The following may be a little difficult to read for some of you. It describes, in more detail than usual, the death of my Uncle. I felt an intense need to write about some of this today and wanted to be able to share some of the passion that lurks inside of my heart regarding life. In the future, some of this will go much deeper in my book. You know...the one I will write someday. For now, read what you can and hopefully it will touch you in such a way as to bring healing into your own life!
Was there an event or a situation in your life that caused you to stop and think that your life would never be the same after that moment?
I've had several of those moments...
When Daniel kissed me on the forehead for the first time, wearing a red adidas hoodie at Weldon Springs in the fall. We were 16, not dating and foolishly lustful. I loved his kiss and quickly loved him as well.
I knew my life was about to change.
...and then after falling incredibly in love with this boy who's dream was to be a Marine, it seemed as if the following autumn blew in faster than we expected. He boarded a white van early on a sunny day. I didnt see him for 3 months and it was the hardest time of my life.
I knew my life was about to change.
When I moved to North Carolina, found out we were having Nora, Daniel deployed again, found out we were having Braden, Daniel got home for good, we bought a house, we got a dog...
During all of this I knew my life was about to change.
However, through all of this I have one specific moment etched into my mind where I literally remember thinking "Life as I know it now will never, EVER be the same again."
How true that was, but even I did not know the depth of what was about to take place.
I was working in a K-5 special ed classroom at our local elementary school and I loved my job! I loved my coworkers and the children more than they'll ever know. One March morning, I was called into the office to take a phone call. I had just gotten to work and immediately felt cold and panicked. I rushed to answer the phone only to hear my mom's sobbing voice on the other end of the line. I had a hard time making out what she was saying and it all seems like such a blur but in an instant, I knew that I had to leave work that day and didnt know when I would be returning.
Mom had tried saying to me that she thought Uncle Boe was dead. That Nanny had gone by his house to take him breakfast and that he was unresponsive and cold. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm sure she didnt get all of that out during the call. I'm sure that it wasnt until later when I got the rest of the story. All I know is that Nanny had called 911 and was waiting at the house for them to arrive. I didnt know if Pawpy was with her yet or not. So I had to go. I had to go. I had to go. Nothing else mattered.
Uncle Boe is my mom's brother. My mom has a brother. This is a significant statement that I feel is especially important to grasp. He is part of her. He may be absent at this time of life, but she will see him again as we all will. I'm so frustrated with everyone acting as if when death happens, the talk of that person no longer serves a purpose. But it does. He had and has a purpose.
Uncle Boe was a man who's life seemed calloused. It was broken and bruised many times. It was also fixed and ironed out many times. As much as I hate labels because I dont believe that anything should define our lives, he was by every definition and in every sense of the word, an alcoholic. The memories I have of him are many. Some are funny, some are painful. I relate so much of his life and his choices with the pain that was placed on my mom and Nanny's shoulders. They fought for him every single day and they loved him in such a powerful way. He knew it but he made the choice to drink because he liked to drink. And he had a disease. One of my last memories (much like many others that I have with him) is of a night that I was on a walk alone. I went to the door that we always went to when checking on him late at night and saw that he was awake on the couch. I went in and the house reeked of alcohol and smoke. He hadnt showered, probably in weeks and vomit covered the carpet next to him. Food bags from prior days lay around him, everything untouched. He didnt know me, but proceeded to talk to me in the drunk slumber that he encompassed. I told him I had gotten a new apartment a few blocks away and that he should come visit. He obliged, only to literally pass out before my eyes. I walked out the door with my heart heavy but feeling numb due to the repetition of this pattern we had all pursued in his life. But I loved my mom and my mom loved him. I loved Nanny and Nanny loved him. So ultimately, I loved him. They, however, would have died for him. They would have died for him. And I know he knew that.
So as I pulled up to the house on that early March morning and ran inside, the site before me was similar to that night a few weeks before when I had stopped in. Vodka bottles, cigarettes, vomit, food and an ungodly smell greeted me at the door. I quickly turned the corner of the room he was in to see Nanny and Pawpy in the dining room. I hugged Nanny as she stood shaking and I hugged Pawpy who was holding her hand. I couldnt keep my eyes off of my Nan. She was so strong and this boy was her whole world. Everything she thought about doing, and everything she ended up doing from sun up til sun down revolved around him. She didnt want to be co dependant, she wanted to be his mother. I watched as she picked her fingers nervously and her head rolled from side to side as she stood with her lips quivering. Pawpy sat beside her but her nervous energy wouldnt allow her to sit down. In a fairly quick manner the funeral home arrived. It was then that I think she finally realized that her suspicions were truly confirmed and this was really happening.
And it was then. At that exact moment when I looked into my Nanny's eyes and I knew that my life was about to change. It would never be the same.
It was not long after all of this occurred that my mom made her way to the house. She couldnt even walk without the help of my dad. She was crying so hard and screaming, and sobbing. I thought to myself that she would never make it through this day. My dad was crying. I hadnt seen that in awhile. Ever? It was the most painful scene that will never leave my mind. God, sometimes I wish it would for just a minute because it's so terrible to remember the pain they were all feeling. My mom draped herself over Pawpy and cried out "Daddy?" "Daddy?" I remember gathering in the kitchen and my mom asking me to pray over everyone. I did. It was hard and painful. But I did.
And it was then, in the midst of that circle of prayer, when I looked across at my mom's bloodshot eyes and trembling body that I knew my life was about to change. It would never be the same.
The days and the months following Uncle Boe's death feel like a blur to me. Grief over took everyone around me and there was a real disconnect between the people I love and myself. We were all simply trying to get through and get each other through. Months went by and I was still seeing Nanny almost every day, and if I didnt see her I would call and we would talk on the phone. In September of that year I moved to North Carolina to be with Daniel. We came home to tell everyone we were pregnant with Nora in December. At the beginning of January, Nanny had a fatal stroke that took her life. She would have died for that boy of hers...and I truly believe that she did. I have truly convinved myself that she died of a broken heart.
And now it is fully healed in paradise!
However, in that hospital room the night she died as we all gathered around her and prayed, I once again looked across the room to my own mother who was dying inside and I knew that my life was about to change. It would never be the same.
Life is not the same. My life as I once knew it, is gone. It died with the people that we loved. In a way, grief is mourning that life that was once part of your identity as much as it is mourning for the person who is now absent. Death steals so much more than life.
There is a whole other chapter to this "change" sequence and yet it is far more painful to write about than any of this has been. But, again, because of unimaginable circumstances, my life has changed and it will never be the same.
My mom has changed, I have changed, Jeni has changed, Jake has changed, my dad has changed. Everyone around us has changed because of the circumstances of life and death that have been poured into our lives. With those circumstances comes great commitment to learning who you are and the strength you encompass within yourself. But you cant get back that part of you that has gone away. You cant make the changes any different. That seems to be the most painful part of the whole process.
People have changed, lives have been torn apart, words have been spoken, hearts have been broken, anger has been unleashed, wedges have been placed, and yet it in all there is no greater joy than knowing that God still has control over our lives. Death steals alot of things. It changes people, families, thoughts and morals. But death does not have to steal your joy. Joy comes from Jesus Christ and joy can be present in the midst of complete darkness. In so many ways my life has been changed forever and will never be the same. But in once sense, there is something always steadfast about my life, and life in general. And that is Joy. Because I know, love, and serve a mighty God--I have found and can exercise in the truth and power of joy.
So have you ever had that profound moment? That one split second when you knew your life would never be the same? I wanna hear about it. Do share! It doesnt have to be as deep as mine and it probably wont be. But I know that we have all felt it and thats a great connection we share. So blog about it, leave me a comment to let me know you did, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story that was so life changing you knew it would never be the same!