I’ve blogged about this day before.
This year, I felt that stir that I needed to get some words down, too. Here’s the deal, tho…I don’t need “likes” or rahrahs bc I’m writing this. What I need is “shares”. This day is so NOT about me. Not about my words. It’s SO not.
Let me back up.
Recently I got a tattoo. I didnt tell anyone except my kiddos (and hubby was there w/me); I did tell my mom yesterday…I wanted her to have something to consider as this day loomed over us like a dark cloud. This permanent mark was never intended to be hidden, but never intended to be advertised either. Its a reminder.
A memorial stone.
In Belize, a few new friends saw it and asked about it. I’ve been working on the perfectly crafted one sentence explanation for it. Not, “this is the day my dad killed himself”…um…crickets, crickets. I do NOT need a reminder that it happened. I do not need a reminder that it sucked or the ugly, messy struggle/aftermath that my family still gets stuck in. That’s not the purpose of this memorial. I needed a reminder of this:
Hope and love and purpose in darkness.
This day was my darkest. It was also the day that confirms for me the presence of Someone who knows and loves me. A Someone who doesnt operate with coincidences or karma. A Someone with intentional purpose…unconditional love despite the circumstances or the “feel”…and a hope for something MORE than this life.
That’s my memorial stone on my wrist.
On this day, I lost the man who loved me more than words. On this day, God showed me a love that would be my future…I met Brent. Darkness beyond measure – and a gift I wouldnt understand right away.
At Young Life’s Frontier Ranch, I was having (as advertised) “the best week of my life”. We were 2 vanloads of hooligans from Marcus HS and Lewisville HS. I was 15…living what felt like a seamless life on the cusp of exciting beginnings. I was a spoiled, self-interested teen without a care in the world (besides which pair of jams to wear or whether to sneak my devo and adam ant-heavy mix tapes/walkman into my cabin). I knew most of the kids (at least by name) on the trip by this day because we’d already had our historical camping expedition in the Grand Canyon on the way to Frontier (another SERIES of blogs for another time). In fact, there was this “new kid” that Ron B and I kinda borrowed some water from under a rock on the hike out of the GC. Um…he’ll never know…he’s the new kid, anyway…who really cares right?
On this day after club time and before activities for the day (my cabin was set to go horseback riding), as we were filing out to get ready, Don, my YL leader pulls me aside – “Kris, I need to talk to u…” He had red eyes. He wouldnt look me in the eyes. I knew something. Something bad. We walked out the back of the club room…about 10 steps down the long staircase…and we sat, silently for what seemed like 100 years. Part of me didnt want any words, because I knew the words coming were going to change everything. They would change me.
His words, thru tears were something like, “Kris, you have to go home. Today. It’s your dad…” That was it. I knew. Fifteen years of one life, now the beginning of another. After what felt like hours of crying with Don on that step, we got up. Stepped back up those 10 or so steps. They seemed taller and harder now. I couldnt really see them now. Just felt them. We headed back to my cabin where I’m assuming my BFFs and cabinmates had been told. More tears. Busy hands helping pack my bags. Hugs. The numbness was starting to set in, a bit.
After my bags were packed, it was time for goodbyes and to the airport in the big red passenger van with Don. But, here’s where the moment happens – dont miss it – God steps into my aching in a whisper…well, a hug actually. I can close my 44-year old eyes even now and see my friends lined up outside my cabin door to hug me and mumble goodbyes. (You think its hard as adults to find the right words in these moments, consider for a sec 20ish teenagers grappling for words…even as I look back, I’m overwhelmed by EVERY SINGLE ONE of them and their effort to string together some kind of comfort.) I still see their faces. I still remember the girls crying and the guys avoiding eye contact and wiping a stray tear away here/there. I still see them.
But the moment that I see the most clearly was when I moved down the sidewalk thru my friends and their hugs and “the new kid” stepped out and hugged me. A quick, awkward hug by a 15 year old fella…doing all he knew to do. Probably 15 seconds in the swirling storm of some of the longest minutes of my life. And just like that, I was in the van headed back to my new normal. But something kinda funny happened on that van ride home. In an effort to avoid any conversation or pressure on Don to comfort me, I stretched out across the front row of the van and pretended to sleep on that drive to the airport. Pretended…bc sleep was nowhere in sight, I assure you. My mind raced…with avoidance of reality to come. Instead, I thought about that new kid. Why’d he hug me? He didnt even know me.
The next few weeks were a messy, confusing time. Thoughts of the new kid kept me sane at times…an escape, maybe. After the dust settled, I reached out to him. I called him (pretending to be inviting him to Campaigners…with my partner in crime, Desiree sitting close by with a notepad feeding me lines and such). That summer we spent lots of time on the phone…lots of time at Campaigners. He was my escape…my reminder that life was not over. Even now, I look back and cannot even imagine what it was like for him. I was so very damaged. I was beyond fragile. Fifteen year olds arent supposed to be broken. Why’d he invest in me? Why’d he stay?
The rest of the story is for another time…life was messy and twisty. He stayed by my side…he became my best friend and confidant. The things I dropped on him and he endured for the next 1 1/2 years as my friend…I’m still amazed he never gave up on me. He waited. He stayed. We started dating in 87 and have never broken up. Twenty seven years ago.
God knew. He doesnt make mistakes. 6.19.85. The day God gave me the ultimate gift. The day His promise to “never leave you and never forsake you” became real to me. My worst day. My best day.
Reading a book today (Restless – by Jennie Allen) and she reminded me of this:
my purpose on this earth is to know God and to make Him known.
My story – my memorial stone – is for that reason. To make Him known. 6.19.85. He was there. Bigger than the ugly. Even in the messy. No “likes”, just “shares”. I want to make Him known today. The God of hope. The only Source of my purpose here.
And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of theLord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of theLord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” – Joshua 4:5-7