The Summer Everything Changed

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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My 17-year-old self woke up in a startle. Saturday mornings were for sleeping in and lazing happily, especially in summer. 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 this string of words. Then, realization hit.

Scared and confused, I defaulted to my custom at the time: to think of the worst possible scenario. If I imagined the most horrible outcome, I reasoned it couldn’t possibly come true. It worked so many times before, like when I was scared my parents hadn’t made it home yet from shopping in the big city—when I assumed the worst, they returned that night safe and sound. 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 see what happened and how he’s doing.

I don’t remember how we got there, but I definitely remember arriving at the nearby county hospital. 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. People from our church were in there with my mom, consoling and praying.

Time stood still and blurred at the same time. Somehow we learned that my dad was gone. I began pacing the narrow hallway. I’m sure it was bright, but it seemed dimly lit. I prayed for his resurrection. I worried.

It was the summer before my senior year of high school, and 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 passed through my mind in the few minutes I walked that lonely corridor. Until those moments, I believed I was close to becoming a man. Now I felt like I was just a boy, overwhelmed by these thoughts and responsibilities.

Without warning, my dad was gone. I could do nothing to bring him back. It was sudden. It was final. He just fell over while fishing in my grandpa’s lake. That was it. No battles or slow descent. No good-bye.

Thankfully, I had hope that we'd be reunited one day in God's eternal presence, but every day brought another reminder of our loss. Days were spent trying to figure out what it meant to live without him, and nights were filled with dreams that he came back as if he were just away on a trip.

My mom had told us that the only way we would make it through was "to be at church every time the doors opened." So we went. With a heavy heart, I stood in the back, making it through a couple songs before breaking down. Several arms, I couldn't even tell you whose, surrounded me, and the pastor cut the singing short to speak about our loss—that of our family and the church—and in those moments, I felt the comfort of the Divine.

Image by Jenny Rain. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. This article is a reprint of a post by Jason Stasyszen.