A few days ago my older brother died while fishing with a friend. We think he had a heart attack or stroke. He loved fishing, loved everything about being on the water. He had been looking forward to going fishing with his friend. I am thankful that his passing from this life to the next was while he was doing something he loved. For him, it was probably a blessing that there were no agonizing months of sickness, he just went fishing and never returned to his earthly home.
While I think that a sudden death is sometimes kind to the one that leaves us, what about for those left behind? I have experienced much loss in my 52 years and for each of them there was no warning for me. Just suddenly that person was no longer there. No opportunity to say goodbye, no last hug, sometimes no closure.
If you’ve been reading my blog a while you know this post is different from most of what I write. It’s more like what I wrote in my first post, but more raw. I am raw at the moment.
When I first started this blog I really wasn’t entirely sure what my blog would focus on, and honestly, I’m still not. I always felt that God was going to use the brokenness I’ve experienced and the healing that He has done, but didn’t know how or when. God has done such a healing work in my life that I don’t talk about the brokenness all that much. There are less than a handful of people outside of my family that even know what the brokenness is all about.
I would never want to harm anyone else with the words I share. Most of my life story isn’t just mine and sharing it could affect others. I don’t have any desire to talk about these personal events in a public way. It isn’t for myself that I share, but for you. In the days following my brother’s death, I have come to feel that God would be glorified by my sharing what He has done in my life.
Only God can truly enable you to forgive the unforgivable, and only God can truly heal the gaping, what feels like life-threatening emotional wounds as what I have experienced.
I’ve spent a large portion of my adult years always hoping others didn’t know what I’m willingly sharing here. I have shared one on one at times if I thought I could help someone else, but even then, it was usually only portions of my story.
I don’t mean to imply that there isn’t still brokenness in my life or that there isn’t still healing to be done, because that isn’t true. Unless and until we get to heaven, we are all broken in one way or another.
Some of the hurts I’ve dealt with, I imagine those painful things in a box. I mentally put that box away, up on a shelf, where it stays most of the time. When something brings these painful things to mind, I might look at and think about and grieve over what’s in the box for a little while. Then, for my sanity and emotional health, I pack it back up. I think this is a healthy way of handling it. I don’t pretend the box isn’t there. I know it’s there, I know what’s in the box, I just don’t look in that box of hurt every day.
One of the first events that altered the course of my life was when my mother was murdered, just after I turned 6. Suddenly she was gone from my life. While I don’t really remember much about her, I remember missing her and for the rest of my young years longing for and grieving the loss of my mother. At each different stage of life, I missed having a mother that would be to me all the things a mother is. I longed for the motherly love and influence that I saw in the lives of my friends.
Although my dad proclaimed his innocence, he was convicted of my mother’s murder. He was sentenced to 15 years. He was later pardoned. Because I was a young child, the time line is very blurry for me. The time he was away from us was somewhere around 3 years. Most of the time I can’t bring myself to say out loud the word for where he was when he was “away from us.” Purposely or not, there’s much I don’t remember about these young years.
Mine was a blended family and my younger brother, nicknamed Jody, and I were the youngest. I had just turned 6 and he was 4. The two of us lived first with my mother’s sister and then with my dad’s sister for the time he was away. I missed my dad so much too. I missed feeling like I had a family. I cried myself to sleep at night a lot. Much of the time I felt lonely even when I was with other people. I couldn’t understand how God could allow any of this. Where was He? Did He care?
After my dad came back to us, we were so happy to be with him. We loved him and he loved us so much. I remember when we first got an apartment, even though Jody and I had our own beds, we couldn’t bear to be separated. In those first days we would sleep on either side of Daddy. When he wouldn’t sleep in the middle any more, we took turns sleeping next to him. We felt safe there and less alone. I remember from that point on always being afraid that our daddy would die and we would be without him. I worried about it constantly.
My dad had been a successful businessman before my mother’s death and became a successful businessman again. We bought a home, and life was somewhat normal for a while. Like many alcoholics though, my dad fell into thinking that he could drink without drinking to excess. This was a pattern throughout my life, things would get bad, he would stop drinking for a while, he would decide that since he had been able to quit successfully he didn’t really have a problem. Then he would begin to have one drink after dinner and soon we were right back where we started.
It serves no good purpose at this time to share more than to say that if you’ve lived with an alcoholic, you know there is much more that could be said. Always wanting them to quit in hopes that your life could be “normal”. If you haven’t been hurt by a loved one’s addiction, then I’m thankful you’ve been spared that.
When I was just a couple of months past 18, my Dad died suddenly. Months later and then more years later, I learned things that make me believe my dad was murdered. When daddy died, I had been living with my older sister at the time. I was thankful that I had gotten used to not seeing my dad everyday at that point, because losing him was almost unbearable. If I had been living with him and seeing him every day, I don’t know what would have become of me. This was a terrible time for me. I felt lost. There was so much sadness and so many questions that didn’t have answers.
When I was 19 I very foolishly married someone I was pretty sure had a drinking problem. Later, when my husband was in rehab I got some counseling and was given some reading assignments. Those books helped explain that many of my decisions as a teen and adult fit the pattern for children of alcoholic parents. For example, the crazy fact that I married an alcoholic after hating what alcohol had done to my family. Abbreviated version…when my husband starting drinking after rehab, things progressed to a scary and unhealthy situation and we divorced. I really was committed to marriage for life, so arriving at this decision was very hard in every way for me.
Around this same time, when my younger brother Jody was 21 years old and I was 23, he took his own life. Of all the sad events of my life, I think this one is the one that has nearly done me in.
Every loss in my life has been sudden. Every loss has brought great sadness, but only this loss has caused me such regret and guilt. Could I have done something that would have made a difference? I experience guilt over decisions that if my brother was here, would be remembered only as a childhood experience. But my brother isn’t here. There are things I know with my rational mind, but my heart only feels regret, and loss, and never- ending sadness about the loss of my brother. We were less than 2 years apart in age, nearly the same age difference as my two oldest kids. My Evan, (Joseph Evan) is named after my brother Jody. We went through everything good and bad together. We might duke it out between us, but would protect the other unto death. I still cry 30 years later over the loss of my brother and the questions that won’t have answers in this life.
A few years ago, my older brother Donnie took his own life. I hadn’t lived near him in many years. I don’t know what lead to his feeling that this was his answer.
In my young years I had a simple belief in God. I believed what I was taught in church. As I got older though, I really wasn’t sure what to believe. There came a time in my young adult years that I wasn’t sure of anything about God. I had serious doubts that although I believed He probably existed (I found it required more faith to believe otherwise) I didn’t feel he was personally interested or involved in my life.
There was some healing that was done before I fully surrendered my life and will to God, but finally, I have a wholeness and peace that can be found nowhere else. I am filled with an overwhelming thankfulness for the sweetness of knowing that He does love me and is intimately acquainted with and cares about the details of my life.
When I think about my current life, and the circumstances of my young life, really, what is the likelihood that I would grow up to be healthy and whole? There have been gaping emotional wounds and painful absences in my life, but He has made me whole.
I have now been married to my wonderful husband for 29 years. He too, has certainly been part of the healing process. His love for me is unwavering. In any situation, he is on my side and always my fierce protector. Both of my adult children love God and seek to live in a way that honors Him. After I came to know and love God, that is the one thing I have wanted and prayed for the most. I have such a sweet relationship with the both of them and my precious son in law. I have the close family relationships that I have always wanted more than anything else. Although far from perfect, I am emotionally and spiritually healthy. I realize that it is only by the sweet grace of God that it’s so.
The healing in my heart began when in desperation I begged God to show himself to me. I had felt for a long time that there was something missing that was related to God, but I didn’t know how to find Him. In the midst of doubts and wanting to believe, I begged God that if He was real, to please, please show Himself to me.
He didn’t appear in visible form. He didn’t speak aloud to me. But as I began to study the Bible seriously for the first time, I KNEW He was real. I began little by little to know that He does care and that He is always with me.
Before this time, I believed what I was taught. I was still receiving good teaching, but I was studying the Bible now for myself. There is no substitute for that, no shortcut to God. I learned through studying the Bible what God is like, piecing together a more complete picture of who God is. Reading and studying from both the Old Testament and New and reconciling in my heart what seemed to be conflicting.
If you study the Bible for yourself for just a little while, you will realize how many things are constantly said (by Christians) that simply aren’t biblical. Some are well meaning or meant to comfort, but it is of no real comfort if it isn’t true.
The God I have come to love deeply is so much better than I could have imagined. And, while the plan of salvation is so simple, the God of the Bible is infinitely complex, infinitely beautiful and completely trustworthy. While on this side of heaven, even though there are so many things I will never understand, I have learned to trust God more with each passing year.
A month or so ago, before my brother died, and before events that lead me to share, I had decided that my “word for the year” was trust. I told my closest friend, who knew I had been experiencing some fear and anxiety, that in 2018 my hope was to trust God even more than I ever had before.
I will share more of my faith journey in upcoming posts because it is the only reason I have shared any of this.
In sharing this testimony of God’s faithfulness and healing, I’m trusting Him to use this for His glory. I’m trusting Him to help me be okay with sharing it.
I’ve spent my entire life worrying about who knew the things I’ve just shared. You see? I still can’t say some of the words again. I spent my young adult life hoping that others would judge me only by what they personally knew of me and my own actions.
When my brother Wayne died last week, conversations with my sisters brought so many packed away emotions to the surface. I don’t have any personal desire to share these events of my life. It isn’t cathartic for me. It is freeing in a sense though to speak truth rather than hope no-one knows it.
It is my hope that in sharing the tragic events of my life and the emotional and spiritual health that I live now, it will be an encouragement to your faith. When I hear of miraculous things God has done, it increases my faith in Him and encourages me. If you don’t yet know my God in a deep and personal way, I would love to pray for you that He will do that for you too.
Even though I can’t see Him, he’s the realest thing I know that I know that I know. I hope the same for you.
It is for God’s glory that I have shared. It is fine to share this post or contact me if you would like for me to pray for you. I am open to having any conversation of a spiritual nature. I really hope for God to use my life story to help others. What He has done for me, He can do for you. I, nor my siblings, however, are open to any questions about the death of our parents or anything relating to that. It may be unnecessary to say, but you might be surprised at the callous and insensitive questions we’ve been asked over the years.