Black Hearse

A sleek black hearse idled in front of me. Pouring rain. I could barely see. The reality of death, yet disbelief in its reality, rested in my heart. At sixteen I never imagined that I would be here. I sat in the driver’s seat of our family van ready for the black hearse to pull out in front of me – leading me to the cemetery for my own dad’s burial.

Around Christmas time of 2008, my dad was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer and given little hope for living past 6 months to a year. Radiation would only shrink the tumor’s size and give him the ability to swallow for a few months but could not take away the cancer already ravaging his body. After thought and prayer, my dad and family decided not to go through with radiation, hoping to spare him some of the added pain and discomforts that it would bring. Instead, we researched natural remedies that could possibly heal his body (or at least give him some relief) and planned as a family how we could spend as much time as possible together with the time we had left with him.

That year I was finishing my sophomore year in high school. With time left over not spent on school related things, I spent a lot of it helping my mom care for my dad in the months to come. I fed him often through the feeding tube that took nutrients directly into his stomach. I would take him his supplements, sit on his bed, and spend valuable time with him. Sometimes, I would wake up in the night with him on those nights that my mom was exhausted. As my dad rapidly declined, I felt emotionally numb for some reason as I poured myself into these things. I felt useful helping as much as I could; but sometimes I wondered if something was wrong with me. Why was I not crying very much? Why didn’t it feel like my heart was hurting the way it “should” be?

I had planned that summer to volunteer for three weeks at a summer camp in MI (Camp Barakel in Fairview, MI), but with not knowing how much time I had left with my dad, I didn’t know if I should go. When I talked to my dad about it, however, he still wanted me to plan on it. Rather than three weeks, I cut back the time to two weeks and for those two weeks to be at the very beginning of the summer.

God could only know how much I needed that time away.

When I got to Barakel, suddenly the flood of emotions that I hadn’t been feeling came. I felt anger; I was angry at God for what He was doing. I cried every day. I hid my emotions as much as possible and what was going on at home with my dad from the other teen volunteers who I worked with every day. Though I felt like I was falling apart on the inside now, I still wanted to keep everything inside as much as I could. And I especially did not want to let God touch me in that hurting part of my heart. He was the one hurting me.

Without me really seeing it, though, God was using my time away to soften me and began chipping away at my heart in the most gentle of ways through my time at Barakel.

Near the end of my first week, Thursday evening rolled around and the special time Barakel calls Chapel in the Woods. This was the chapel time of the week where female campers and volunteers had chapel around a campfire in the middle of the forest (something epic for me as an enthusiastic outdoors person! 🙂 ). Evening shadows crept in, the campfire crackled, trees towered above, and soft singing was heard. A few minutes later, the speaker for the evening began giving her talk to the girls. As she got further into her talk, I didn’t like where she was going. She told the story of Esther in the Bible and began using it as an illustration for fear and how fear ultimately holds us back from trusting in God. Esther demonstrated trust in God as she moved past her fear and went before the king (even though it could result in her death). Because of her trust in God and bravery, she saved a whole nation of people from being destroyed (and she was spared as well). Though this lesson could speak personally to anyone, I felt like it was touching the exact place I was trying so hard to keep hidden. I felt like the woman speaking was talking right to me. I inwardly squirmed and tears began to form in my eyes. When I was honest with myself, I knew it was fear that was closing my heart; I was SO scared that if I chose to trust God and open my heart to Him and His plans for me, He would choose to take my dad away from me. I couldn’t let Him do that; so I was going to hang on tight.

As I tried to inwardly ignore the message that was being whispered into my heart through the lesson, the speaker wrapped up her lesson with: “I don’t know what it is that you fear. Maybe it’s a parent dying…” The rest of her talk faded away as those words pounded into my heart. Why wouldn’t God leave me alone and just let me be angry? But as I half wanted Him to leave me alone, I also felt His love in not leaving me alone. He kept pursuing my heart. He wanted me; He wanted my heart during this time; He wanted to draw me close and to take my hand in whatever He may choose for my life. I began breaking. I remember that night as I crawled into my cabin bunk I silently let out sobs and all I could whisper into the darkness was “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” over and over again. That was my way of telling Him that I was finally going to let go. I couldn’t resist His love any longer, and I wanted to choose to trust Him over my fear.

God did decide to take my daddy, but when July 17th, 2009 came to steal my dad away, God was in the middle of teaching me that He was a strong and tender Father to me more than I ever knew while having an earthly father to depend on. Yes, He chose to take my dad away to eternity, but He was choosing that from His divine, heavenly perspective as the best choice.

He was going to be with me through it all.

He had good plans in the middle of the pain.

He could be trusted.

He was showing me that.

So as I sat there, ready to follow that sleek, black hearse through the rain, I was grieved, heartbroken, aching for my dad to come back, but nevertheless peaceful and confident knowing I was held and that trusting my Father God was the safest place of all to be.

Daddy-Daughter Dance with my dad in 2009 before he passed away.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. ~2 Corinthians 1:3,4

*What about you? Is there something that you are going through right now that is causing hurt and pain? Are you having trouble trusting God with it and opening up your heart to Him? No matter what kind of pain it is, God wants to be your Source of Comfort, and I can testify that He indeed can be trusted in any situation. Email me at susanna@ordinaryadventure.com if there are any ways I can pray specifically for you right now. I would love to.