I’m not sure how the car even made it to the police station. Surely this was all a dream, a nightmare, and I would be waking up soon. Only, it was all too real. Life seemed to be moving in slow motion. I was dazed. Confused. In shock. Feeling so alone. More than anything I wanted Kevin by my side to help me navigate this horrific experience. But he wasn’t coming. The police officers confirmed what I already knew in my heart. Kevin had been pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to scream, “NO!!” How did this happen? Where were the kids? Were they badly hurt? How was I going to tell the kids that Daddy was dead? How do you even say those words out loud? How do you say them to a child? Did they already know?
At the police station I was told that my kids had been taken to two different hospitals. Two of the girls were life-flighted to a city hospital that had a pediatric intensive care unit, and the other four kids were taken by ambulance to our local hospital. I was torn. Where do I go first? I just wanted all of us to be together. I needed to see them all. I needed to know that they were all ok. The same prayer continued to ruminate in my head, “Oh God, please let all of my kids be alive.”
29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
I needed strength. Supernatural strength. Walking into the first hospital, I was filled with dread. I was completely in shock. Kevin was dead. I had no idea what I was about to face. I needed power. I needed God to completely carry me. I have never felt so weak in my whole life. I was flanked by some of my dearest friends, but I still felt so alone. My other half was gone.
Pulling back the curtain to the sterile hospital room that housed my two sons felt completely surreal. Their faces. Their fear. Their eyes were screaming panic. “Mommy,” they chorused, and we grabbed onto one another with a fierce embrace.
And then the question came from their mouths that I feared. I held the key to the answer that would forever change them. How I answered this questioned mattered. All of the years that Kevin and I spent professing our faith in God to our children hinged on how I answered their question. In the midst of this darkness, I wanted them to feel the presence of Jesus. I wanted them encounter His realness.
“Mommy, where is Daddy? Is he ok?” they asked.
The unknown is so scary. How do you even take the next step when you don’t even know where you are going? When the world around you seems so dark and hopeless with nowhere to turn, what do you do? When you have to think on your feet and you’re put to the test, how do you respond?
That’s how I felt when the boys asked me about Kevin. There was no time to compile some kind of “counselor approved” answer. I was a wreck myself, and so the words just tumbled out of my mouth.
“Daddy is with Jesus.”
They were silent. Tears filled their eyes. I felt like I needed to fill the space with words.
“He was hurt badly, and they couldn’t save him. But he’s with Jesus now and isn’t in pain anymore.”
It was all truth. And yet it stung. Those words pierced all of our hearts like an arrow shot at close range. But in the midst of all of those words and all of that fear and all of that hurt and all of that shock, Jesus never let go of any of us.
8 The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
I had no clue what I was doing. This was such unchartered territory for me. But looking back, I can take comfort that God was going before me. He was holding on to all of us tighter than even I was holding on to my kids. He wasn’t going to leave. He was with us, every single step of the way.
Never do we have to walk anywhere alone. Even in our darkest moments when we are feeling lonely, God is there. In the midst of our most horrific losses, God is there. When we feel lost and without hope, God is there. I think that so often those words are so casually spoken, “Oh, God is with you.” It’s a trite answer that so many people say when they don’t know what else to say. It makes them feel better I think. But the thing is, He really is there. There’s such truth in that. Our feelings lead us to believe that we are alone, but His promises tell us otherwise.
After I told the boys about Kevin, I still couldn’t breathe. There were four more kids to tell. It seemed like an insurmountable mountain to climb.
The two girls were in the room next to the boys. I could hear the muffled sobs of the boys through the curtain as I answered the girls question, “Mommy, is Daddy ok?”
“Daddy is with Jesus,” I repeated, “He was badly hurt.”
The two girls sprang from their beds and gripped on to me, hugging me, crying. One of the girls pulled away and looked me right in the eyes and asked, “Are we still going to Disney World?” She was five. Her brain could not possibly wrap itself around this whole experience. The innocence of a child. My heart was breaking. Truly, this was more than I could bear.
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
And He was close. When I look back, the only explanation that I can give for my surviving that night was Jesus. He rescued me. I was depending on Him without even realizing it. He gave me strength to speak the most unfathomable words that I could ever imagine saying to my kids. I often have described that I felt like I was floating that night, almost like I feel when I dream. But for me, that points to Jesus truly carrying me and covering me with His grace. It’s a beautiful picture, yet horrific at the same time. I think that’s how God works though. In the midst of what would appear to be crushing circumstances, His beauty and grace radiate. His presence is felt. His realness is tangible. These glimpses give us the strength to take the next step even when we don’t know where we are going or how we will get there. It doesn’t matter. He knows the way. He sees the big picture. He is the leader. We just need to trust Him enough to follow Him.
I wish I could say that I always trust Him like that. It’s hard. In my humanness, I want what I want, and I want it when I want it. I don’t like to be dependent. It’s almost like I want to prove that I am strong and can make it on my own. Sometimes I feel like there’s an internal battle that exists that seeks to pull me away from True North. I wrestle and struggle, and in the end I realize that if I would just surrender it would be much easier. Not that the circumstances would necessarily change, but rather my load would be lighter and my anxiety lessened. In other words, the pressure would be off of me. In some situations, like this night at the hospital, it was a no brainer. I surrendered. I felt lost on my own. But I was not alone. He was leading me.
After talking with the two girls, it was as if reality punched me in the face with a crushing blow so hard that it nearly knocked me over. I still had two more daughters at a hospital that was at least 45 minutes away. They were taken by helicopter. That meant that they were badly injured. To what degree, I had no idea. I remember truly breaking down, swearing to a friend of mine that those two had died and no one was telling me the truth because they wanted to protect me. Fear filled me like a raging river. I felt like I was coming apart at the seams. I needed to get to them. I needed to know. I needed to feel held by God more than ever. Again, my prayer was, “Please let my girls be alive.” My friend assured me that they were alive. But I needed to see them to believe it.
Have you ever needed to know that God was close? Have you ever walked through a circumstance where you felt alone? Have you ever struggled with wanting to be in control of your circumstances? Have you ever doubted that God was trustworthy? Tell Him what you feel. Be honest with Him about your doubts. Confess to Him that You need Him. He promises that He will give you strength in your weakness and go before you. He will never leave you. He is close to you. He will never leave you alone, even in your darkest moments.
The ride to the city hospital was oh so long and again felt like a dream. I still can touch those feelings of anticipation, having no idea what I was about to face…
But I wasn’t alone.