself to sleep. I would wail and mourn his death, even though it happened seven or eight years earlier. I would cry out to God. At times I was angry at Him, at others merely confused and heartbroken. I never wanted to tell anyone, what I was going through, because it would always be later at night, and I wasn’t even sure if they cared anymore. Everyone seems to have moved on, but me. They don’t seem to remember, though I’m sure they do. It just doesn’t feel that way. It feels like I am all alone in this.
I have said all that I have said not to evoke pity or to cause shame to those who have moved on. Maybe I should, but this is the one thing I have to hold onto his memory. Really I have shared this story to share what God has been teaching me this past week, and really throughout this whole experience. Over the years, I have learned that I do not need all the answers. They are not owed to me, I just need to trust God’s purpose for them in my life. I may never know why I was called to be there, but I do know that I was called. And I know that crying out to God, years ago, has built up our relationship. Through this tragedy, I have learned to rely on Him, and that I can tell Him absolutely anything. As Mandisa says in her song Just Cry, “God can handle your honesty.” He already knows when I’m heartbroken, angry, or confused, and He is waiting for me to cry out to Him, to have a conversation with Him, and to just tell Him. He wants me to purposefully let Him in on what is going on in my life. This past week; however, God has been speaking to me through different sermons that I’ve listened to. On Sunday, the lesson was on Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” We also looked at Deuteronomy 31:7, and Joshua 1:6,7. All these verses are constantly reminding us not to be afraid or dismayed. The God of Angel Armies is on our side, and goes before us, behind us, and with us.
In conclusion, tomorrow will come, but I do not have to be afraid of it. Will tomorrow be a tough day? Possibly. Will I lose sight of God and forget that He is walking through such a day with me? That I don’t have to face tomorrow alone? And I don’t have to despair? Maybe. But I can also remember the testimony that has come out of this. I can remember that I can use even this for God’s glory. To bring honor to His name. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28. Did you catch that? All things.