Every Tuesday I go to a bible study through my church with men and women my age. We meet at someones house and every month we have a different topic we are following and discussing. Last month the topic was on pray. This month topic is on pain. Questions like where is God when your in pain? The topic this week on pain was grief. I sat their quietly listening as I heard one woman share how she has lost someone every year since she was young. Another person talked about losing nine people all within the past two years that were either family or close friends. One woman shared the loss of her father in her early twenties. Another topic that was brought out of this discussion was pain from the end of a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
I have always said how blessed I am to have never lost anyone to death besides my grandma when I was seven and have very little memories of her because she lived in Michigan. The only other person I can really think of that had an impact on my life is my great grandma who also lived in Michigan. She lived into her mid-90’s dying in 2003. We saw her every summer up until her death and recently a little over a year ago went and visited her grave when we were in Michigan last year for my cousin’s wedding. While it was sad when she died I also knew she lived a long life into her 90’s. If that isn’t a lifetime I don’t know what is. She made a promise to me before she died in a letter she wrote me a few years earlier sharing with me that she would be my guardian angel when she died. I still have that letter and believe she is up there looking down.
I feel blessed in the sense that I have lived 24 years of life and have not lost anyone close to me that did not live their life out. A few months ago I went looking for a friend I made at summer camp when I was 12 years old. We were at Van Buren Youth Camp in Michigan. A week away from home. I made a whole bunch of new friends in my cabin but became particularly close with one girl named Laura. We spent the whole week doing every activity together from swimming, sitting next to each other when we ate, hung out on cabin row and played card games, held hands when we walked in a big line to the campfire and sang songs, nearly tipped over on our canoe adventure that had us laughing so hard we couldn’t steer the canoe and eventually drifted away from everyone and ended up stuck in a shallow area and had to be rescued by camp counselors. Our nights always ended with us staying up talking in the dark, giggling about childish things, and often hearing the voice of camp staff going down cabin row at night and hearing the words “Cabin 8 go to bed.” Laura and I wrote letters back and forth after camp ended but eventually I lost contact with her. When facebook was the new thing I looked Laura up in 2005 to see if I could find her. Unfortunately I could not. I tried again a year later and had no luck. For years I have had a photo of Laura and I sitting on the shelve above my computer of us at summer camp reminding me of the peace and joy that one week I looked forward to more then anything every year of my youth. In 2008 when the photo caught my attention I decided to do another look for Laura and found her facebook page right away but the photo did not look like the Laura I remembered. Her profile picture showed a bald woman who looked like she was fighting cancer. Unfortunately the profile below it was a memorial page for Laura she had died in February 2007 from years battling cancer. I sat stunned and realized the photo of the Laura I had sitting above my desk was Laura at 12 years old at the time she nor I knew it but she had already reached the half way point of her life dying at the young age of 22. Discovering this makes me ask those questions we all ask when someone so young passes on. The questions of why? Why someone who had their whole life ahead of them? While we may never understand I believe when God takes someone before their time he really has a plan and a purpose. God had bigger plans for Laura in Heaven. Reading about her life after our years at camp on her memorial site that is filled with pictures and stories she did so much good and had such a heart for children and God. I can just picture her now in Heaven taken young children who also went home before their time out on a lake with a canoe showing them a good time and this time not getting stuck.
The reason behind this entire post was what was really on my mind when I listened as people went around Tuesday night sharing pain and grief from something they lost. I lost a whole bunch of people in my life but it wasn’t from cancer, definitetly not an accident, no hurricane or tornado came and wiped them out of my life even though it sometimes felt like one of those natural disasters. In fact every single one of these people are still alive some so young they don’t understand or know why they don’t see their uncle, aunt, and 3 of their cousins. I’ve lost over 30 family members all on one side due to incest. God put them in my life for 21 years for a reason. I must say though it is hard for me to even go there and think how people can write five family members out of their life when two girls were sexually abused by someone in the family who confessed. Does it make any sense? No it doesn’t and I know it will never make sense so instead of driving myself crazy I learned to let it go. I mourned the loss of people I once loved and called family and moved on knowing God has a purpose behind everything that happens in our lives and even when it doesn’t make sense now someday it will.
I used to ask God as a teen laying in bed at night when I couldn’t sleep “Why did you choose our large, happy, loving, family to be hurt so badly?” I would later come to learn in my relationship with God that he did not choose us but instead evil came into our lives through my cousin. I would then follow up with a question to God saying “Why didn’t you protect Brian from the demons he was battling from becoming an abuser?” The answer I got from that was God’s grace of opening my eyes to the triumph he was going to show me in this tragedy where so much was lost.
I will close this by saying the biggest loss I have experienced in my life by losing my family has taught me so much and reminded me God has a purpose even if we cannot understand it. I know someday the anger, bitterness, pain, rage, awkwardness, etc. will not follow the family I lost into our next lifetime. That kind of hurt will be left here on this Earth and will not follow us to Heaven. At God’s dinner table and in his green pastures all of this pain and grief will be gone and peace is all we will have for each other. I have no doubt. Until then I continue to pray for them.