By Elizabeth Giroir
My faith has always been a work in progress. I suppose everyone’s is in a way. Growing up Southern Baptist there was no choice. I learned my Bible stories, went to church with my family three times a week and did not really think much about it. I did not question, nor did I struggle with belief. It was a given, not a choice. I professed my faith when the time came that others my age were doing so (i.e., no big emotional feeling) but throughout my adolescence and into adulthood I struggled with questions. Questions I did not want to share lest I be called an unbeliever. I did believe, I just struggled with the details. I still do to this day. The good news is, I know that God is with me me in my struggle.
On October 28, 2010 I got the call that no parent – no person – wants to get. My son was shot and killed in an armed robbery at his apartment while attending college. As you can imagine our lives – my husband, daughter, our extended family and our many loving friends – changed that day. It would take more words than I have room for here to describe the incredible grief we went through and are still moving through today. I must say though that in all the sadness we have had over losing our sweet son, there have been miracles. Finding friendship/kindship with others that are on my same path, seeing how true loving friends supported us throughout those first days and beyond, finding joy in the time we had with our son and being grateful for a loving relationship with him prior to the tragedy among other blessings that we are so grateful for.
Our son was such a funny, happy, loving young man yet after his death it was a struggle to live the joy filled life I know he would want for me. I know he would want me to be joyous – to find happiness and bring light to all in my realm of influence. That is a legacy befitting of who he was. As you can imagine, in the beginning it was an undertaking just to exist. To eat, to get out of bed, to make it to a decent hour before working towards numbing myself enough to go to sleep. I tried to stay busy, which worked most of the time, but after the busy day was done, I was left with a heaviness that would not go away. Almost one year after his killing we were called to attend the trial of the three young men who robbed and killed him. To say this was a difficult time is quite the understatement however somehow, we made it through the trial and on the one-year anniversary of his death, the three were convicted. I had mixed emotions – our son was still gone from us and three more lives were ruined. I had to take solace in the hope that incarceration would keep these people off the streets and limit their ability to hurt others and hopefully change them for the better. I did not want anyone else to have to go through what we were having to endure.
It was torturous to have to sit through the rehashing of the events leading up to October 28, 2010 and waiting for the judgement but there was one bit of testimony that crept into my heart and sat there long after, blocking any of the joy I had found over the past year. The EMT was testifying about what she found when she arrived, what his injuries were and how they tried to save him. I could not listen. I left the courtroom and waited for those details to be over. After her testimony the EMT came and sought me out. She wanted to tell me that in his last minutes, my son had asked for me. He had said, “I want my mom.” Moments after that he was gone.
As a parent all we want to do is to love our children, see them happy and be there for them when they need us. I do believe that EMT thought she was giving me a gift. Telling me how much my son loved me and wanted me near but honestly it did just the opposite. I was crushed – crushed to know that my son needed me and in his most desperate moment I wasn’t there for him. I tried to move on from that thought but it just permeated everything I did. I had failed him. And where on earth was God in this??
Several years passed in a blur. I was functioning – even happy sometimes. I looked for messages – a temporary lifting of the veil – and I got some! I knew in my heart my son was okay, he was with God, he was happy but that one stone in my heart – would rear its head each time I thought I might be turning a corner. A good friend had suggested a Sozo session with a representative from Bethel Church in California. I resisted. First, I knew it would be a big crying session (which is exhausting and soul ripping) and second I thought there was no help for me. The past could not be changed. However, after much prodding and encouraging I finally agreed. The date was set.
It is so interesting that someone who knew nothing about me, my issue, the stone sitting in my heart could seem to guide me so effortlessly through the maze of my deepest hurt. We began just talking about my faith. Was I a believer? How did I “see” my savior? God? Father? Holy Spirit? Jesus? We then began to talk about my son. Who he was, who the other players in this tragedy were? Just speaking their names made me anxious. Eventually we got to the crux of the issue. She asked me to tell her about that day. Where was I? Where was he? What happened? It was tortuous. I had packed up those bags so tight with so many things, unpacking them was frightening. If I unpacked too much, I might never get it all back in the bags! What would I do then?? But with eyes closed I made myself, with her direction, go there. Go to the place where my son was shot and killed. I was reliving that devastation – the VERY LAST thing I wanted to do EVER! Then after I had all the people in place she paused and asked me – where was Jesus? Was he there? And oh my God! He was! I saw him standing on the street while my sweet boy was shot. She asked, “What is Jesus doing?” He was crying! Tears were streaming down his face. I continued as prompted to go on with my the vision. As they loaded up my son into the ambulance, Jesus went in also. When I heard my son ask for me, Jesus was there holding his hand. He said, “I am here.” A stone lifted from my heart.
I know many people think God has a plan for everything and everyone. Perhaps that is true. I must be honest; it is ambitious to see his plan in my tragedy. I do know he loves us and since the fall of man we all must choose our paths and luckily, we have him as our support. If we believe in God, we also must believe in evil. Decisions are made. Paths are taken. Maybe not the path God had planned for us but again – free choice is our burden. God may give us messages we cannot hear or refuse to hear. Other people are in play with their choices. Evil is present. I believe what God can do for us is to guide us and be there when things don’t go as he has planned. God is there to celebrate our joys with us and there to comfort us in our pain.
The human condition is to want answers but not having all the answers has not been a “game over” for me. Not getting what you pray for does not mean God does not love us. Do not be dissuaded from belief because of tragedy. Life, the good and the bad, comes at us and we must meet it armored with God’s love. Uncertainty and tragedy are our millstones but there is joy in being broken and coming back to love and hope. Let God help us carry the burden. God has left the task of life up to us. We choose how we meet it. And in whom we put our trust.