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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.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. All of my life, I’ve lived in fear of losing my Dad. Since I was in high school he’s had heart problems and to this day, whenever he calls and says, “I don’t want you to get upset, but…” my blood runs cold because I know it means there’s reason to get upset. (Like the Friday night while I was on a date when he called my cell phone and said, “I don’t want you to get upset but I’m having a heart attack. Me, Jesus, and the nitroglycerin are driving to the hospital.” That date was SO over! How could I NOT get upset about that call?!) And so reading your post, I can’t imagine what you’ve felt and how you’ve coped, but I’m thankful that God was the one that held your hand through it all. And I’m so glad you let Him. And one day, when I have to let go of my Dad, I pray that I reach for Jesus’ hand, too.

    • Have no idea how I missed this comment when you posted it, but thank you, Sarah. God has everything and everyone in His hands. What a comfort and a joy. Thanks again.


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