Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix." ~St. Gaspar del Bufaro~

Clinging To The Cross~My Story of Loss

It's always hard to share difficult things in our lives.
But I've come to believe God gives us these difficult things so that we can share with others (in His time) to support one another through our journeys of faith.  For it is through our trials that we grow stronger and more capable of encouraging others to persevere through the pits and potholes in the road that we are sure to face.  It has taken me the better part of 17 years to find happiness and holiness through an unthinkable horror.  But it is through this nightmare that my life truly began, one season of Lent.  I can say that now with complete and utter confidence, like never before.  My hope in the Lord is unfailing.
Good Friday, 1994, was the day of my own personal Passion.  By saying this, I don't mean to diminish the crucifixtion or the Passion of Our Lord in any way.  In my own human experience, it is the way  I felt on that fateful night.  In my own vulnerability, I am at a loss for other titles to describe being thrust to the foot of the Cross...somewhere I never thought I'd find myself planting my face...

My husband and I had just moved to a new duty station after both returning safely from our military service in Saudi Arabia and Iraq during the 1990-91 Gulf War.
We were at the height of our happiness and joy as a married couple and new parents. 

My husband was celebrating his promotion to Army Captain and his graduation from Army Aviation Flight School.

[At this time we had decided that I would leave the Army so that we could start our family.  I had just given birth to our son~a beautiful baby boy.]
~Our precious Mer-man with his Dad~

We went out to dinner, that Good Friday, to meet my husband's staff and their spouses for the first time.
It was a delightful evening full of fun and laughter...We even danced for the first time in quite awhile!
And then the music stopped.

As we returned home, pulling into the driveway of our newly purchased suburban home (off base), we noticed dark shadows lurking around the sidewalk.  My husband no sooner set foot outside of the car and a gun was pointed at his chest; The robber in the night was demanding his wallet.  Sudden panic set in as a struggle ensued between my Airborne Ranger husband and the unknown perpetrator.  I needed to get help but my purse was locked in the trunk with my keys.  I knew it would be too dangerous to try to get the baby out of the car seat, to safety, with men wielding guns.  Instead I locked our sweet baby in the car and ran to the neighbors to call 9-11.  

Before I was half way there, the original robber came after me as another gun toting thug still threatened my husband.  Thankfully, the neighbors opened their door.  Ironically, Providentially, they were up reading the Bible on Good Friday.

Within seconds, the robbers were fleeing to their get-away car and shots rang out.
I rushed to the aid of my husband who lay "crucified" on our front lawn,
mortally wounded from a bullet to his precious head.
I can still hear the echo of my own agonizing screams in my mind.

Did The Lord hear my cry up there on the cross?
Did His Mother know that I shared her heart-wrenching anguish as I tried to stop the gushing blood from the wound of my love?  Did she see me there on my knees as my whole world came crashing down around me?

  Much like the scene from the Passion of the Christ movie where Mary mops the floor with towels after the scourging, I remember charitable neighbors bringing me white towels as I attempted to prevent my dear husband's head wound from flooding the universe.  In the darkness of night, the white towels were an ugly reminder of the random violence...An innocent life slain...And for what purpose?

I wouldn't wash my hands for days...To me, the blood stains were the last tangible remnants of a love that I could cling to.  Aside from our sweet baby, everything else had been ripped away. Life as I knew it was shattered forever.

{Thanks to the neighbors who called 9-11, our perpetrators were caught within minutes}

The "Why's" and the "What If's" pounded my every thought for days, months, years, a long with flashbacks from the horror.  I thought the mental torture and grief would surely  do me in.  If it weren't for a precious baby to live for, I would have gladly climbed inside the coffin, happy to be whisked away with my love.  I didn't want to do the "til death do us part" that we professed in our wedding vows.  Damn those wedding vows! I didn't want to be anywhere but with him, my best friend, my love, my everything.

I raged upon learning that these guys were just out "looking for someone to rob", as if they had nothing else better to do on "Good Friday".  The questions pounded my mind and haunted me for years: How could these guys attack innocent people for no reason?  Didn't they know we were soldiers who defended THEIR freedom and their very right to bear those fire arms?  Don't they care? How many people did they attempt to harm?  [We also learned that there were a few other failed attempts before we became their ultimate victims]

And then the IFs..."If only" we had gotten home just a few minutes earlier or later, our paths would not have crossed.  "If only" this, "If only" that, "If only......"

And then the ultimate question that tore me from my faith (for a time) was..."How could God let evil win?"
I always believed that good triumphed over evil.  If God let this happen to good, innocent, loving, serving people, He must not exist.  Why would He do that? What have I done to deserve this?
My belief system was wracked.

The days, months, and years ahead were arduous and angry, to say the least.  I did not carry my Cross gracefully.  I threw it down, I screamed at it to go away, I stomped on it, I shook my fist to heaven, I would have burned it, if I could.  I felt no relief.

It took years to see the connection that my husband died defending his family on Good Friday to that of Jesus dying for US on Good Friday.  

And the number 40...  Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days, like the period of 40 days in Lent and the 40 YEARS that all 3 robbers were sentenced with before they are ever eligible for parole.  

I failed to see the fortress of love that God was building up for me and the Army of Saints and Angels He sent to preserve my hope, lest I fall to the evil one's temptation of despair.

I refused to move beyond my own self pity for such a very long time.
I saw nothing that I could relate to, no reason for this Cross that I had been given.  

Little did I know that this Cross would be the greatest gift I had ever been given, just like the ultimate gift He gives us...Death on the Cross to save us from ourselves.  The darkness of the Cross gave light to the resurrection and glory of heaven.
Seventeen years later, I am nothing without that Cross.  

The miraculous part of my journey is not where I landed but where I am today, in spite of myself.   I am nothing but blessed by and through this Cross.  Day in and day out, the joy and fruit that God provides are truly beyond my comprehension. I say "for the most part" because there are still times of anxiety when I fall weak and vulnerable.  And of course we never stop missing the ones we love that are taken too soon.  

This time of year brings unfailing hurt...The pain and sorrow flood back, like the rivers being filled with the melting snow from the mountains.  Though I am stronger now capable of  holding the water,  I am not invincible or immune to the reminders and sudden floods.  Yet despite all of this, joy remains rooted in my soul, deeper than any human weakness on the surface. I am ever mindful of the Cross, the instrument of our salvation.  I am in debt this one true Cross that beholds our Savior, who continues to deliver me from darkness.  

With the first week of Lent upon us, I am reflecting on this Cross, gazing upon it intently.  Am I still learning all I can from the splinters I have bore?  Am I serving Our Lord to the best of my ability with the graces He provides? 

I am fasting, praying and almsgiving this year, dedicated to this journey.   As  Christians, our journeys are never easy.  None of us are spared.  But how do we handle our journeys and what do we do with them to bare fruit and love?  That's the ultimate question that I still ponder......
Each year, I climb Calvary Hill.  It has become a healing pilgrimage and a time of spiritual renewal.
I would venture to say that Lent is the time of year that we are all especially connected to the part of us that suffers.  Are we ready to suffer even more?  To be honest, I shudder at the thought of it.  Haven't I done my part, I cry? But I know it is what's best for me, ultimately.  

We as Christians know that our Lord is the Refiner's fire.  He desires to refine us like silver and test us like gold. (Zech. 13:9) He desires us to be close to him on that Cross so that we may bask in the light and the promise of eternal life that comes with the dawn of Easter.  

But we must journey long and hard to get there...Like the old adage:  "No pain, no gain."  Lent is the beginning of another opportunity to journey closer to that Cross, closer to pure love.  Though I am certainly not good at it, I'm picking mine up once again.  

This time I am not clinging to the Cross because I was unexpectedly thrown up against it, finding myself there begrudgingly.  This Lent it is my choice, knowing that my very life and death depend upon it. Clinging to the Cross for dear life has new meaning now.  I am deeply in love with a Savior who I know, with certain, I cannot live without.  
"Listen to God's voice at the foot of the crucifix."
~St. Gaspar del Bufalo~

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