The morning came when I had told myself it was time to return to work, but a second panic attack had incapacitated me from returning to anything that looked like normal life. I did not want to let this new monstrous fear take over and define my life, so I called for an appointment, to get some godly counsel on healthy grief.
I had spent the morning at the cemetery planning for the burial with Ethan’s family. I was frozen by the time I left to head to my counseling appointment, partially because it was January and raining, but also because I had just helped his family pick out his casket and I always get frigidly cold when I am distressed.
I was in great need of the comfort of a warm cup of something.
Ethan always made me tea–I loved that about him. I remember the first few times he offered to fix me a cup of tea, I refused and left early only because I was nervous and unsure. I remember the second time this happened, as I was driving away from his place, I chastised myself, saying, when an intellectual, artistic, bearded man with dreamy blue eyes offers to make you a cup of tea so that he can sit and talk with you, you say yes! After that night, I never turned down his offer for a cup of tea again. And memories that I will cherish my whole life through were made during those long (often philosophical and always full of heart) chats over a cup of tea.
What I really needed in that frozen winter moment was for Ethan to brew me a cup of tea, wrap my shivering body in his warm arms and let me talk my heart out as he had so many times before. I decided to stop at a coffee shop on the way.
Without thinking I drove up to my normal stop. The memory of first hearing of Ethan’s accident and the horrific look of fear in my friend’s eyes as she received the news over the phone, hit me like a punch in the gut as I drove up to the same coffee shop where the girls and I had met for Bible study the night of the accident.
I had not thought this through.
I glanced to the spot where I had parked my truck and left it that night. I had never returned for it nor thought about it again until now. Someone from my family must have gone to get it.
I started sobbing as I sat there in the parking lot deciding if I could go in or not. It was like walking back into a nightmare. The feeling of having something irreplaceable stolen from me washed over me like a beating.
I decided I would not live avoiding everything that reminded me of the trauma. I could handle this, I told myself. I wiped the tears off my face, grabbed my wallet and went in. I looked straight at the table we had been sitting at, like I was daring it to take me on. I was toe to toe with the memory of that night, staring the nightmare in the face as it taunted me, but I held my ground. I would not live in fear of that night.
I exchanged my usual lavender latte for a Chai latte and went on my way, wondering how much of my battle I wore on my face. After all, I was still learning what it meant to forgo the mask of the “brave face” and live in actual courage.
I don’t remember what we talked about, the counselor and I. I don’t remember what questions he asked or what I shared or if I cried or not. But there are two moments during that conversation that I can remember as though they had just happened moments ago.
First, was when the counselor was being really honest with me and saying how angry it makes him that Ethan, such a great guy, was killed while plenty scum bags seem to get a free pass at life. He was simply stating what looked like injustice to him, and I had wanted to agree. In fact, I wanted to go a step further and let the bitterness of the injustice take root within me, but what I heard in response came from my Father’s voice.
“I am a good Father. I am not going to give you a stone when you need a loaf of bread.”
In all the business of planning for the memorial and now the burial, I had almost forgotten that God had spoken that strange line about bread the night Ethan died. I still hadn’t pressed into that. I still didn’t know what it was supposed to mean to me.
And the second defining moment came when the counselor suggested that God so rarely explains these injustices. I remember he had said, “the only thing God really promises us in these situations is peace.”
And like a fire within me, the Holy Spirit roared, “I HAVE PROMISED YOU MORE THAN THAT.”
I was so stunned. I am not sure if my reaction to the Holy Spirit’s words showed up on my face or not, but if they had, you would have seen me, wide-eyed and gripping the chair arms like I had just been hit with a powerful gust of wind that had nearly knocked me over. What in the world did that mean? What else had He promised me? I had no idea. But I was going to find out.