“Nothing in your life happens that is not caused by or allowed by God.” ~ Pastor Terry, Destiny Church Las Vegas
This means that everything has purpose. I don’t know about you, but this statement brings me such peace. Peace in knowing everything that has already happened in my life was supposed to happen, and peace in knowing that my future is in His capable hands. Friends, we need not worry about what might happen! It wasn’t until I realised this that I could say, “it is well with my soul.” You see, the day after we celebrated my 23rd birthday with my family, I got a call from my mom saying, “come home right now, dad is (long pause) …it’s really bad, just come home now.”
5 years earlier my dad was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which had been traced back to multiple blood transfusions he received in the hospital as a new-born in the early ‘50’s. This was prior to the blood being tested and knowledge of these horrible diseases. My senior year of high school, my dad and mom spent a lot of time in for a clinical study on a new drug to treat Hep C. The cost of treatment is ridiculously expensive, and insurance wasn’t covering it, which is why they applied and opted for the study. The nurses and staff were amazing, my Dad had grown close to his favourite nurse, Lee. She was sweet and caring, often taking phone calls from my parents and meeting with them when he had to go in for check-ups and treatment analysis.
I remember towards the end of that treatment; my dad was not doing well. The treatment was deteriorating his body, his mind, and his hope. My mom had called Lee to talk to her about it and she said get the guns out of the house and get him to his local doctor to increase or change his anti-depressant medication. So, we did, and then Cody (my boyfriend at the time, now husband) and I went to dinner with my Mom. For some reason my dad wasn’t home and my brother, Jake didn’t want to go so we said we’d bring food home for them and off we went. When we got home, Jake said dad came home in a rage looking for his guns. When he found out they were gone, he got angrier and started yelling at my brother to bring him all the pills in the house. It was a night I will remember forever, we didn’t know what to do and we were all in shock. My grandparents came over and my Papa spent time with my dad speaking hope and life into his soul. God had spared my dad’s life that night.
After a year of intense treatment, similar to chemo, they found out that the drug they were testing in the study hadn’t worked and his blood virus count was actually much higher than before starting treatment. The study was over, and he had to find another means of treatment. For the next few years, my parents exhausted every avenue looking for a treatment that they could actually somewhat afford. It was devastating for all of us. We prayed for a miracle, we prayed for healing and most importantly we continued to pray for my dad’s salvation. As a little girl, I remember praying every night at bedtime for my daddy to give his heart to Jesus. It wasn’t until Easter 2008 that he finally let go of doing life his way, and let Jesus into his heart and gave his life to the Lord. I remember the tears streaming down my face as he grabbed my mom’s hand and raced down the aisle during altar call. After that, things were different. His attitude changed, he wanted to go to church, he was reading his bible, sharing Jesus with others and he seemed happy. That summer, we were all baptised as a family and you’d never believe he was the first one in the water!
Eventually, my dad was able to get a pharmaceutical company to sponsor him and he was able to complete the treatment locally. He was over a year into this treatment, the side effects were debilitating sometimes. The treatment consisted of pills to take, injections he had to give himself and the side effects were too long to list. I recall nausea, hair loss, overall weakness, shingles down his arms and back at one point, the list goes on. The virus was strong, and the treatment was not aggressive enough, so the doctor had him double the dosage. At the time, my mom was working full time, 2 jobs sometimes, and going to school online. My brother had just turned 19 and graduated high school, Cody and I had gotten married a few years prior and lived 30 minutes away. The house was busy but lonely and my dad was miserable. You could visibly see his health deteriorating both physically and mentally.
Many days, I would take my lunch break from work and go to my parent’s house to visit with my dad. I know he looked forward to it and his face would light up when I’d come in the house. I was at a place in my life that was not a highlight for me. I was young, married and on top of the world. My husband and I had experienced success early in life and many viewed us as a “power couple.” We drove fancy cars, ate out all the time and would take weekend trips on a whim. My husband took over the family business which required countless hours from both of us. Over the years we slowly started working more and going to church less and my relationship with the Lord suffered. My prayer life was non-existent, and I was too worried about the next designer handbag to purchase to stop long enough and spend time with Him.
This particular day was a Sunday and we were celebrating my 23rd birthday at my parent’s house with my family. My dad had gone to the store earlier that day for a last-minute dinner ingredient and had trouble just completing the task, feeling weak and nearly passing out in the store. He was pretty grumpy and went to bed early, before we had left. After he went to bed, we were talking about many things, but I did have a tug on my heart saying, “clear out the guns.” A few years earlier, my parents had moved, and my dad had convinced my mom that he was fine and could have his guns back. I mentioned it and we all kind of looked at each other and it felt like a silly idea, so we moved on with the conversation.
Cody and I said our goodbyes to Mom and Jake. I looked at the closed bedroom door and felt a nudge to go in, to tell my dad that I love him and to say goodbye. I brushed it off telling myself he was already asleep, and I’d see him tomorrow or the next day. On the way home, my husband was driving, and I felt this beating in my chest and a voice telling me to pray for my dad. I brushed it off. I didn’t pray. I went on worried about myself and probably what I would wear for work the next day or something stupid.
The next day was Monday, March 23, 2009. I had a long day at work and lunchtime was nearly over, I had been working nonstop and didn’t even have a chance to eat. I looked at the clock and contemplated taking a lunch break and heading over to see my dad. I talked myself out of it and thought he would be grumpy still anyway and I could just keep working and maybe cut out to head home a little early instead. So, that’s what I did and made it almost to my house when I got that phone call. It was my mom, there was panic in her voice “come home right now, dad is (long pause) …its really bad, just come home now.” I called my brother, Jake and my husband, Cody for them to meet me at my parent’s house. Traffic was horrible, and it took what felt like an eternity to get there.
The fire department was leaving when I pulled up and there were police at the house. “What is going on!?” I kept thinking. Just writing this now makes my heart beat heavy and my chest pound hard. My mom was in the front yard and Jake and Cody were in the background, I didn’t even see them, I just ran for my mom. She grabbed me and said, “He’s gone.” I remember screaming so loud and crying the “ugly cry” I remember the most horrible feeling in the world like it was yesterday. Earlier that day, my dad had given up hope and taken his own life.
We weren’t allowed in the house while the police completed their investigation. Neighbour were getting home from work and started coming over to see what was going on. I called my boss to tell her I wouldn’t be in tomorrow. And then it was time for the coroner to take my dad’s body away. We waited in the neighbour’s garage in silence and I wiped off what little makeup was left on my face.
Soon, my grandparents showed up along with many aunts and uncles, the pastors of our church stood in our driveway with us for hours and cried and prayed with us. Everyone left, and it was time to go home, but I couldn’t. I felt like a little girl scared of the dark that couldn’t be alone. My mom, brother, grandparents and my husband and myself headed to my grandparent’s house. I remember the drive, it was just Cody and I in our car, he was driving, and I just remember saying “what do we do now?”
At this point it was after 10pm but I remember pizza being delivered to their house. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think. My husband is the sweetest, he called family and went to pick up air mattresses, so we could all be together that night. We camped out in every room of my grandparent’s house. I did not sleep, my eyes burned from crying so much there were hardly any tears left. The entire night, all I could do was cry out “Lord, Jesus!” There were no words, there were no thoughts, just tossing and turning, crying, and saying “Lord, Jesus!” All. Night. Long.
The next few days were a blur. I remember crying, praying, and reading my bible. God is so good and gracious, He was there waiting with His arms open wide to comfort me. I hadn’t been close to him in some time, but now I felt him closer than ever before in my life. Saturday came, and it was time for dad’s memorial service. I was up with the sun and the Lord gave me Psalm 27. It was a sweet gift and reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Days came and went, and it was time to go back to work. It was hard. Life was hard. Nothing was normal, even simple tasks felt challenging. I’d think of my dad all day, every day. After some time had passed it was time to find a new normal, which came with time. Things changed, life happened and there are still moments when I think “I wish my dad were here to see this.”
It took 8 years of suppressing and then mulling over so many emotions to come to a point today where I can say, “it is well with my soul”. You see, the Lord has shown me that he spared my dad that night we took the guns out of the house. He wasn’t saved, and God knew it wasn’t his time. But the day that my dad took his life, the Lord allowed it, for his Glory. Through this tragedy, God has made beauty from ashes. My walk is stronger today because of it, our family is stronger, closer and we love each other better for it. The Lord has called my mom to lead a widow’s ministry and has given my family a voice for those suffering through treatment, depression and even the survivors of suicide victims.
I would never in a million years wish anyone to lose someone they love to suicide. But God is greater than even the worst thing in your life. He is capable of stopping whatever it might be that is/was the worst thing in your life, but He allowed it. And now, 8 years later He is telling me to bring Glory to Him through writing this. To not stay silent anymore. I don’t know how He will use it, or if He will, but for now it is an act of obedience to him.