There Is Happiness in Messy Times
My world stopped when my dad phoned me on a Friday afternoon to notify me that my sister passed away earlier that day. I was a young and single Army Officer living in Colorado Springs. I didn’t have a care in the world, other than experiencing life with my friends. I was scheduled to head up to the mountains and ski all weekend long with a few of my friends from college. That all changed when my dad called with the worst news of my life.
Kim, my sister, was a beautiful young woman barely in her 30s. She lived with her family in Anderson, Indiana. She moved back to Anderson after giving birth to her child, Zachary, out in Texas while her husband, Daryl, was still a Military Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Army.
To my parents delight, Kim and Daryl decided to move back home as Daryl transitioned from the military into a law enforcement career. My parents were thrilled, my sister was happy, and I was content living out my life in Colorado and just riding it like one big wave that never crested.
My body went numb, in response to the news of Kim’s untimely death. My vibrant and cheerful existence came to a screeching halt. Everything I cared about and thought was important no longer mattered. My planned weekend trip to the mountains seemed small and short sighted. My apartment and all my material possessions I collected seemed hollow. Everything in my world became less important, except getting home to my family and mourning the loss of my sister.
I sat still and quiet on the plane ride home alone. I did nothing, I said nothing, I thought of nothing, I simply observed. I noticed a young couple snuggling a few rows ahead of me as they headed off on their honeymoon. An elderly man read a book while his wife worked a crossword puzzle next to him. A young mother tried her best to keep her infant daughter occupied and to not disrupt the other passengers. There was a low hum of conversation and activity around me, yet I felt distant and detached from it all.
I came to the harsh realization that the world truly did not care that my sister was gone. In fact, if I were to disappear at that very moment, with a few minor exceptions, I wouldn’t be missed. The world kept humming along even though my sister was no longer a part of it. I reclined my seat, closed my eyes and contemplated my mortality as I tried to make sense of my sister’s death. By the time the plane landed in Indy, nothing changed. The main thing I learned from my short flight to Indianapolis was that in the end, none of it really mattered.
I’ve never seen my parents so broken. My mom looked lost and my dad seemed stunned. They lost a child, the ultimate pain for any parent. My childhood home was teeming with activity. It seemed that everyone we knew stopped by to offer assistance. The outpouring of love and support those first few days was beautiful and inspiring, but eventually I knew it would subside and life would go back to normal for everyone except us. Kim was gone and she was not coming back. We were an incomplete family now; except God had other plans.
I’ve never seen a funeral home so packed as it was the night of my sister’s viewing. The line of people who came to pay their respects poured out into the parking lot. People waited patiently for hours to hug us, cry with us, and provide words of encouragement. The floral flagrance from the hundreds of bouquets of flowers filled the space. I was told that the flower shops in town ran out of flowers, so as an alternative, people began to send decorative blankets, statues, and money, anything they could get their hands on to honor my sister and her memory, it was nothing less than amazing.
My parents approached the viewing that evening like they always did in any major event or time of crisis. They simply showed up and served people. My mom stood by my sister’s lifeless body for over eight hours and met and thanked everyone that came. My dad worked the room and made sure everyone was comfortable and thanked them for coming. I simply walked the line of well wishers so I could get a chance to shake every person’s hand or hug them to show our appreciation. I learned that night, that it doesn’t matter what you say in moments of sorrow, it’s your presence that matters most, and I was stunned by the presence of so many in support of my family.
As I greeted folks in line I saw many familiar faces, friendly faces, and people who really did comfort me with their genuine love and sympathy for what I experienced, but there was one that stood out like an angel among them all, the one that God brought to me and my family.
She was young with beautiful platinum blonde hair. Her eyes were bright with life and she had a smile that changed the temperature of the room. I never laid eyes on Alia until that night and the image of her 5’2” frame and the warmth I felt in her presence is ingrained in my memory as one of the best moments of my life, which is ironic because I met her during one of the worst moments of my life.
But is that not how God works? He called my sister home; she is in a much better place, but what about the rest of us that were left behind? God didn’t turn his back on us; He filled the gap with Alia. He gave my mom and dad a wonderful daughter-in-law that they love and respect, and He gave me a lifelong partner that would fill the space in my heart that only a woman in Christ could fill. Alia and I were engaged within five months after our first encounter that night and were married a year later, the start of a lifelong romance that still shines bright today.
The night I met Alia was a watershed moment for me as a Christian, because it was in that moment that I truly understood God’s love. In the messiest of times, God always shows up. In the best of times God always shows up. He is always there. In fact, I’ve learned that His presence can always be felt if I only take the time to notice.
Yes, I miss my sister deeply, but when I look at my young family I am reminded of the gift that God gave me thirteen years ago at the funeral home, when I desperately needed Him to show up in my life. My relationship with Alia is a constant reminder that in darkness there is always light. And with my kids, I am reminded that in death there is always a rebirth and in the end, light will always outshine the darkness EVERYTIME, Amen.
Whatever is going on in your life right now, do you believe God is with you? Are you looking?