The call came on September 11th, 2007. My wife Ginnie and I were sitting at home watching a Jet Li movie and fighting off the nagging voice that we should really have been doing homework. We were both burnt out with school, a fact that was evident because Ginnie actually agreed to watch a Jet Li movie with me. The volume of the television caused us to miss the call.
My sister Kim had left a voice mail. She normally wouldn’t call me in the evening, so I knew something must have been at least somewhat amiss. When I called her back, she told me that my Dad had found my Mom unconscious, and Ginnie and I probably needed to come home. My Mom had several health problems that caused her to be in chronic pain, and had in fact passed out on a few occasions as a negative reaction to different kinds of medication. That is what we were praying this situation would end up being. Our prayers went up aimlessly and met no one, as she never woke up.
The car ride home was the most difficult event I have ever had to endure. We left early on Wednesday morning with the uncertainty of whether or not she would make it. Not knowing what was going to happen left me hopeless. The feelings of having a loving heavenly Father vanished and were replaced by the hopeless feelings associated with being a bastard son whose Father left and would never return. That day, I used every profanity I could think of to direct toward God. Ginnie sat in the passenger seat, silently allowing me to get it all out. Why had my Mother had to endure the hell of chronic health problems and excruciating pain and had hope thrown in her face time after time by doctors only to end up unconscious, holding on to life because a machine was breathing for her? Why would we have to make the decision as a family two days later to take her off of life support and stand by her swollen body as she slipped into another world—a world we have no empirical evidence for and no ability to grasp?
These questions were answered in time, but not before the thought that perhaps God was the “cosmic-sadist” that C.S. Lewis described in A Grief Observed, the book that he wrote during the time that he lost his only love to cancer. I felt a special connection to Lewis during my time of grief that helped me to experience the journey. Lewis came to the conclusion that “God is good,” and I too am certain of that now.
From the other side of the spectrum, God was speaking. Through the chaos that engulfed me, I was unable to hear his kind and loving words. Learning to hear God when tragedy strikes can be a difficult thing. All along God was whispering “I love you. I do not want to harm you. I love Diane. I do not want her to suffer anymore.” It was as if my soul itself was screaming. The screams were louder than when they had been vocal, and caused everything else to be left unheard. This led to a period of time where it seemed God was totally silent.
If I could have only heard through the chaos of death and anguish the whispers of a loving Abba Father, then my screams of anger, hurt and distrust would have been silenced. God saw the pain that I was enduring. Often, he would place people in my path to help me persevere. Once, he whispered through the words of a friend “Jesus loves you, and He loves your Mom.” These words penetrated my heart, and brought me to tears. They came just after I had yelled so angrily at God. God knew that my mother had suffered for too long. The time had come for her to be with Him. He knew that I would have difficulty accepting it, and allowed me to be angry. God was so good and loving that He continued to send friends and loved ones along to help me even through my anger. God moves in mysterious ways and works in the midst of all kinds of good and bad circumstances.
News of tragedy can be brought to us through something as simple as a phone call. Sometimes, conversations with God during trying times can be as frustrating as a phone call with no one responding on the other end. During those times, it is important to remember that He is there whispering, and that the noise of chaos is the only thing that prevents His children from hearing His words.
Scott Turbeville is madly in love with his wife Ginnie, and is thoroughly convinced that he married up. They both attend the Baptist College of Florida where Scott is pursuing a BA in English. He serves as Student Pastor at Mosaic Church in Crestview, FL.