When I asked her, “Is it Nate?” through her sobs she choked out, “No, it’s Joe.” My sweet, sweet grandfather-in-law who had taken a bad fall down his basement stairs not more than two weeks before I had taken my own fall into a mental and physical breakdown. We had shared our sorrow over the deaths of his sister, his daughter, and then his grandson. We had had plans that winter to go through pictures of family, writing on them who everyone was. We ate meals together. Together we had buried Kody, the dog he loved and took with him every day.
I was the one who came to his aid first, opening his door with the key he had given me, to find him lying on the cold basement floor, his head covered in blood. The emergency number was called, the EMTs arrived, and my little grandfather-in-law was packed off to the hospital as I followed. Memories bombarded me; the “whys” rolled off my tongue. “Where were you, God, when I was pleading with you?” It was soon after that that I, too, fell down the steps of despair.
Joe was dead. I was devastated. I had to go home.
When I told my sis that I had to come home, she cried even harder and said, “No, his funeral was two weeks ago.” “WHAT?” My mind wasn’t able to wrap around the idea that I had missed it. Even though he was not recovering from the head injury he had received in the fall, his death from that injury came as a great surprise. I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye. Dar could hear the shock in my voice and feel my confusion. She cried and explained how they had prayed about whether or not to call the Haglins to come tell me, as they anguished over their decision with other believers, other friends who had walked my journey of despair by my side. She told me of the difficult, heart-wrenching phone call to the Haglins to get their opinion. And in the end, as they were led by the Spirit to do, the decision was made to let me heal, to spare me another death, another loss, until I was strong enough to embrace it.
The Lord’s presence was with the two of us that day even though we were miles and miles apart. His presence enfolded me as I grasped the whole picture, for surely He had orchestrated my stay at the Eagle’s Nest before He called Joe home. His love for me in the midst of my anger toward Him was a balm on my aching heart, a soothing touch. Something I didn’t deserve after all the things I had yelled and said to the Ruler and Creator of the universe. My sister was a puddle of tears and pain as I reached out to her over the phone, telling her I understood and it was the right thing to have done, no matter how difficult it had been. I explained that I was all right, and I was also ready to come home. It was time.