Dealing with Grief and Tragedy - Part 1
I was woken from deep sleep by the ringing of the telephone. Instantly I knew it could not be good news. No-one in our family phones after nine at night and it was close to one in the morning. I raced for the phone, my heart pounding and dreading what I might hear from the other end of the line. It was my Mum and she was the bearer of bad news. My brother and his family (his wife and two children) had been in a car accident. In an instant my life was different and some things could never be the same again. My brother and his wife were building their dream home and they had driven out to the property in the early evening to have a look at the progress. On their way home they were hit head-on by a drunk driver. My beautiful sister-in-law was killed instantly and the others were left in critical condition. We were told to prepare for the worst - that they might not make it through the night. I spent the rest of the night in turmoil - moving from crying to shock to praying fervently for God to give them another chance at life. I prayed most of all for my little niece who was three years old. She was on life support but I firmly believed that God could do a miracle and revive her. It was three days before Christmas and Christmas would never hold the same family memories ever again for their family. I went to church the next morning, and as we were the pastors of this church, I felt I had to be strong and set an example of victory in grief (this sounds so ridiculous to me now as I type it, but that was how I was processing then). So I danced during worship, hoping that my demonstration of faith would maybe unleash something to change their circumstances.
When I got home I received another call from my Mum. There was no progress in Katie's condition and they were going to turn off the life support and let her be with her mum. This news came as a complete blow to me - I had so much faith for God to save her - I admit that I was angry deep down inside and yet I swept my feelings under the carpet once more. I had to make an effort for my own family as it was Christmas and my kids were so excited about it. We lived a twenty hour car journey from my family and they had instructed me to stay home until arrangements were made and we had more news. This was wise but very frustrating as I felt completely powerless.
I later heard how my brother, who had a smashed face, jaw, leg and shoulder was wheeled into her room to be with her at the end. He was now conscious but in severe pain, his face swollen beyond recognition. He apparently spoke to her and stroked her telling her how much he loved her and then he held her as best he could while they switched off the machines. He stayed with her till she was gone. Now he had not only lost his wife who he adored but his little girl too. Fortunately his son would make it but it would be a long road to recovery as his one leg had been severely scarred and damaged.
A few days later I left my family as I flew to be with my parents. I will never forget the first time I walked into the hospital and saw my brother. I must have looked shocked even though i was mentally telling myself not to show it on my face. I had been in ministry for a few years as a pastor so one would have thought I would know how to respond and what to say - not so. When it is your own flesh and blood it is different. I felt totally at a loss for words and nothing I could say would make it right or easier so I decided to just hug him and say how sorry I was.
I have always adored my older brother - you would understand why if you met him - he is a fun guy and enjoys life to the full. He is affectionate and caring and has a very charismatic personality. Seeing him so heart-sore and broken was the hardest thing for all of us.I knew that his life would never quite be the same again.
I attended my sister-in-law and nieces' funeral and I wept buckets of tears. I kept running things over in my head of what could have been if there had been just a few changes in the scenario. What if they had left just two minutes later or earlier? What if they had not gone that night? What if.. what if... what if...? It didn't help or change things!