“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” Romans 8:18
I had been at work that evening, making transactions and cleaning tables just like any other day of the week. 9 o’clock rolled around, I hurriedly clocked out, and grabbed my phone to check in on the things I had missed in the previous four hours. 14 text messages and 7 missed calls. I stared at my phone, knowing that something horrible had happened. My mother appeared to be the one who had called me the most, so I called her, hoping and praying that the news was not about a member of my family.
I only heard the first words she said, “Philip’s gone.” After that I went numb, falling to the ground and screaming in despair in front of strangers watching me. “Philip’s gone.” I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying. And then I was confused. I knew two Philips. One was my cousin who had grown up just down the street from my childhood home. The other was a young boy I had taken under my wing and thought of as a little brother. I reluctantly asked my mother, “Which Philip?” not knowing what I wanted to hear. The words “Philip Vessey” left her mouth…that was my cousin. And in that moment, for just an instant, I felt relief. Relief that it wasn’t just a young boy who had so much life to live (though Phil was extremely young, too).
A Guilt too Heavy
That relief is a guilt I’ve carried since that night, two years ago. Why was I relieved? My cousin had just died. And not only that, but as I went on to find out later, he had killed himself in his home, right down the street from where we played all those years. I was angry. Angry at God for allowing this to happen. Angry at Philip for being so selfish. Angry at myself for being angry in the first place. That night I got little sleep. Between crying and yelling at myself, little time remained for rest.
Next thing I knew, it was Friday. Today was Philip’s funeral. I sat in the church, staring at the ground, barely listening to all the wonderful stories people were telling of Philip in his 19 years of life. People were pretending that this was an accident. But this was no accident.
At that moment, I grew angry with people. I closed myself off to building relationships in fear of such an incidence repeating itself. I knew it wasn’t likely, but I didn’t care. I was too terrified. So for the past two years, I’ve been bitter. I’ve been bitter and angry and showed little compassion.
January 30, 2012, my cousin took his life. January 30, 2014, I got my life back. As I spent the day with my family, I looked around and realized that we were all feeling pain. We were all suffering from his loss and that it was something that might never go away. But as angry as I was at Philip for being selfish, I had been selfish for two years. I showed no compassion for my family and their desire to hold onto what was good about Philip. I could only see them pretending. I had never taken the time to grieve alongside my family and be as much a support to them as they were to me. God had given me a horrific situation as a test of my character, and I failed miserably.
There’s no right way to deal with a situation, especially a situation like this. But I knew what God expected of me. I’d like to make excuses for myself, saying that I was mourning and my head wasn’t in the right place. But my biggest mistake in all of this was not turning to God the way that I had been taught to do. It’s okay to be sad and to feel great pain, it’s something I’m learning everyday. So is remembering to seek Christ. As innate as it should be in us, we fall short.
Jesus said, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” John 16:22
Find joy in our Savior.