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The Summer Everything Changed

My 17-year-old self woke up in a startle. Saturday mornings were for sleeping in and lazing happily, especially July Saturday mornings. You’re supposed to wake up slowly, not in a panic.

“Something happened to your dad and they rushed him to the hospital,” someone had told me as my sleep-wrapped brain tried to comprehend what this string of words meant. Realization hit me and I didn’t like the reality I had awakened to.

I was scared. I was confused. As was my custom at that time, I thought of the worst possible scenario. This had never failed me. If I could think of the most horrible outcome, I reasoned, it couldn’t possibly come true. It worked so many times before like when I was scared my parent’s hadn’t made it home yet from shopping in the big city. It would surely work now. I’d throw it out and feel silly at the preposterous idea.

“He’s dead,” I thought to myself. There, glad that’s out of the way and we can go see what happened and how he was doing.

I don’t remember how we got there, but I definitely remember being in the little county hospital in Prague, Oklahoma (the town closest to us). I knew my dad had to have been in rough shape to come here and not one of the larger hospitals.

I walked in to the sound of sobbing. I saw my dad lying on a bed through a cracked door, but didn’t get a good look and didn’t really want one. People from our church were in there with my mom, consoling and praying.

Time stood still and was a blur at the same time. Somehow, we learned that my dad was gone. I couldn’t believe it. I began walking up and down the narrow hallway. I’m sure it was bright, but it seemed dimly lit. I prayed for his resurrection. I worried. I attempted to resolve this conundrum in my head.

I was in the middle of the summer before my senior year of high school. I know that being the oldest son practically begs you to think this way, but some of my first thoughts were that I would have to drop out of school and find a job to support our family.  All this occurred in the few minutes I walked up and down that lonely corridor.

This sure seemed like too much to deal with for a boy who had until those moments believed he was close to becoming a man.

Without warning, my dad was gone. Nothing I could do would bring him back. It was sudden. It was final. He had just fallen over while he was fishing in my Grandpa’s lake. That was it. No battles or long history. No good-bye.

I had that strong hope that we would be reunited one day in the eternal presence of God, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still devastating as every day was another reminder of our loss. Days were spent trying to figure out what this meant and nights were filled with dreams that he came back as if he was just away on a trip.

That was the summer that my mental gymnastics failed. I couldn’t reason myself out of the pain. I couldn’t change the outcome by doing, saying, or being anything. I was confronted with world-altering loss, surrounded by it…

Big spiritual decisions were forced upon me, and I chose complete dependence on my Heavenly Father. I chose to lean in to a spiritual community that I needed more than I even knew.  I chose to seek God and know Him much more deeply and intimately than I even thought possible.

This was the summer everything changed. Pain and suffering could have been the defining marks that drove me away from God or to blaming Him. I know for a lot of people that’s exactly what happens.

Instead, I almost instinctively knew that He was the only One who would make even the slightest difference. In all earnestness, the pain can still be felt, but whereas it has diminished, the hope has grown into a stronger, brighter flame than I could have imagined.  I may not understand the methods, but I am always thankful for the results of trusting my God.

I know sometimes it may feel as if all we can ever hope for is to survive life’s devastations, but in God, there is more. Whether the pain is fresh or decades old is irrelevant. I may not know it all, but I know and have experienced grace that helps in the time of need. It’s a grace that not only survives, but overcomes.



This post is part of Bridget Chumbley’s ‘One Word at a Time’ blog carnival where this time, the prompt is “Summer.” Be sure to go and check out all the posts there.

52 Comments

  1. Beautifully told, Jason, with love and yearning and wisdom. Thank you for sharing this.
    Glynn recently posted..Michael Spencers Mere ChurchianityMy Profile

    • Thanks Glynn. I appreciate it.

  2. That surely was a defining moment for your walk with Christ. I’m sorry for the loss of your dad at such a young age, and I’m so very glad you chose to cling to God instead of run from Him.
    katdish recently posted..Playing Catch-up by Billy CoffeyMy Profile

    • Most definitely a defining moment. I guess those types of events usually are, but yes, I’m very glad I could draw closer to Jesus through the process…

      Thanks Kat.

  3. This is beautiful and tragic all at once. I’m not sure I could have had the same reaction, but I pray that if something like that does ever happen, that I will indeed embrace God rather than push Him away.

    Thanks for sharing. Great post.
    ~Brenda recently posted..memories of summerMy Profile

    • Brenda, thank you. The reaction I describe here is sort of the conglomeration of all the reactions. When the dust settled though, I knew where I could find peace and rest and lasting joy. To experience that is beyond amazing.

  4. Your dad is proud of the man you have become, I am sure.
    I’m sorry you lost your dad at a young age.
    I am glad you chose to trust Him.
    Helen recently posted..Different Song- Different Lyrics- I Promise-My Profile

    • Thank you Helen. I thought about you as I wrote this post. It’s hard to lose those we cherish whatever your age, I know. But God draws so lovingly and graciously and invites us to trust and see Him more clearly.

      “Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning…”

  5. As I read this Jason I thought of the song “When I Grow Up to Be a Man” by the Beach Boys (I believe). You grew up emotionally but also spiritually. But man, what a tough way to grow up! Thanks for the honesty.
    Bill (cycleguy) recently posted..A Huge Big ManMy Profile

    • Thank you, Bill.

  6. I know this may be strange to say, but this brought back a lot of memories. I remember our families spending a lot of time together when we were young, and I really loved those times.

    • It’s not strange at all! I had all the same memories flooding back yesterday. Going to the lake with you guys and staying over at your house--great memories. Those were great times for sure…

  7. Jason, thank you for sharing your defining moment. Really shook me up.
    michael recently posted..A Goose and GodMy Profile

    • I think this is one of the toughest posts I’ve written, but thank you for your encouragement. I appreciate you, Michael.

  8. Jon, you guys were always there for us right after it happened. It was and is very much appreciated. I miss those days of hanging out with you too. Jason this is very well written and captures the moments days and years that passed after.

    • Yeah, I almost warned you before you saw it, but didn’t even know what to say. Thanks Phil. :)

  9. It saddened me to consider your loss at such a young age, but God was already making you a man, wasn’t He?

    This, right here: “I may not understand the methods, but I am always thankful for the results of trusting my God.”

    Beautifully told, Jason.

    • I think it was still quite a while before becoming a real man (if that makes sense), but the seeds were there then and the struggles are essentially the same: will I trust God?

      Thank you, Jennifer.

  10. This is so wonderfully shared.

    ‘In all earnestness, the pain can still be felt, but whereas it has diminished, the hope has grown into a stronger, brighter flame than I could have imagined. I may not understand the methods, but I am always thankful for the results of trusting my God.’

    Although my dad was older when he passed away I feel this too.
    Joyce recently posted..A time it was and what a time it wasMy Profile

    • Thanks Joyce. Our circumstances may be different, but loss is loss. There’s great pain in losing those closest to us. Blessings to you and thank for stopping by.

  11. Jason, I don’t know what to say. You found such a beautiful way to share the sad loss, just as you used that time to grow rather than diminish. Thank you for sharing this.

    • I appreciate that, Rebecca. Thank you.

  12. In the darkest of night…He is there. When we are hurting and surrounded by uncertainty…He is there.

    There is none other like Him to walk with us through our struggles and pain.

    Thank you for sharing your walk with us Jason today and everyday. You are a blessing to me.
    Dusty Rayburn recently posted..MadeMy Profile

    • Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil… He is there and that’s enough, more than enough actually. Thanks Dusty.

  13. What a telling sentence, “That was the summer that my mental gymnastics failed.” Intellect never reaches the depths of a soul the way that trust, in the midst of the darkest days, does. I’m so glad you reached out to the heavenly Father. And chose to talk about it here.

    I lost my father in the middle of my freshman year in college. It wasn’t unexpected, as he was already old when I was born (55), and had been in declining health. Just last year, more than twenty years after his passing, I dreamed he was still alive.
    Cheryl Smith recently posted..Contemplating God in the Yard- or on the PorchMy Profile

    • Amen and thank you Cheryl. The dream thing is interesting to me. For the longest time, it was disturbing as I tried to reconcile everything in my brain. It may sound weird, but it’s kinda nice now when my dad shows up in a dream.

      I appreciate your thoughts!

  14. Stop making me cry! Now where did I put that tissue?
    Wendy recently posted..Life is Funny -- Food is sneakyMy Profile

    • It wasn’t on purpose! :) When I started thinking about this, it all flooded back. Pretty intense actually. Thanks Wendy.

  15. The loss of a father can wound men deeply for the rest of their lives. I’m glad you leaned into the Lord’s care for you. Great testimony of His faithfulness, thank you for sharing.
    Jay Cookingham recently posted..Sabbath Rest MusingsMy Profile

    • Honestly, I would say in some ways I still feel very much wounded, but I’m not broken. The wounds are healing and I can see how far I’ve come by grace. It is definitely a testimony of His faithfulness.

      Thanks Jay.

  16. TEARS…PRAYERS
    Kristi Fornshell recently posted..1953 THE BESTEST SUMMER EVERMy Profile

    • Ah, thank you, Kristi. :)

  17. Very powerful and moving post Jason!

    I loved your closing words: It’s a grace that not only survives, but overcomes. AMEN!
    Kevin M. recently posted..Summer is for making memoriesMy Profile

    • That’s one of those reminders I need often. Thanks Kevin.

  18. Thank you for telling your story, Jason. I didn’t know that about you. But now I understand a little more about your past. A lot of growing up happens when a person is faced with this kind of thing.

    Now I understand how you were married so young. I’m so glad God helped you move forward with life.

    Beautifully written, Jason.
    Duane Scott recently posted..wall of partitionMy Profile

    • Thanks Duane.

      Funny you mention the getting married young thing. It didn’t feel so young when it was happening- just felt right. We both had a lot of growing up to do even though we thought we had made it, but I’m glad we could grow up together. Anyway, little off topic, but there you go. :)

  19. I pray that more would learn the truth of your words “I almost instinctively knew that He was the only One who would make even the slightest difference”

    Well said, Jason!
    HisFireFly recently posted..Savouring His gloryMy Profile

    • Thank you, Karin. That’s my prayer too.

  20. I’ve written a couple of things like this since. It’s a good way to get it out

    • Phil, I remember reading them. Don’t know if I commented or not though.

  21. Amazing you can write this down like this. I´m glad you made the right decision. Also for us otherwise we wouldn’t be able to read your blog. All the glory to God.

    • Well, I’ve quite a bit of time to reflect, Ani, but thank you. I really do appreciate your encouragement.

  22. I feel sadness and such joy in this post. The loss of your father was tragic, but what has happened since, and the blessing you’ve been to so many from those decisions made during that time are huge.

    Thanks for sharing this very personal and important time in your life, Jason.

    • Thank you, Bridget. I promise I didn’t set out to write this. :)

      I was planning on something happy about summer, but one thing led to another and my brain and heart needed to get it all out. Thanks for prompts that take me unexpected places.

  23. Jason,

    My father died unexpectedly, too, 20 years ago this month, on July 18. That day has never left me.

    May your heart know peace.
    Maureen recently posted..Summer Headlines PoemMy Profile

    • It’s something I don’t know if you can fully “get over.” Thanks, Maureen and I am very thankful do I do indeed know peace in my heart and my life. Our God is wonderful beyond description at filling the void. Blessings…

  24. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but your story is one of those “stories of glory” that need to be told.
    Lainie Gallagher recently posted..HalvedMy Profile

    • Thank you Laineie. I appreciate that.

  25. Wow…I felt like I was slowly waking up with you as you let this story unfold. Thank you for sharing your life-changing loss with us, and how you learned to lean, seek and depend.
    Ann Kroeker recently posted..This or ThatMy Profile

    • Definitely still in that process of learning to lean, seek, and depend. Thank you Ann.