By Carol Sokolsky
I sat on a beautiful black granite bench on a serene hillside under a spectacular blue sky. It was still a little chilly – it was early April in Pennsylvania – but the day was almost perfect. Except it wasn’t – perfect, I mean. It was lonely and my world was still in shambles as I sat on that bench, which was my rendition of a grave stone…because I wanted my husband to have a memorial that would represent all that he was…beautiful, classy, calming, and now completely at peace. As I sat there, almost to the day that he died a year before, I wondered how I could possibly keep going without the love of my life, my forever love, who left me way too young, who struggled with that evil disease we call cancer. His lungs and his brain were ravaged by the C-monster that sucked the very life out of him.
In the end, he lost his fight and I was sitting there on his bench, feeling like I was looking at someone I used to know.
I knew that one day I’d look back and realize that God does heal hearts. How do I know? Because 31 years before, I sat at the same place – in a different state – knowing that I would never, ever, get past the consuming pain that almost kept me from breathing, as I laid my nine-year-old son in the ground.
At times there were no words to speak. Sometimes the nerves of my heart were so raw and overwhelming that I had to remind myself to just breathe. The term “one day at a time” became “one minute at a time” as the pain of leaving my son at that grave site was completely unbearable. Dear God, why would you let this happen to me? He was only nine years old with an entire life ahead of him. He giggled…he played…he loved…he was a beautiful, smart little third-grade boy. And yet, six days before Christmas, he got on a snowmobile and tragically lost his precious little life. My life was now forever changed. Forever changed. Why didn’t I get to say goodbye before he left? Did he really know how much I loved him? As these things raced in my mind over and over and over, I wondered if the pain would ever numb. Would I be able to find me again?
I’m convinced that losing a child is by far the most intense pain that a human can ever experience. Yet, years later as I sat on that black granite bench, I again wondered if I’d ever feel again…could I go on? My best friend, my life buddy, my forever love, was gone. I held him as he took his last breath on earth, and then held onto his earthly body as he walked into the very presence of Jesus…eternally grateful that he is dancing with Jesus…and with my son. Here I was again, in such pain, the grief of loss again overtaking my very soul.
This time though, it was a different pain, and this time there was no anger.
After my son died, I was angry…angry at God…just angry. Period.
I knew my son was in heaven; yet, I was convinced that a God of love would never allow such a tragedy, especially at Christmas.
I purposely walked away from anything that resembled religion, God, church. Period. And for almost 15 years, I masked pain with a smile, as best possible, and did it on my own – or so I thought.
Funny how God works. What I didn’t realize is that all the pain, the questioning, the details of my life, were being woven into a tapestry, one that would become evident to me, but only after my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Doc was convinced that six sessions of chemo was all he would need…and then it metastasized to the brain. We were immediately at Stage 4…and everything changed again. “Dear God, where are you? I desperately need a miracle.” And then I got one, but not in the form I would have ever imagined.
I began to blog our journey, with no idea where it would lead. As I emptied my brutally honest heart, our friends and family sent back hope, love, prayers, songs and words of encouragement. During the most trying times – when my panic level was on code red – I began to understand the words that someone shared with me: “Sometimes God calms the storm. And sometimes God lets the storm rage and calms His child.” His child. Yes, my God moment…I had lost my child and grieved for years.
I ran from God and yet He brought calm and peace in moments that otherwise would have been so overwhelming. He loved his child…He loved me.
I had become vulnerable…in my pain and in my hope, and God used that time in my life to show me how very real He is. Those bad choices I made years ago had now become part of my learning process, the tapestry of my life. Instead of being stuck in grief, I was becoming alive in knowing who God is, and how He loves me with unfailing love. The biggest miracle came nine days before my husband died, when he willingly reached out to Jesus. Yes, I know my husband is in heaven. I witnessed that tender moment as we prayed together.
Am I still grieving the loss of my son, my dad, and my husband? Of course, and I always will. But I now see their passing with different eyes, knowing that all three are in heaven and are spending eternity dancing with Jesus! And yes, one day I’ll join that dance and everything will be made clear and perfect. Until that time, I know that God isn’t finished with me yet. I have a job to do here; maybe to share my story to others that are suffering, and maybe just to teach me to trust our faithful God. I am forever changed. I’ve shed the guilt of running away from God because I now see how he was steering me right back, and for that, I’m eternally grateful. Forever changed.
Carol Sokolsky is a newcomer to Tulsa. She relocated from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in October, 2014 after retiring from FedEx Services, Global Account Management. She spent most of her 33 FedEx years as a road warrior, leading a large global management team and serving one global customer for over 20 years. Her passion for blogging began in 2010 as she launched a two-year blog that chronicled the journey of her husband’s valiant fight with cancer and ultimately the end of his journey. Her blog became a book, “Sid’s Journey”. She continues to journal daily on just about everything!