|February 8, 2016|
Last September, I sat in the front row of a room full of people who had gathered together to celebrate the graduation of 39 men and women who had just completed their training as police officers. An older gentleman sat down beside me and we quickly struck up a conversation. It turns out that his grandson and my brother were from the same department. We talked for quite a while before my Aunt leaned over to make sure he wasn't bothering me. He wasn't. The man was beaming from ear to ear and was eager to tell me all about himself and his grandson. Before we knew it, the graduates were ready to march to the front of the room where they would be recognized for their achievements.
The moment my brother walked up to the stage, I started whooping and hollering at the top of my lungs, just like I used to during his football days. I was prouder than proud and afterwards he told me that he thought all of our family was working together to make all that racket. When I had finished cheering, the man beside me said, "Oh! That was your brother? You shoulda warned me. If I'da known, I'da hollered too!" Needless to say, I gave a couple of cheers when his grandson marched across the stage.
After the ceremony, everyone joined their police officer for pictures and congratulations. From there, the officers wandered around congratulating each other and saying their see ya laters. When we were on our way back to the dorms to pick up my brother's belongings, we passed the old man one more time and congratulated the family. As we were walking away he said, "Goodbye, sister and brother!" And I smiled all over again.
It was raining that day. The same rain that turned into the flood in Columbia less than one week later. But the rain didn't take away from the excitement and the pride and the joy that was floating around that gym.
I got news today that that man's grandson committed suicide yesterday. Last September when we watched him march across the stage, none of us knew that he only had less than six months to live. Nobody knew that this man with a badge and a gun and a bullet proof vest would use a gun to take his own life. None of us knew the pain that he carried with him in his heart. We knew that he was young and had his whole life ahead of him. Turns out, that "whole life" was less than six months.
When I received the news, I walked directly to the window to look at the sun streaming in. I thought of the young man and of the stories my brother has told me about him. I thought of his grandpa and what this news will mean to him. I did what I promised myself I would do in 2016 as I mulled over this bad news by whispering the words, "Behold, our God!" to myself.
I sit here at my table by that same window looking up every now and then to see the sun shining through the big maple in our backyard and to watch the squirrel scurry around collecting nuts and seeds and I'm still thinking of that young man and his grandpa. News like that cannot be easy to receive. I have so many questions and the one I keep coming back to is, "What now?" The young man is GONE. He's finished carrying around the burdens life on this earth gave him. His family just got a new burden added to their shoulders.
And I'm thinking about my Grandma's sister who finally called to tell my Grandma that she was diagnosed with ALS in October and was given six months to live. One at the cusp of adulthood, choosing to take his life less than six months after a huge accomplishment and the other dealing with a diagnosis at 50 years old knowing that her time is running out and FAST. Suicide and disease are both heavy burdens to bear. They both remind us that life on this earth will always be tainted by sin.
I could talk about how none of us know how much longer we have, but that's not what's on my mind. What's on my mind are the stories of the lives that we DO have. We took my Mom out for an early birthday lunch yesterday. She'll be 49 on Saturday and hearing my youngest brother pray the words, "May she be with us for a good long while." made me tear up then and they're making me bawl today. All I can do is cry and pray and remind myself to behold OUR God.
Pray for these families. Pray for the family dealing with this young man's suicide. Pray for my Grandma and her sister. Pray for my Mom, that her 49th year would be full of God's grace and that we would have her with us for a good long while.
Death and disease and aging and burdens play a huge part of life here. May we work together to make finding the answers to the "What now?" question a little easier. Along the way, may we stop to behold God, for the wonder of His glory is all around us. Even in times like these.