In the summer of 2006, Howie and I faced a chain reaction of death. It all started when we got a call that one of Howie's friends had committed suicide. Up until that point, Howie and I had very little experience with death. His dad had passed away when he was 5 and I had lost an uncle when I was 18 but that had been it. We had been blessed and were ignorant to the pain and loss of death. Boy did that change in a few short months!
A few weeks later we got a call that Howie's sweet uncle John had died. That was August of 2006. On October 18th, my aunt Jennie died and then two months to the day, my aunt Irene died. My mother was devastated. We went to Colorado to console her and to attend the funeral. A few hours after the funeral we got word that Howie's aunt Lottie had died. It was almost too much to bear. It was surreal, like some kind of cosmic joke.
We came back to the east coast on Christmas Eve and received news that night that one of our friends had passed away of the flu of all things. Two months later Howie's cousin Mister caught pneumonia while visiting Puerto Rico and died there. By this point we were afraid to answer the phone and felt like we were in a constant state of fear and anxiety but at the same time were becoming numb to death.
A few weeks after that, we received notice that Howie's step-father, Herb, had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He died 4 weeks to the day he was diagnosed. My grandma followed 4 days later. We barely had enough time to move Mamaw in with us and welcome Bear into the family when we received word that Howie's cousin Julie passed away.
Five weeks later, on his way home from Easter dinner 2007, Howie's uncle Post had a massive aneurysm and died unexpectedly. In December of that year I got the call that my mom passed away and then eleven months later I lost my dad and Howie lost another aunt.
If you do the math, it adds up to 14 people in 27 months...or an average of one person every seven weeks for two years straight. For me, everything culminated with the death of my mom. I simply gave up and suffered my own spiritual death at that point. I was angry that so much had happened to us. I felt like we were being punished and didn't have a clue why. I couldn't imagine how God could bring so much suffering upon us. One death is hard enough but this felt like we were continuously being pummeled, with barely enough time to breath between blows.
After my mom's service, I received a leather pouch from the funeral home. It contained her picture, prayer cards and a book that had all her information and visitor signatures. I also put flower cards in there, a newspaper clipping and pictures of her grave stone. I stored it on a shelf in my closet, tucked safely away. A few months after she died, I went to the closet and rummaged through the pouch. I had been missing her and was starting to forget the contour of her face and the sound of her voice. I stared at her picture for what seemed like hours. I laid on the floor and cried until my eyes were swollen and I was congested and utterly exhausted. God was nowhere to be found.
It was then that I started doubting my faith. I couldn't fathom how God could make me suffer this way, that he could take so much from me. It was at this time that I fell prey to many temptations in my life. I allowed myself to do things that before had been off limits. I lied more, I was quicker to anger. I was sad, I listened to the bad dialogue in my head. I withdrew from my extended family, I picked fights with Howie, I stopped caring about myself and most of all, I rebuffed God. I turned further away from him than ever before and was stubborn about it. I refused to go to church and when anyone would tell me that my loved ones "were with God", I felt like punching them in the face. I was overall annoyed with everything and everybody.
When people talked about God I wanted to walk away. I felt like I had nothing in common with them and was pretty annoyed with them altogether. With each passing day, I turned further and further away from God. It didn't seem so at the time, but I was completely lost. I was scared and alone and in a tremendous amount of pain. I covered it up as best as I could but inside, there was a full-fledged war going on.
It wasn't until a few months later that I noticed it. It started with a little tap on my shoulder. Then a nudge here and there and a voice that would not be quieted no matter how much I tried to tune it out.
This song below, mirrors my exact feelings during that time. I'm sure you've all heard it before on the radio but if you have time, take a moment to really listen to the lyrics. They are amazing. It's as if The Fray wrote it for me :-)