When I published my post last Sunday, I had no idea that within a few hours our lives would completely change. I debated whether or not I should share this story, but in the interest of being authentic and living IRL (in real life), I felt it was necessary. Maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation. Or maybe you haven’t. Either way, I hope and pray that my experience and what I’ve been reminded of this week speaks to your heart and offers some good to you on your journey.
We left our place up north around noon on Sunday, stopped to have a late lunch in Grand Rapids, and then proceeded on our way discussing how we planned to wrap up the last few days of our vacation. Since we still had the next two days off, we decided that we didn’t need to rush right back to our house, but would instead take some time to stop by my husband’s brother’s home for a quick visit so the two of them could follow-up on some items discussed earlier in the weekend, and then make our way to his mom’s place to catch up for a bit.
We arrived at my brother-in-law’s place around 2:30 or so. My husband said he’d run in to grab his brother and sister-in-law and then we’d regroup outside since the weather was so nice. I sat in the car waiting for them to come out, and then a minute or so later, out of nowhere, I heard yelling coming from inside the house. My ears perked up at the noise when a second later my husband threw open the front screen door of the house, pointed at me, and yelled, “Call 9-1-1 right NOW!” What followed is almost beyond words… I don’t recall walking up to the house, but I remember calling 911 from the front porch, voice and body shaking… my husband, red-faced and on his knees, administering CPR… my sister-in-law pleading, yelling, begging… Within a minute, the sound of sirens, and in another couple of minutes, police, fire, and ambulance arriving and making their way inside… We stand outside, in shock and waiting… And then the door opens and the first responders file out, their faces saying it all… “He’s gone.”
Wait a minute. WHAT?!? How did we go from a wonderful week’s anniversary vacation and a wedding celebration the night before to THIS? What happened? How did this happen? What are the odds that we would decide to stop by for a visit and walk right into this situation? The terror, the shock, the questions… nothing making sense.
We sit on the curb, helpless, while additional responders show up on the scene. We’re interviewed several times. When that wraps up hours later, we know we need to inform people of what has transpired, but we aren’t even sure of ourselves at this point… so we take our time and begin with close family and friends only – both in-person and over the phone. We take breaks between each conversation because it doesn’t sound real coming out of our mouths, nor do we feel like this is even our lives at the moment.
We eventually end up back at home, numb. We’ve been gone over a week. We stare at each other in disbelief. We are exhausted and battling waves of nausea as our minds refuse to let go of those images from earlier in the day and our hearts sink and a hollowness sets in that wasn’t there before.
The following days are spent grieving and trying to wrap our heads around this turn of events. So many questions, personally, and from others who hear the news and call to offer their condolences. There are no answers yet. We must wait for those. In the meantime, arrangements are to be made and I must prepare for my first day of work in a completely new job… life moving on while we feel frozen.
Somehow, we made it through the week. Friday evening we gathered with family and friends to honor the life of my brother-in-law, taken from us so young and without warning. A Deacon spoke beautiful promises from the Word of God, my husband provided an amazing eulogy, and others shared stories telling of this man’s life and what he gave to those who knew him personally. We acknowledged and accepted his passing away, trusting that we will see him again in Heaven, feeling a little lighter and for the first time in a week, an inkling of joy because of that truth.
It’s amazing what can happen in a matter of hours and over a week’s time. Although cliché, the saying is true: We never know what tomorrow will bring. I read this week that pain and suffering are used by God to transform and refine us into the people we are meant to be, and as hard as it is to comprehend that notion, I do believe everything has a purpose. As I’ve been reflecting on this tragedy over the past 6 days, I have been reminded of a few things…
1) When all is said and done, it will not matter what you did for a living, how much money you made, how big your house was, what car you drove, what clothes you wore, etc. The two things we will be remembered for (and which are of most importance in life) are simply this: Love God. Love People.
2) Every chance you get, make sure to tell the people who matter to you that you love them. Even when they tick you off and you don’t “feel” like saying it. Even when you aren’t sure they want to hear it. Let them know you care. Let them know what you love about them and that you accept them for who they are.
3) Be gentle. Be kind. The world is harsh and cruel at times. Remember that you’re not the only one facing challenges and struggles. Everyone is battling something. Offer goodness because that is what all of us need.
4) Our spouses are meant to be our best friends. Sometimes the demands of home, school, work, family, and other obligations get the better of us and we neglect the person who is living this life right alongside us. Don’t let things get the best of that relationship. Make time for each other. Communicate. Offer love, support, and friendship. And sometimes, that means just keeping your mouth shut and listening. Think about being the person you want in your corner.
5) This life we live is short, a mere blip on the screen of eternity. Therefore, make every attempt you can to live your best life starting today. This will look different for everyone because not one of us is the same. Just take the steps to start doing what it is that will make your heart come alive. Any attempt is better than nothing at all. You and your life purpose matter. So don’t put off those desires and dreams any longer. Go for it with everything you’ve got inside of you.
The coming days, weeks, and months will be a process of healing and moving forward from this experience in the best way that we can. We will not forget what happened, and will choose to be intentional in focusing on what really matters in life, embracing goodness, faithfulness, and joy even in the midst of our pain and sorrow. It will not be easy – nothing in life ever is – but we will keep our hope alive and press on toward what we know awaits us on the other side. That is all we can do. God takes care of the rest.
That is all for today. Blessings to you on this Sunday.