Prisoner of Hope – A Typical American Family

part 5 …….

Our family was, what I thought to be, your typical American family. By that I mean we loved each other, we worked hard to make ends meet, my husband and I tried to raise our kids the best way we knew – instilling morals in them and enough discipline so when they are adults they make good, mature, kind decisions, etc.

My husband and I met in the middle of the Jesus People Movement that had spread across America in the early 70’s. We had joined a Christian commune that worked to serve the many young people in the streets during the “hippie” days – the days when so many of all ages were “finding themselves”. Good times 😉

When we married he was my pastor. We wanted a family right away so 10 months later our wonderful son, Jonathan, was born. Twenty months later, Vanessa Joy was born.

As a minister’s family I tried really hard to raise my kids to be pretty “normal”. Meaning, I wanted them to be individuals – to be who they were made to be. Not to be who other people thought they should be. Those raised in the church or those leaders in church who raised their children in the church know what I’m talking about. I knew my kids would be labeled as PK’s (Preacher Kids or Pastor’ Kids) – but by golly, mine were going to be normal. So I told them – the boys – if they wanted long hair it’s OK with me, as long as it’s clean and not hanging in your food while you eat. I let them dye their hair if they wanted, etc. and so on. Be creative! And they were good – no really BIG problems as teens – just the normal “I’ll use my mouth against my parents” kind of stuff – haha.

About 5 years after Vanessa came another boy and then 2.5 years later, our last, another boy. They grew and I tried to enjoy every minute of it. As they began to grown into adulthood and leave home to “spread their wings”, we let them. We encouraged them and loved them even if we didn’t 100% like the way they were doing things. We knew we had to let them go and try things on their own – while watching and listening to their every move. Were we perfect parents? Heck no! I still tell our oldest that I am sorry for anything I did that wasn’t good for him – I told him he was the first and we had NO IDEA what we were doing. He was basically the guinea pig. He laughs – now.

Our daughter’s decision to move to California was a tough one. We didn’t like it I think because of who she had gotten involved with. We decided to love her through this and pray like crazy that things would go a different way. Did we, as parents, really know what way they should go? No. We just knew that a different partner would have been better. Would a different way still have her here, still alive and with us? Not necessarily. We really don’t know the outcome. We all see only a part of the puzzle of our lives. So we do our best.

She had decided to move to Seattle after the relationship broke up with this friend of hers. She was ready for a new start and it felt right by all of us. This was in November of 2004. She made many good friends in California that are like family to us now.

Her youngest brother was living in KCMO and had gone to California to spend Christmas with her. The middle son was in Shanghai, China studying at the University there. The oldest and his family were just a few miles from us in NJ. All was good.

Until that phone call. That one short phone call that changed our life forever. You really cannot prepare for such an event. We’ve walked through this with friends when they lost their son – but he was their son. It was a tiny bit of preparation – but not.

Bad things do happen to good people. We think we’re good people. We are not by any means perfect in anything. We are human, after all. But all we knew was to reach to the author of our faith, Jesus Christ. The anchor of our souls. He was amazing during that horrific time. We could feel Him holding us. We saw Him in so many people – the ladies at the church we used, who picked up snotty tissues with their bare hands – the many who stopped by with food and hugs – even strangers. Those who loved us afterwards and became part of us. It was incredible. Terribly, wonderfully incredible. And extremely painful.

We hurt daily as a family and individuals. But we embrace the pain and try our best to keep going. It has become part of us. We feel for those who have loss. Everyday you can see it on the news – we live in an imperfect world. There is pain, disease, heartache, violence, etc. , all around us.

I hope when any of us – our family and friends who know this heartache firsthand – or even you, Reader, come across a fellow human being who has suffered loss of some degree can look into their heart and reach out a helping hand. A hug? A word? A look? Pick up a snotty tissue? See past the walls of social standing or racial barriers or just plain old likes and dislikes – and see them in a different light.

To be continued …………

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4 Replies to “Prisoner of Hope – A Typical American Family”

  1. I have a former student who was in my first class here in Taiwan five years ago. I stay in touch with him on Facebook. We chat occasionally, and the young man is having a rough time with depression and some other issues. It takes so little of my time to say hello and ask how he is when I see him online. I’ve told him of my own struggles and invited him to visit anytime he’d like to talk. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back, but because he thinks it’s so unusual. Every time I talk to this young man, he thanks me for still caring for him after all this time. What a pity that so many think there is some kind of expiration date for caring.

    Once you have gone through any kind of deep trauma and pain, I believe you cannot be true to yourself and not reach out to others. The people who have reached out to me when I had rough times in life have shown me that we are the ones who are the face and hands of God to others. Your story is a reminder of that ongoing truth.

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