There is something about the anniversary date of a death that can make you sick to your stomach at just the mention of it.
Whenever I hear February 20th, my heart sinks all over again and I instantly think back to that morning, the phone call and all the sadness that followed.
It's been 9 years since my friend Nick died.
9 years already? It doesn't seem like it's been that long, but I guess it never does.
Leading up to Nick's death, there had recently been a lot of deaths at SBU. So much so, it was almost eerie.
The first tragic car wreck at the beginning of the year killed Jay and Sarah, which really shook the campus. Then in August, James died, which devastated everyone. In December, three more SBU students died in a car wreck; Mary, Bryon and Gregory. It seemed like everyone was in shock--walking around in disbelief from all the tragedy.
For a campus of 1,700 students, we were more like a family. Everyone knew each other-at least by face, if not always by name. And it seemed that just as we would start to heal from one death, another would death would occur. It was a weird season at SBU.
When I started school at SBU I was just another invincible, "happy go lucky" college student. But with the tragedy of each death came the reality that life truly is short.
And while I wasn't closely connected to any of the students that had died, I watched close friends of mine mourn the loss of childhood friends, siblings and roommates.
I was saddened by all the heartache, but strengthened by the faithful reminders from the Lord that life is a vapor (James 4:14). I was thankful I could learn the lesson from afar and not have to sit in the middle of the valley that so many people around me were in the midst of.
But on the morning of February 20th, I found myself in the deep crevasse of my own valley.
I remember waking up to the sound of the phone ringing in my dorm room so early in the morning and thinking something must be wrong.
Then I remember hearing Mike ask me if I was sitting down and that got me thinking "something IS wrong".
He proceeded to tell me the news but all I could comprehend were bits and pieces as my mind was reeling.
"early this morning", "car accident", "Nick", "dead". I was trying to put it all together as my mind reeled and I sat in silence thinking surely it wasn't true.
I remember putting the phone down and walking around aimlessly in my room until finally I decided I should take a shower before heading to the house where everyone was gathering. Once in the shower, images and memories flooded my head. I began crying so hard (which was the first time I had cried that morning) that I had to sit down.
It seemed so unreal "that" Nick was gone...the Nick from almost all my high school memories.
I remember trying to pick out clothes and wondering why I was even trying to match them. Then my friends came to my room as they heard the news and knew I needed them...Regardless, I felt very lost and alone.
Nick was my friend from my hometown. Even though we went to the same college, we didn't hang out in the same circle of friends anymore. Our lives had gone different directions.
So even though I had supportive friends that were a huge comfort to me, I had to walk through alot his death by myself.
I struggled to fit in with my old high school friends who came to college with me, but chose a different path. I wanted more than anything to cry with someone who knew Nick like I did...but everyone from high school had changed so much. We were so different now and I was a stranger.
It even seemed like I was mourning the death of a Nick that everyone else had forgotten...or never knew in some cases.
That made me feel all-the-more like I was a stranger. And I guess I was. I was an outsider now. I didn't feel like I belonged at the apartment that my high school friends now lived in. But I didn't want to be back in my dorm room-where no one really understood and life was just going on like nothing had happened.
I wish I could say that I turned to the Lord and clung to Him in my sorrow and loneliness. But I didn't. I turned away from his voice. For the first time since giving my life to Jesus, I started to doubt.
But faithfully the Lord had put Amber in my life a year earlier and she walked me through a lot of my sorrow and confusion. Sometimes I think if it weren't for her, I might have completely fallen apart or even fallen away. God was faithful, I just didn't see it at the time. Thankfully, He's faithful whether I notice or not!
At the time of Nicks death, I was asking God a lot of questions. I had a lot of "why's" and "what if's" that haunted me.
Honestly, none of my questions have really been answered, even today. But my perspective has changed. I thought at first that Nicks death was in vain...that no spiritual fruit grew from his death. But now I just trust instead of judge. I believe in faith that God's glory is greater because of Nicks death. I know now that just because I can't see with my physical eyes how the Kingdom of God was impacted after Nick died, that doesn't mean that no one was changed.
And most importantly, I know that even after 9 years, God is still working through Nick's death. And He who began a work, will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).