There Is Happiness in Messy Times


There Is Happiness in Messy Times

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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?

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29 comments

  1. One of the most beautiful and moving blog posts I have ever read…thank you for sharing it. Kim was a dear friend, fellow dancer, and inspiration to me and many others. God Bless you and your family.

    Reply
    1. Thanks, Kelli for your comment. I appreciate you for taking the time to comment on, Kim.

      Reply
  2. We went to high school in Anderson together. I’m not sure if you remember me. Every much enjoyed your article. What else caught my attention is your description of what you do for living. It sounds in line with my personal fiber and I humbly believe that further conversation on these topics might be inspiring for both of us. Please reach out to me 317-250-7041 if you so desire.

    Reply
    1. Hey Neal, I do remember you! I will try to connect with you soon.

      Reply
  3. Very moving. Your story also illustrates the need to reach out and interact with each other rather than all the other distractions we deal with on a daily basis: tv, ipod, computer, etc. That everything can be taken away in an instance. Never lose the chance to tell them you love them and spend quality time together. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Good point, Jeremiah, thanks for highlighting that. You are so right!

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  4. Erick, what a beautiful story, and I am so fortunate to have met you and Alia. Just wished we lived closer so I could babysit for you! LOL but seriously, you and Alia were a godsend to me when I met you and helped you adjust to the new area. You both are such good people. Tell Alia hi for me! LU

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    1. Joyce, it is good to hear from you. You were a blessing to us when we first moved to Colorado. You were one of the first we notified when we found out we were pregnant for Ashley! I hope you are doing well.

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  5. well, erick, i read this crying…..this is so heartfelt…i have to call aunt carolyn and cry with her. i am so glad alia is part of our family, too. scuse the lower case—it’s just faster. love you, aunt joyce

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    1. Thanks Aunt Joyce, we appreciate you very much!

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  6. What a beautiful story in a very tragic time God bless.

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  7. Thank you, Erick, for your loving thoughts and beautiful expression of love and loss. I remember so well. I was so fond of Kim (our Indian maiden) and of your whole family. We lost a grandson a year ago. I will try to be as strong as you but my world has shattered. You do give me hope for a brighter day ahead. I always adored you but especially now. With love.

    Reply
    1. Mrs. Dorris, thanks for your comment. I am truly sorry to hear about your grandson. That pain you feel is very real and never truly goes away. Your body and soul will just learn to adapt to a new life without your loved one. There is pain on planet Earth, but eternal peace awaits you if you believe.

      Thanks for being such a great inspiration to so many of us AHS grads. You truly are special, I appreciate you!

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  8. You two and your babies are so precious.
    What a touching story! Thanks for sharing!!
    God is Good!

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  9. I remember the Day very well. I was shocked. I am a close friend of your Dad. I was around Kim quite a bit. She was a beautiful girl & so full of life. I watched your Dad grieve. He loves all his children very much. He would always talk about them to me. You have wonderful parents.

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    1. Thanks Buddy. I agree!

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  10. wow man i’m in shock. awesome words…

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    1. Thanks Buck, God is good.

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  11. What a beautiful testimony….beauty from ashes. Living just down the street, I remember all of you working so hard to take the rocks out of your new back yard years ago and make your place every bit your home. As young as you were, you and your sister pitched in, working very hard. Your sister was so full of life and energy, and it struck me that someone so vibrant was gone so quickly. I remember how shocked I was when I learned about her death. Just a lovely family. I’m not surprised you made something of yourself. She’d be so proud of you.

    Reply
    1. Thank you for your comments, Susan. That was very sweet!

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  12. That was so beautiful Erik. She would be proud of the man you turned out to be.

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    1. Thanks, Rita, I hope so.

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  13. Dear Eric, We know and love your parents so very much. They speak so highly of you and after reading your post about your sister, I understand the pride they have in you.

    If you aren’t a writer, you should be. Your post is so well written and inspiring. I’ve had to face some unexpected circumstances in my life and like you . . . have depended on our Heavenly Father to see me through. We serve an awesome God.

    Thanks for your message. Ali Barnes

    Reply
    1. Hi, Ali, thank you for your encouraging words and for your testimony! I do write and speak publicly on a regular basis, although I wish I could write and speak more.

      My parents are an inspiration as was my sister. I’m glad you are friends!

      Reply
  14. Very nice thoughts , I remember you on that day . I have experienced similar . Surreal. Unnatural. It’s been that way EVERY TIME some one I know dies. Since before i became a christian till even today. Since the first- uncle Sonny rheam – to the last -Ashley …. Because it is!! Unnatural, humans were created to live FOREVER. As the genesis account relates. The TRUE hope is that God will undo ALL the effects of sin, under his kingdom (government) ruled by his son Christ Jesus. Then we will have the conditions again that were lost by our original parents in the Garden…all those in the grave will be RESURECTED !! REVELATION 21: 1-4 … that will be something to witness!

    Reply
    1. Well said, Greg, thank you.

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  15. I remember this very well – all works out – I now the brokenness your parents felt – and you….and you were blessed you got to meet your future wife in the most untimely of places! she’s blessed, too. sorry for the lower case letters – it’s faster

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    1. You’re awesome, Aunt Joyce!

      Reply
  16. I don’t know how to fix it – I meant know not the word now

    Reply

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