At 20, I thought I had this amazing testimony. I was helping to lead our youth group while my church searched for a new youth pastor, I led small groups at camps and discipleship weekends. I was on fire! I gave my testimony whenever I could because I had my life back in order. My friends were awesome, my Mom was awesome, school was awesome…everything was awesome. The summer after my Freshman year of college, I had moved back home with my Mom. I realized over those few months what I had been missing all year. Yes, I had discovered so much about myself and that was great but I needed to align that with my faith. I never would’ve tried to divide them in the first place but I was 18 and I did. So, at the ripe old age of 19, I began finding who I really was as a daughter of Christ. This was exciting stuff to me. Somehow I felt whole again. So when sophomore year came, I moved back to school but continued to drive home on weekends (as my Mom had always wanted) to attend church with my Mom. I took on leadership roles and grew in my faith. My Mom grew too while I was at college. For the first time, she was on her own and she was so sad at first. I had chosen a school close to home because I just couldn’t get over the guilt of leaving her all alone. Now I was seeing that she could do it. She was making new friends…great friends. She was making plans and doing fun things without me. It was great to see her so happy. She had found a job that she adored…she worked at a Job Corps working with kids who needed a little love and guidance. She loved those people that she worked with so much. My Mom had a heart for people. She knew everyone’s name and could tell you who they were…not just their name but really who they were because she cared about their hearts.
So, at 20 I would tell you that I had a testimony that some might not live in a lifetime. Right?! Home life, divorce, over came cutting and eating disorder, sadness, disappointment, heartache, and despair. Turned to Jesus found redemption, joy, and a new life of freedom. It was pretty much the iconic testimony but not usual for a 20 year-old girl from small suburban town in Texas. Going through those times, I sometimes questioned God before I really even “knew” Him. The classic, “Why me?” Then after becoming a Christian, those rough patches in my life became parts of my story or God “not giving me more than I could handle”. All of the Christian catch phrases. I thought that I had heard them all…I was sadly mistaken.
I had volunteered to teach Vacation Bible School at church – which meant early mornings during the summer. I was also spending that week at school with friends since a married friend of mine was expecting her first baby soon. Her husband worked nights, so I was keeping her company. Anyway, late nights and early mornings were not my friend, at 20, during the summer. So that Monday morning, the first morning of VBS, I was running late. I knew that this was frowned upon; but in my defense, I was driving in from school, in the rain. I pull into the church parking lot, and there are groups huddled around everywhere looking odd. Some are crying, some praying. No one will look at me as I walk around looking for where I am supposed to be. I try asking people where I am supposed to go, but they just keep telling me to find the Pastor. Ok, I know I’m late but is it really necessary to get the Pastor involved?? Others that I pass ask if the Pastor has spoken to me yet. Ok, yes, I know I am late…Good Grief people! I am like 15 minutes late! By now I know that my Mom is going to flip her lid when she finds out that I was late and created such a fuss…I must have really messed up the plans for the morning at VBS by being this late. She was the secretary at this church for 12 years and knows EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING that goes on. So I know that she’ll hear about it and then I’ll hear about it. As I walk around looking for the Pastor, the church gets creepier and creepier… I start to notice that no one is doing anything VBS related. Everyone is either crying or praying or just staring at me in stunned silence. Seriously…WHAT IS GOING ON HERE??? Then the Pastor finds me…the Pastor that I have known since I was like 6 years old. He tells me that this other pseudo pastor/family counselor needs to talk to me in the parking lot. Now, please understand that I barely know this guy and I’m not a huge fan. He walks me out to my car and stops. I ask him all the way to my car what is going on, but he just keeps walking and says we’ll talk in the parking lot. Then it happens…my world stops.
We finally reach my car…He stops and turns to me. He looks at me and says that he finds in times like this, it is better to deliver bad news like a band-aid and just rip it off all at once so…
“Your Mom was driving to work this morning in the drizzle and lost control of her car. She was in an accident. She was killed.”
I just stared at him for a moment in disbelief before collapsing. I couldn’t even process what he had just said to me. I had just spent the day before with her. She was just saying that she needed new tires on her car. I just talked to her on the phone last night. I was a little rude to her because I wanted to get off the phone and go be with my friends. She told me that I should be nicer to her. That someday she might not be around for me to be rude to. That I shouldn’t take her for granted so easily. I laughed it off. Yeah right, where would she go? She joked that she might just run away someday. That’s what she did…she ran away to teach me a lesson. This is a joke. This is just some elaborate scheme to make me appreciate her more. You know my Mom and her elaborate schemes. She’s just mad at me for being late to VBS this morning.
There is just no way that my Mom is dead. No way. It just isn’t possible…I’m 20 years old. What does a 20 year-old girl do without her Mom? She hasn’t finished teaching me things yet. I haven’t asked her all of the important questions yet. I had time for that. I had years to still be selfish and young before I grew up and cared about the things that really mattered. There was supposed to be time for her to teach me how to sew. To teach me how to fold sheets her way. Time for me to stop rolling my eyes and really pay attention when she tried to teach me how to iron or do laundry the right way. There was supposed to be time for me to trace the lines in her hand and memorize the lines on her face. Time for me to have her write down all of her favorite things so that I would never forget…her favorite book, poem, quote. Time to teach me how to cook a turkey or pumpkin pie. Time for me to pay attention to all of her quirky little sayings so that I would be able to say them to my kids someday. Time for her to teach me the songs she used to sing and the stories she would tell me when I was sick or hurt that always made me feel better. There was supposed to be time for medical histories and ancestry…I didn’t need to know that, I was just a kid.
Well, this “kid” was now learning about urns and gravesites…police reports, coroners, memorial services and obituaries. Insurance policies and family heirlooms. It was a blur. She had standing room only for those who didn’t come early to her service. More people than I could count came to say goodbye to her that day. I don’t think she ever realized how very loved she was in her lifetime. Amazing Grace was sang by one of her dear friends and I clung to every word of that song. In that moment and for several years after, I don’t think I fully understood how God’s grace was going to cover me. In that moment I felt abandoned by God. I felt too ashamed to actually give voice to those emotions but I absolutely was angry with God. It wouldn’t be until many years later that I understood that was ok. So, I listened to those words and they grated on my heart like steel wool. How could he have done this to us when we served Him so well. How could He leave me like this? How could people look at me and tell me that God needed her more than I did? Or that I should be happy because she was in a better place? Or because she was finally at peace? Or somewhere that she would know no pain? I was told that I was selfish for wanting her to be here when she could be with Jesus instead. So I was angry. Angry at God. Angry at my family and friends that I still had around me. Angry at myself. Angry at anyone on the road. I was angry. But I didn’t feel like I could be, so I acted like I was ok. I was a ticking time bomb.
Adding to this, I learned that her car had hydroplane on the wet road and skid across the expressway and median. There was only one other car coming at that time of the morning and it was a pickup driven by a kid my age. My heart broke for him to live with that scene playing in his mind. He wasn’t injured and tried to help my Mom. I have prayed for him every time I have thought of her accident over the years…that he has found peace. People actually asked me at the time if I was mad at him or blamed him. Seriously? NO! It was an accident of circumstance. I was angry that mere seconds would’ve made the difference in my Mom’s life. It was that close.
I was so numb after her accident, that I tried to just keep going forward. I had so many people around me pushing me forward. Everyone constantly telling me that is what my Mom would’ve wanted me to do. She wouldn’t have wanted me to be sad. She wouldn’t want me to put my life on hold. She wouldn’t want me to kept grieving. All of a sudden everyone around me was an expert on what my Mom would’ve wanted for me. But when you are lost and seeking, sometimes you grab at anything offered. Unfortunately, I was so angry at God but not admitting it to myself that I was listening to all the wrong voices. This is when I began to take my first wandering steps into the wilderness.
And so it continues…
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