Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finding God in Tragedy

When I started writing this blog a few years back, I never imagined anyone would want to read it, and I didn't anticipate having enough material to write something on an almost daily basis.  I'm in awe of those who are creative enough to come up with something interesting each day, and are able to build up an audience of devoted readers.  I can honestly say that I don't have any preconceived story ideas when I sit down to write (type...whatever).  Every so often I get an idea to write about, but I really only had a few stories worth telling, particularly early on.  Most of the time, I start typing out what's on my mind, and a story comes out.  I truly believe God has a big role in this, and I'd like to think He is the reason for my writing this blog.

In fact, early on, the blog was therapy for me.  I've mentioned many times here, my wife, Teresa, passed away nine years ago, five short months after the birth of our daughter.  Her death was the result of a heart condition we were unaware of, and she collapsed right in front of me during a walk outside of the school she taught at, Reservoir High, as a freshman English and public speaking teacher.  She had a massive heart attack, and paramedics were not able to revive her.  The time after her death was horrible for me.  Though I knew, as a follower of Christ, that Teresa was with the Lord in Heaven, I fell into a deep depression, and I was completely overwhelmed, both with the care of my daughter, and life in general.  I'm so fortunate to have had my family to support me during this rough period of my life.  And God was there with me through it all, even when I wasn't looking for Him.

The days ahead were awful, and every day was a chore.  Work was difficult, and I found myself just sleepwalking through many days.  At my lowest, I was coherent enough to send out a plea for help, and several people answered.  One of the first was Pastor Mark from my church, Grace Community.  He asked me if we could meet and talk, and we met at Seibel's restaurant in Burtonsville, where he listened to me run through all of the things that were bothering me.  Mark shared some advice with me that truly helped me work through the depression I was feeling at the time, and I credit him with starting me onto the road to recovery, or at least back into the living life again, and recognizing that I needed to turn to the Lord in order to get myself better, knowing that I wouldn't be any help to my daughter until I did so.

Another person who offered help was a wonderful young lady named Erin from one of the youth groups I had worked with about ten years prior.  She had gotten married quite young, and she and her husband were living in Kentucky with their three young children, including their 3 month old son.  I had remained in touch with her and her family.  About a year before Teresa died, Erin's husband was killed in a terrible car accident, leaving her a widow with three young kids.  When Erin heard about Teresa's death, she sent me a letter that provided so much encouragement and advice.  To this day, when I'm having a bad day, I can think of her kind words and they truly get me through the day.  She said that I should embrace the feelings that I was experiencing, as unique as they are, and recognize that I wasn't going to necessarily "get over" Teresa's death.  This experience was a part of me, a part of my "life story".  And there will be random times when memories of Teresa will pop up and into my head, and I may breakdown as a result.  And this is normal.  This advice ended up making the most sense to me and really helped me move forward in my grief.

Several months later, during a particularly bad time, I was going through some of Teresa's things and I found myself cleaning out her wallet.  In it was a little scrap of paper on which was written in her handwriting the following verse:  1 Peter 5:10 - "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast." This is such a powerful verse, and I immediately broke down and cried.  I felt like Teresa had written this verse for me to find, knowing that it would provide comfort at a time when I would need it.It is such a powerful

Stephen Namie's death and home going has been on my mind all week, and I've found myself thinking about Teresa's death all over again.  And though this is a time to remember and honor Stephen's life, my thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Tracy, and their children.  What can I say to them that might comfort them, especially when I find myself being overwhelmed by this?  I don't know.  But having been through what Tracy is going through, I hope that she will find herself surrounded by people who care about and for her, especially in the months ahead.  It's one thing to provide support to her in the days, and even weeks, to come, but it's the long-term that she will need people in her life.  I don't know Tracy, and I really didn't know Stephen very well, but I hope that those who do are able to be there for her.  And I pray that God "...will Himself restore her and make her strong, firm, and steadfast."

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