It’s the first Saturday of the new year and I realized, as I sit here drinking my coffee, that I haven’t written an update for you all in quite some time. I thought I’d give you a brief update as to what’s been going on and what’s in store for the next few months.
This past semester was going well. I was having a great time with my internship, learning a lot in all of my classes. I actually enjoyed all of my classes immensely! Suddenly things took a tumble. As you may know, November and December were really rough for me. November 1 I woke up to a phone call from my sister telling me I needed to call her back immediately. I called her back as soon as I got her message. She proceeded to tell me that my mother had to have my grandmother taken to the hospital. I wasn’t given any details other than my grandma was in ICU and non-responsive. The next day I went to my internship and taught confirmation class as I do almost every Sunday. During the worship service, my supervisor had told me that it was okay to keep my cell phone with me on vibrate in case I needed to leave. This happened to be All Saints Sunday. At this particular church they do a candle lighting ceremony for all those who’ve entered the pearly gates in the past year. It was in the midst of this ceremony that I received word my grandma had made her transition into our Father’s house.
I came home for the funeral and was able to spend time with family. It was while I was home that I learned more about my brother-in-law and his struggles with mental illness. He was a completely different person from when I was home earlier in May. Our whole family discussed ways in which to support him as well as my sister and getting the help and support they both needed.
After a week at home I returned to Chicago and got back to my daily routine. I had been back in Chicago for a week when I got word that a close friend, Brandon, had died suddenly. I was in complete shock. I couldn’t breathe, I felt so sick. I didn’t want to believe it at all. I began reaching out to friends who also knew Brandon trying to confirm this. I immediately began to question God and why Brandon had to die. He and I were the same age. I went to the funeral hoping this would bring closer, but it just opened the door even more and brought on many more questions.
A few days after hearing that Brandon had passed away I had heard that someone I had the privilege of hearing speak at a conference, and also who worked very closely with the DOOR program during my year of service, had passed away after being in the hospital for some time. I hadn’t yet processed the previous two deaths. This one just added to the pain and grief.
They say death comes in threes. If this is the case then I should be able to start the grieving process. This however, was not the case for me. Two days before Thanksgiving I heard that a member of my church back home had died tragically and so unexpectedly. I felt paralyzed. I kept asking, “Why, God? Haven’t I experienced enough grief already?” At this point, it was as if I was operating on autopilot. I was going to class, I was going to my internship, I was doing my work, but it wasn’t the quality work I know I could have done if I was able to be fully present in those classes and at my internship.
I thought to myself that I could finally get back to focusing on school. I had exam week coming up, I had a Blue Christmas Service to plan and write a sermon for, I had a sermon to plan for the Sunday after Christmas, I had Christmas Eve responsibilities to prepare for at my internship, I had final papers to write. I was able to finish my finals and submit them all on time. I had planned my worship service and began to jot down ideas for my Blue Christmas sermon. I felt good. I started to think that things were on the way up.
December 15. I was writing my sermon. I took a break to go down to the lobby of my building and check the mail. I received a small package from my mother. About 10 minutes after opening it my phone started to ring and it said “Home.” I was thinking it was my mother asking if I had received the package. I let her know that I had just opened it and I was thankful for what she had done. We had a nice conversation and then she gets quiet. She proceeds to ask if anyone had called me yet that day to tell me the bad news. At this point I get up from the table and go to my bedroom and shut the door. I tell her that no one had called me at all. She paused. I hear her take a breath. Her voice shakes as she says, “Jason died today.” I can hear her crying. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I couldn’t speak. I sat on the edge of the bed. After what seemed like hours, but was only about 30 seconds I asked what happened. She told me that he had taken his own life.
When I began to share this news with some close friends, they expressed their sympathy. Along with their sympathy they began to express some of their own opinions about how they believed it was a selfish thing for him to take his own life. While I understand where they are coming from, I have a different opinion. I believe it was brave and noble of him. I know he was hurting and in a deep dark place. But I also believe he knew that he was a burden on my sister. I believe he did this to set himself free but also to set my sister free from the burden he was to her. I know people won’t agree with me on that, but it’s how I feel about this particular case.
I have since had time to grieve and process all that has gone on. It all started December 28 after I had gotten home from church. I had a friend in town for the holiday and he had left to return home after church that afternoon. The house was quiet. I suddenly realized that I had nothing to do. No papers to write. No sermons to plan. No books to read. No Sunday School lessons to plan. That’s when it all hit me. Everything all at once. I cried and prayed the rest of the evening. I cried off and on for a good part of the day on Monday as well. I still have my moments when I tear up, but I’ve gotten to a place where I can move on. I know God has a plan and a reason for all of this happening. I may not know what that plan or reason is, but I have hope in the resurrection. I have hope in the day when there will be no more tears, sorrow, and death.