It happens every year. For a week or so before Easter the sadness and anxiety comes. For the most part, everything is normal in my day. But when the moments are quiet, it is there, anxiously building each day until I finally cry unto God and tell him I don't understand. Then, there is that gentle reminder of the event that forever changed Easter weekend for me. It happened so long ago that one would think it wouldn't affect me now, but somehow it sneaks up on me every year without my knowing it. Maybe it's because I am at a point in my beautiful life that I no longer dwell on it eventhough it will forever be a part of me.
The year was 1995. I was a senior in high school. My mother and I had gone to see my grandmother for a couple of days. I loved my visits with my grandmother, and I never wanted to leave her when it was time to go home. When I awoke that Saturday morning, however, I couldn't get home fast enough. I didn't want to leave, but at the same time, something was strongly pulling me home. It was more than the fact that I had a date that night with the love of my life.
Once I got home and saw Chad, I felt so much better. He knew I didn't have an Easter dress that year. He had saved his money and asked his sister to take him shopping. On that trip, he purchased the dress that he gave to me that evening when he picked me up. I know to some of my readers that will sound very strange, but that was just the type of person he was.
We had a wonderful date. We just ate steak and potatoes at his home. I loved going to his home for a date. His family was always so much fun to be around. There was never a dull moment. After taking me home, I watched him get in that big, blue "tank," put on his seat belt, blow me a kiss and wave good-bye and smile over his steering wheel. I watched him drive down our street.
I went inside and got distracted but soon remembered I had not tried on my dress. I quickly put it on in excitement, and was admiring it in the mirror when the phone rang. It was his mother telling me Chad had been in a bad accident. All she knew was that he was being transported by ambulance to the hospital. I sat in the floor crying trying to tell my mother. She got me to change clothes and we headed to the hospital. The ambulance was not there, so we left and began to trace Chad's route home. We soon met the ambulance and followed it back to the hospital. I remember the white light of the window as we followed and the occassional glimpse of an EMT. I remember being in the waiting room and seeing the nurse come through the door and hearing her say the doctors were trying to get a pulse. I remember my mom's arm around me and hearing her ask if I wanted to pray. After intially saying no for some reason, I quickly changed my mind. We knelt beside the chairs in the waiting room floor. I don't remember what my mom prayed, but I remembered asking God not to let Chad die. More than that, I remember that just after I told God I wanted His will to be done, the doctor came through the door. He was a friend of Chad's family. I watched him walk toward Chad's mother and try to speak. Then I saw him just shake his head, unable to say the words. All I remember then is the writhing scream of "NO!" that welled up and out of me as I still knelt on my knees. We were moved to the chapel where I watched his only sister and sibling and his parents suffer and the hall fill with teenage friends. Sometime later, we were allowed to see him. I waited my turn by my mother's side. I remember the team of doctors standing a few feet to the side of his bed. Their white coats stood out cold against that darkened side of the room, but I couldn't look at them. All I wanted to do was hold Chad's hand. Strangely, I was startled when his strong hand that had always dwarfed my own didn't wrap around my hand. I suppose that was when the shock started to wear off and the painful, sad reality started setting in. I don't know how long we were at the hospital, but I returned to Chad's home with my mother after leaving the hospital in the wee hours of the morning. In doing so, we passed the accident scene. His truck from which he was pulled out from under was still there, upside down and facing the wrong way. I don't believe I will ever forget the sight. After being medicated that night, all I could do was cry for days. I don't remember when I was actually able to eat again without getting incredibly sick, and it took me two weeks to reluctantly return to school. It was the first time in my life I understood things of this world just don't matter when we think in terms of eternity. Our highschool prom was two weeks away. My dress hung on me and had to be quickly altered because I was determined to go in Chad's memory. I went alone despite several sweet offers of other young men to go with me in support.
So much has happened in my life since that year. Not all has been good, but the parts that have been bad have brought me into such a close relationship with God. His loving kindness never ceases to amaze me each day. I can't begin to tell you how often I praise Him each day for what He has done for me. I'm not the person I once was, and I praise Him for His mercy and grace! He could have left me the wretched person I became in the years that followed that night, but praise God, when I cried unto Him and asked him to forgive me and let me return home like the prodigal son, He ran to me with his arms stretched out wide! Praise God, praise God, praise God!
When that anxiety and sadness sink in each year, it takes a while for me to realize what is going on. Once I do, I allow myself a short time to mourn again. It's hard to feel that pain all over again. I didn't think I would get through the retelling of it for this post, but it was something I had to do. I have accepted the sadness and let it come. The memory and tears have come just like every year. Maybe there will be a time in the future when they don't, but until then, I will lean on God when they do. He is the greatest comforter there is. In those tearful moments, He reminds me who He is and who He created me to be. He reminds me of what He has brought me through in my life and the precious gifts He has given me. When those thoughts come, my tears of sadness mix with tears of joy until my joy is restored anew and overflowing. I just want to sing his praises! Then Easter begins.
It's funny how most years, the climax of emotions happens on Good Friday, the day my Jesus died for me. One day I will see my Jesus and be able to kneel and touch the scars in the hands that He stretched out for me. What a day that will be.