Faith--It Can Keep You Going
FAITH--IT CAN KEEP YOU GOING
On Good Friday, 1994, just before midnight, my telephone rang. On the line was my brother, he told me that my 16 year old nephew, Dustin, had just died in a car wreck. Instantly my heart felt like it was in my stomach. My brother told me that there wasn’t any need for me to come down that night and I told him I would see him in the morning. I then told my wife and can remember crying in her arms.
The next morning, as I drove the 22 miles to my hometown, it just felt like a dream. I just kept thinking of my sister and how she must be handling this tragedy. As I walked into the house, I hugged my sister and told her how very sorry I was. As the day went on, I just watched her and her husband and kept thinking of my children, Ryan, who is one and a half months older than Dustin, and my daughter Tara. I couldn’t imagine losing either of them and how would I handle such a situation; they mean so much to me. My brother and I went with my sister to the funeral home to make arrangements; again I thought how hard this is.
The next few days, thru the visitation and funeral, nothing seemed like it was real. I continued to watch my sister and see her torture and worried about her. I knew that she believed in God, but was not a regular churchgoer. As prayers were said, the ones that affected me most were the prayers of healing for my family. My parents were torn up, especially my dad. Dad loves sports and Dustin was a very good basketball player, as my son was a very good baseball player, and my dad loved to watch both of them play.
You often hear of sightings and people hearing from the loved ones passed on. Over the next couple of weeks, my sister’s family experienced this. As I listened and watched their struggle, with the loss of Dustin, I thought a lot about these experiences they were having. I come to my own conclusion that God will open up any avenue possible to help with the healing process that we have asked him for. If it takes sight or sound to help heal and bring comfort in the loss of a loved one, then that is what God will let us have, to be able to begin to heal. I believe that this is what my sister’s family needed to begin to heal.
As the years went by and I watched the struggles of my sister, in dealing with her loss, I often wondered how much she turned to God. I began to notice more healing as she began to share some religious items that seemed to help her. One of the hard things of healing for her was watching my son, Ryan, grow and then go on to college and play baseball, it just made all of us think of what Dustin would be doing. But as time went on I noticed that my sister and her family were coming out of their shell of hurt and that they were opening up more with all of us.
On June 15,2000, my phone rang at 3:30 in the morning, it was my daughter, Tara. She was yelling in the phone, “Dad get over here, Ryan has just killed himself.” I instantly went numb and questioned her and she told me that he had hung himself. I told her I would be right there. I told my wife and then got dressed. Later, I remembered that I didn’t shed a tear at that time, I believe it was because I was in shock.
Once again I was in my car and everything seemed to be a dream. As I drove the 10 miles to Ryan’s apartment, I just kept wondering why? When I arrived my daughter came running up to me and I held her and told her everything would be ok. I went to their mother and asked what had happened. She told me that she had been talking to him and we realized in her talk with him what might have been the trigger mechanism, but if there was any deep emotional problems that we might never know what really caused him to take his life. As we talked to his friends and people that had seen him that night, we realized that if there were deep seeded problems, no one else knew about them, he had been his cheerful self with everyone that night. Only an incident that happened on his way home must have been the start of his anxiety and pain.
As things settled down and I headed back home, I remember thinking why? He had a good job that he really liked, a girlfriend, lots of friends, and had just bought a new car. He had had some tough times, as most kids do, but it seemed like he had just got his life on track and had even seen his future ahead of him. I realized at that point that this is something that could tear me apart, trying to understand why.
As I arrived home, I hugged my wife and we cried. I told her about the circumstances that led up to him taking his life. Somewhere in time, I can’t remember when, my wife told me that this was tearing her up, she couldn’t imagine what it was doing to me, since Ryan was just her stepson. Ryan had lived with us since he was a sophomore in high school and she had grown to love him. She then told me that she had called my brother and he was going to go tell my parents.
I then went out and sat on our back patio, it is very peaceful there, our yard is full of flowers and it is very relaxing. It was then that I spoke to Ryan. I told him that I didn’t understand, but if there was that much anxiety and pain in his life, at that time, I did know that the pain was now gone and it would never bother him again. I told him that I felt he made the wrong decision, but it was his decision and I would somehow learn to live with it. I told him that I would not drive myself crazy trying to understand and that when we met again, he could tell me, or I might not even care at that point in time.
I then turned to Jesus and I was angry. I asked him how could he let my son do this. What had he ever done to deserve this, or was I that bad a parent that this was my punishment? Jesus knew that I believed and that I knew that he guides our lives, but I couldn’t understand this. I was mad and upset and I blamed Jesus for this. All I could do was ask him, “Why?”
As my family started to arrive at my house, my pastor also arrived. As we all gathered in the living room, my pastor said a prayer. In the prayer, he said that we don’t always understand and that now he asked Jesus to start healing our family. As I listened to the words of prayer, I realized that I should not be angry with Jesus, that I was going to have to have his support in helping to take away this terrible pain that I felt. As that first day came to an end, I asked Jesus to forgive me for my anger and to help ease the pain and to maybe give me an answer to the question, “Why?”
It took some time, but as I look back, I realize that Jesus was healing me. It all began the very next day. Before we went to the funeral home for visitation, I felt moved to write a Father’s Day message, since it was that coming Sunday. I didn’t know at the time why I felt so strong about that message, but I realize now that it was a part of my healing process. At the visitation, I gave my message to my pastor to read on Sunday to my church family. The visitation put me in a dream state, nothing seemed real and I would stay that way for awhile.
The next day, at the funeral, everything seemed like a dream. I don’t remember anything that was said. At the end, Ryan’s mom got up and spoke and I don’t remember what she even said. I was to speak after her at the very end and I had no idea what I would say, if I could say anything. As his mom got done, she said there was a song that Tara had picked out to play. I remember listening and at the very start of the song it got my attention. I realized that Jesus was letting me know what my life was going to be like from now on, thru the words of this song. The chorus was this: “Every step I take, every move I make, every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you. Thinking of the day, that you went away, what a life to take, what a bond to break, I’ll be missing you.” I have a copy of that song and from time to time I will play it. Ryan loved music and I get a feeling of closeness to him when I hear those words.
When the song ended and I stepped up to speak, I was really nervous. I spoke first to his friends and told them that they were still a part of our lives. After I spoke to them, I stepped back from the podium and paused for a second. Later as my wife and I talked, she said she wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but when I stepped back up to speak, she said she had never heard my voice stronger or steadier. You see, at that point in time, I felt like Ryan wrapped his arms around me and even though I did not hear his voice, that feeling made me feel like he was letting me know that he had heard me and that everything was going to be ok. I also felt the presence of Jesus with me. I stepped back up to the podium and I explained that I had written a Father’s Day message and had given it to my pastor to read at church the next day, but that I would like to share it with everyone now. I didn’t have the paper in front of me, but I felt that I could remember the words since I had just written them the day before. I told everyone that this was very important to me and it was my true feelings. This is how it goes: “We are so proud when our children are born and we hold them for the first time. As they grow, especially when they are little, we constantly hold them and remind them that we love them. As they get older and into school, we are so proud when they get good grades and do well in school. As they begin to play sports, boy can we brag on how good they are. Our children make us so proud of them, even when they have trouble in their lives, we still love them and worry about them. But one thing that a lot of us fathers do, is as they get older, we don’t always grab them and hug them and tell them that we love them, as often as we should. So on this Father’ s Day, the day that we are supposed to be honored, grab your children, hug them, tell them that you love them, because tomorrow you may not be able to.” I had a hard time saying the very end of that message, but I was able to and then I went back to my seat in tears. As I sat there, I felt strength grow and some pain go away. I knew that Jesus was working on me and that Ryan was there also. I’ve never felt stronger or more aware then I did at that time.
As we left for the cemetery, my parents were with me in the car and I explained to them how I was feeling. At the cemetery, I felt like I absorbed every word that the minister was saying, it was as if all my senses were awoken. I’ve felt strong ever since.
I feel that one of the reasons Jesus gave me this strength, at the time he did, is because he felt the concern that I had for my parents. I know how hard it was when we lost Dustin and I was really worried about them now. I felt it was important for them to see the strength I had gotten, so they would not worry about me. The Monday after the funeral, I told my wife that I wanted to go see my parents because I was worried about them. We sat that night and talked about everything and especially how I felt and how strong my religious beliefs and faith was. When we left that night, we got in the car and my wife put her hand on my leg and said that she felt that my parents would be okay, because they were drawing off of my strength.
As time passed by the Lord put in front of me a lot of different poems. All of these poems had religious themes to them and all of them touched me and made me feel better. There are two poems that really touched me. The first one hit on exactly how I was feeling, it’s called: SOMETIMES I WANT TO CRY: “There is love in my sorrow, there is love in my tears. Give me the courage and strength, through the coming years to hold on to yesterday’s memories, so all may know the love in my heart and the love from my soul. Sometimes I want to cry but if I shed a tear for that precious child no longer near, just know that I need a little time to fight back the tears.....and I’ll be fine. Oh, I want the rainbows but don’t want the storms, I want the roses but I don’t want the thorns. Oh sometimes I want to be weak and lean on you to find comfort and strength in all I say and do. Lord, sometimes I want to cry but if I shed a tear for that precious child no longer near, just know that I need a little time to fight back the tears.... And I’ll be fine. When I get to heaven and I see my little one, standing before Jesus, God’s only son. I’ll have no need for tears or memories.... For we will be together for eternity. Just to think of that sweet day.... Sometimes I want to cry.” The last part of that poem really touches on how I feel it will be like when I leave this earth. I will see my son again and I probably won’t even want to know why things happened, because I will just be glad to see him again.
As I had said earlier, when everything first happened, I asked Jesus Why? The next poem that I found helps me understand that question. It is called: THIS CHILD OF MINE: “I’ll lend you for a little while a child of mine,” God said. “For you to have the while he lives, and mourn for when he’s dead. It may be six or seven years or twenty-two or three; But will you till I call him back take care of him for me? He’ll bring his charms to gladden you and should his stay be brief, you’ll have his lovely memories as a solace for your grief. I cannot promise he will stay, since all from earth must return; But there are lessons taught below I want this child to learn. I’ve looked the whole world over in search for teachers true; And from the throngs that crown life’s land, I have chosen you. Now will you give him all your love nor think the labor vain? Nor hate me when I come to take this lent child back again? I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done. For all the joys thy child will bring the risk of grief we’ll run. We’ll shower him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may. And for the happiness we’ve known forever grateful stay. But should thy angel call for him much sooner than we’ve planned, we’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.” After the first time I read that poem, I instantly read it again and realized that Jesus was answering my question. When I read this poem I felt more of the pain lifted from me. I do believe that we are all of God’s children and he can call us home at anytime.
As the first Christmas without Ryan got closer, I knew that it would be different without him with us. My heart was heavy, but I knew that I would be surrounded by family and we would all make it thru the holidays, we had done this before. Once again, Jesus brought a poem to me, this time thru my daughter. She had been touched by this poem and wanted to share it with me. Of all the poems, because of that, this means the most and is once again what I believe in. The poem is called: I’M SPENDING CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST THIS YEAR: “ I see the countless Christmas trees, around the world below, with tiny lights, like heaven’s stars, reflecting on the snow. The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away that tear, for I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year. I hear the many Christmas songs, that people hold so dear, but the sounds of music can’ t compare with the Christmas choir up here. For I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring, for it is beyond description to hear an angel sing. I can’ t tell you of the splendor, or the peace here in this place, can you just imagine Christmas with our Savior, face to face. I’ll ask him to light your spirit, as I tell him of your love, so then pray one for another as you lift your eyes above. Please let your hearts be joyful, and let your spirit sing, for I’m spending Christmas in heaven, and I’m walking with the King.”
Jesus has been healing me by bringing poems and people to me, he has surrounded me with a loving family and a loving church family. In doing this, Jesus is healing me by reawakening my faith, spirit and beliefs. I have always believed that Jesus always has his hands on us and guides us in our life, even in times that we are not aware of. Now, sometimes we may shake his hand off of us and wander, but because we truly believe, we always come back and ask him for forgiveness and he accepts us back, with a lesson learned. I believe that Jesus guided me back a number of years ago, back into his house that I had wandered away from. He did this to renew my faith, because he knew what I would one day be facing and he was preparing me for this time in my life. I do understand that no matter how tragic our life can be, you cannot afford to turn your back and close your heart to Jesus, no matter how upset you may be at the time. You need to face him, open your arms to him and open your heart, so he can enter into your spirit. Without that, it can be almost impossible to face your grief alone. He heals all of us in different ways, but he will heal us when we ask, we just have to truly believe. He has taken the terrible pain from my heart and made me stronger. The thoughts and memories of Ryan are those that bring a smile to my face and make me glad that I had him with me as long as I did.
Because Jesus has renewed my faith, I was able to answer a question once asked of me about Ryan going to heaven even though he committed suicide. I believe that it was a sin, but my Savior is a loving and forgiving Savior. He died for our sins and showed us that as long as we believe that he will forgive us and let us be by his side in heaven. I know that Ryan believed.
When I was approached, by a friend, and given his condolences, he said that he had been hearing good things about how I was doing. He said that I must have someone upstairs watching over me. I told him that I had two people watching over me, Jesus and Ryan. After he walked away, I realized that I had on a chain that had been Ryan’s as a symbol of his arms around me. As soon as I got off work, I went to the jewelry store and bought a cross and put on the necklace, I’ve never taken the chain off since. Jesus has also strengthened my spiritual gift. When I took a test, to see what my gift was, before I started I wrote what I thought my spiritual gift was. I wrote, “The ability to make people feel good about themselves and life.” When I took the test, it come back that my spiritual gift was Encouragement. By Jesus strengthening my spiritual gift, it has helped me to remain strong for my family. It has allowed me to open myself up to people to show them how my faith has helped me heal. It has allowed me to share the poems and thoughts that I have, not in a way to look for sympathy, but to give encouragement to people that may be going thru the same circumstances that I am. That maybe my story will be an inspiration to them, so that they can start their healing process and understand that they are not alone. They can see that Jesus is working with me and thru me, to make me strong and face my circumstance.
Now, there is still an ache in my heart, not a terrible pain, but an ache. I believe that Jesus will not touch that ache, it is there because I have lost my son and it will be with me till I meet him in heaven one day. So when I shed a tear, it is not of pain, but because I am at a point, that I really miss Ryan. They are tears of Selfishness and Jealousy. Jesus understands and I’ll explain them so you can understand. Tears of selfishness--Ryan is not only a child of God, but he is my son. I am selfish, in the fact, that I want him here with me, not at the side of God. I miss him, he should be walking thru my door, wanting to play golf or showing me something he has gotten or just stopping by to say hi. He belongs here with me. Tears of jealousy--I’m jealous of Jesus. I believe that heaven is the most beautiful place we will ever see. I believe that it is full of love, joy and happiness. I believe that the very special things that we enjoy on earth, we get to do in heaven. For instance, I love to play golf. When I get to play heaven’s golf course, Jesus will let me be so good, that even Tiger Woods won’t be able to get on the same course with me. So when I say I’m jealous of Jesus, it’s because he is getting to do what I loved to do. Jesus is playing with and watching Ryan play baseball. Right now, Jesus is up to bat and Ryan is on the pitching mound and he has that smile on his face, that he always had, because he knows that he is about to pitch his best pitch, a curveball to Jesus. That is why I’m jealous of Jesus.
Now Jesus knows and understands all the feelings that I have. I know that Jesus will always be there for me and that he will keep working for and with me. Jesus will keep his arms on me and continue to guide me. The one thing that I truly understand: Faith--it can keep you going.