There are some defining moments in life that leave us forever changed and mould us differently. Sometimes these moments are pleasurable but oftentimes they can be heart wrenching. One of these times happened to us in the December of 2000. It was 3 days before Christmas and I was awoken by a call in the middle of the night from my Mum. My brother, his wife and their two children had been in a car accident with a drunk driver. I remember feeling my heart stop as I asked how bad it was. My sister-in-law had been killed, my niece who was 3 years old was on life support, my nephew was in a critical condition as was my brother. I remember thinking “why” and “what if”, but mostly all I could do was cry out to God to save my brother and his children. Give them another chance was my heart’s cry. The next morning in church we were numb with shock but had to lead our people anyway. I remember during worship feeling defiant to the works of the evil one, and I felt prompted in my grief to dance before the Lord in a declaration of joy, even though I wasn’t feeling joyful. So I danced and it was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
A day later mum called me to say that my brother had been wheeled in to see his daughter, had kissed her goodbye, told her he loved her and then held her as her life support was turned off. Our precious little Katie, went to be with her mum. My brother had numerous injuries, a broken jaw, foot and a shoulder injury. He was swollen black and blue and emotionally beaten up. His son who was about 6 years old had a severe leg injury.
It was the bleakest Christmas ever in our family. After Christmas I caught a flight to be with my family for a few days while hubby stayed at home and held the fort. The first time I saw my brother, I was shocked but mostly I didn’t know what to say – how do you say sorry in words that show truly how you feel. I just hugged him and the tears flowed. There can be no words of comfort and as he wasn’t a practising christian, I knew that saying something flippant or spiritual was not the answer. All I could do was to tell him we loved him and were praying for him.
My sister-in-law and niece’s funeral was gut-wrenching. I knew that somehow things would never be quite the same again in our family. For the first time death had invaded our family in an unexpected and ugly way. I could appreciate for the first time how God must have felt losing His Son to a death that was unpleasant.
I arrived back home emotionally spent, but feeling as though I needed to be strong. I had no opportunity to worry about my own feelings as we were just in the beginning of a spate of deaths to come our way in the next few months. A few weeks later, one of our leader’s father was dying of cancer. His sister who had gone to be with her dad was hijacked in her car and killed by a bullet wound to the head. This left our leaders reeling and we needed to step in and encourage them and support them. Yet a few weeks later a member of our congregation lost his mother to a gunshot wound – she was shot by her nephew who had a disagreement with her. A month later one of the pastors on our team with us lost his brother who was killed by his wife in a domestic dispute. As I type this I am thinking how ridiculous and far-fetched this all sounds, but it actually happened. Just when I thought all this was over, my grandfather died in a freak accident out on one of his daily walks. In four months, my life was turned upside down.
Nevertheless I continued on being strong for everyone around me. I didn’t dare question God as to why, I just thought that I should think positively and that everything would turn out well. At the end of that horrible year we were ministering on a youth camp and then we were going to take three weeks leave – the first leave we had had in years. The youth camp was fantastic and God did wonderful things – I felt great and this was fine – until we had driven 10 minutes down the road after the camp ended. I remember bursting into tears and crying all the way to our holiday destination. I then cried almost constantly for the next 3 weeks – a deep depression (and I am not a person who suffers with depression) came over me. Poor hubby and the kids did not know what to do with me. They couldn’t cheer me up and eventually I think they decided to let me cry it out.
I was even embarrassed visiting churches because I would cry from beginning to end. I realise now that I had so suppressed my feelings and emotions to be strong for others that I had not dealt with my own grief. I realised that a year after my family’s car accident I was just beginning to grieve for their loss. I am grateful that we were away from home as our church people might have thought I needed a straight jacket. I was able to grieve and so begin my healing process. I am very aware now that when people lose loved ones, they sometimes want to stay busy to keep their minds occupied, that this can delay the inevitable grief process that must take place and often this time will hit when they start to relax.
This sad blog has a good ending though!! My brother had a radical conversion and now passionately serves Jesus – he met a lovely christian woman and married her and he has an awesome testimony. Although he admits that one never gets over the loss of loved ones, life does go on and gets a little easier each day. I praise God that even in disaster, God will turn it to good.