Written by: Taylor DiPaola
Part of me knew that I would never get a response to my text. Dread had settled in my stomach as more news reports came out, but I pushed it back to focus on being hopeful.
He’s fine, I kept telling myself.
Yet over the past months, God had been showing me that tragedies don’t just create statistics. They affect real people, and sometimes, they affect you or someone you know. I hoped that this time wasn’t that sometime.
I got the phone call at work. There weren’t many details, but we knew that he had been killed in the shooting.
Memories of him rushed through my head. I remembered when I met him and how he’d immediately declared himself to be my new sibling. I remembered the model aircraft he’d bought my brother when my brother was heading to flight school, and I remembered his excitement at being a senior in college. Then, I remembered how I never replied to his last text during the holidays, and I felt guilty for wasting the last chance I’d had to talk to him.
As more information came out, we learned that he’d been a hero who pushed through till the end to save others’ lives. He’d fulfilled John 15:13 (KJV) to its fullest extent: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
All of us who knew him were heartbroken, and I personally didn’t know how to handle it. I didn’t know how to grieve in the middle of work and at the start of college finals. I’d like to say that I read my Bible and found comfort in God’s words, but I didn’t. My emotions started to feel as though they were locked away deep inside me. I didn’t truly feel anything, nor did I do anything.
Even though I didn’t seek God during this time, He still supported me. Much like in that old “Footprints” poem, God carried me through the following weeks despite the fact that I didn’t realize it until later. He carried me through both the emotionless days and the heartbreaking ones.
I began to learn that grief is tricky. Guilt and doubt seem to go hand-in-hand with it, but God started to reveal that those two don’t belong with grief. Grief is hard, but it’s also a chance to gain a new perspective. While I could mull over my mistakes in our friendship and regret every possible “what if,” I should focus on more important things. I should focus on my friend’s legacy and on what he did in his life.
As Romans 8:28 shows, God can bring out good things even from the bad. And here, in this bad, God has been faithful and created good.
Yes, all that’s left of my friend now are those of us who knew him and our memories of him. However, in the relationships we had and in the memories we hold dearly, we are connected and joined together in a way we never were before. In his death, a new life has been created—a life of lasting friendships and connections borne out of the grief of his loss.
God has been good through it all. He has shown me His compassion and His strength. When I look back at the months following my friend’s death, I see how God carried me through the pain and loss to show me hope on the other side.
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