As a forewarning, this isn’t a happy post. But it’s a hopeful post.
Also, it’s a loooonnnnggg post. If you don’t have time, but want to know the gist of what I’m about to say, it’s summed up on my About page.
. . .
Today we’re taking a break from the usual routine and I’m going to write a very personal post, because, well, I need to.
You see, five years ago today, my 18 year old cousin died unexpectedly from a sudden cardiac arrest (This was 11 days before I turned 16).
So last night, I was reflecting on this and how bizzaro to me it is that 5 years have passed. Then I remembered that the night my parent’s told me what had happened I composed an email to send to my closest friends to let them know what had happened.
So last night I traveled back in time 5 years through my sent-box to find that email.
This is it:
Hey peoples :)
My cousin Cody made a move last night. It was quite sudden actually. You see, he moved to heaven. He’s with Jesus right now.
I don’t know quite how I feel because I just found out about 45 min ago. I tend to go into shock, and then denial about such things. So I’m still kinda in denial right now.
Cody is amazing. He was 6’9 and a senior in high school. He has 2 older siblings who both attend(ed) A&M. He liked to show animals at the Crosby Rodeo and he hated the pictures we had to take every Christmas and thanksgiving. Well, he and his brother both did. He wore baseball hats all the time, and tried to wear them at the table too, but Daddad didn’t let him :) We saw them oh, about 2 times a year at least at c-mas and thanksgiving. Sometimes at the fourth of July. He was able to come to this past 4th of July, I guess that’s a God-thing. When we were younger he would come over a lot more during the summer and stuff, and we would go down to his house a lot too. He introduced me to Mario (the video game). And the joys of speeding down the road on a golf cart. He’s awesome. He liked to hunt and fish. He killed a big deer a while ago actually…. When we were little, he tried to scare me with the boogie man. Too bad for him tho, I had already seen the VeggieTale where “God is bigger than the boogie man”. Lol.
So, yeah. He’s in heaven partyin’ with Jesus and having a blast. I’m gonna miss him, but I can’t say i’m not jealous of him.
Still in shock.
Still in denial.
Sooner or later I suppose it’s gonna hit me. I feel bad for Kyle (my brother). A lot. He’s currently on the 6th grade retreat… and I don’t think he knows yet. He and Cody were close too and they had their share of adventures. Kyle is gonna have to leave the retreat on Wednesday night and go to the funeral with us on Thurs. Which stinks. The 6th grade retreat is awesome. God has a plan tho….. He’ll return on Thursday in time for the bond fire they do. I hope he’ll be okay….
God is so good! He’s amazing! He loves us and has a plan for our lives. Hallelujah!
“[David’s] attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”” (2 Samuel 12: 21-23)
Someday, I’ll see him again. But it won’t be here on this imperfect earth, it will be with Jesus, in a perfect heaven.
‘”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”’ (Jeremiah 29: 11-14)
God is good!
I’ll say it again
God is good!
I share that post with a tearful smile.
Please don’t get me wrong- I’m not sharing that email to boast about the faith I displayed in that moment, or whatever. I know fully I was in shock when I wrote that email and the grief hadn’t hit me yet.
Rather, that email is meaningful to me because, you see, the grief did hit me.
The days and weeks and months that followed Cody’s death were the darkest time in my life.
I simply did not understand why on earth God would move Cody to Heaven! Why didn’t God heal him? After all, only God knew that Cody had an enlarged heart since he hadn’t had an EKG. Why didn’t God keep this from happening???
During the months that followed, I became distant from God and pretty much everyone else.
You know that saying “Fake it till you make it?”
That’s what I did. Except I never made it… I merely faked it.
I would go to school and plaster a smile on my face so my friends wouldn’t know anything was wrong within me.
Sometimes, sadness would engulf me so much that I had to use a hall pass to go to the bathroom just so I could cry my eyes out. Wash my face. Go back to class. Smile. Repeat.
I probably should have gone to counseling, but in my 16 year old eyes that looked like admitting defeat. I didn’t want anyone to know that anything was wrong with me. That I was becoming unraveled. That I was so far from God.
Instead of turning to God to comfort me, I turned to other things to distract me from the pain.
By the grace of God, I didn’t turn to the typical “bad” things that may come to your mind when you read that.
Instead, I turned to friends. I turned to books. To Pinterest. To school work.
The biggest thing I turned to was Disney movies. I became obsessed with Disney. I would come home from school, pop in an old Disney VHS of Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, or Beauty and the Beast and watch it while doing homework.
My obsession for Disney translated over into Pinterest, and my Disney board rapidly grew into more than 2000 pins.
Disney was happy. Disney was light-hearted. It temporarily distracted me from the pain. However, once the movie or the pinning session was over, the pain quickly returned.
You see, even though the things I turned to weren’t “bad” in the traditional sense of the word, they were still bad because I was turning to them instead of turning to Jesus. I wanted them to take my pain away instead of my Savior.
The day everything changed.
May 2013 (a year after his death), my high school choir gave a concert. Something my teacher liked to have a “worship-segment” at each of our spring concerts. (I went to a small, private Christian school.)
One of the songs we sang was “You’re Beautiful” by Phil Wickham.
While we were singing that song on stage in the auditorium, the sun was setting outside and a beam of light shown through the window. As cheesy as it may sound, I realized in that moment that even though it FELT like God had left me and that I was alone, He had never left my side. Rather, I had turned my back on God.
It was like a flip switched in my mind and my heart, and all of the weight I had been carrying all year fell off of me. I was free from my sadness- not because of anything I did- but because Jesus set me free.
Hope in the hopeless times.
I have learned that even if I feel alone, I am not alone. Even if all hope seems lost, it isn’t. God has a plan.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. -1 Cor. 15:19
My friend, don’t be like me. Don’t run from God when hard times come. Intentionally run towards Him.
I don’t think I ever thought the thought “Hmm. God must not care any more. I think I turn my back on Him.”
What happened was, I stopped intentionally turning towards Him.
One day I would skip my quiet time. And then the day after that I would think, “Oh, no biggie! I don’t have to read my Bible today.” And so on and so forth. Soon, I only read my Bible at church or at school. Every now and then I would try reading the Psalms to gain some comfort. But I wasn’t seeking after their Author. I would only praying to shout at God, not to draw near to Him to be comforted.
Don’t do that when you face hard times. I know it’s hard. Believe me, I know. But seeking after God when it’s hard is something that will only help in the end.
I leave you with this verse…
One of my friends texted me this verse one night about four months after Cody died. It became a verse I memorized and thought of often. It remains one of my favorite verses.
It’s Jesus talking, and He says, “I have told you these things so that in Me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble- but take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33