Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.
The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers together the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
I can not thank you enough. I think today's post will be the hardest one yet. It will be like digging into a grave that I buried my heart breaking memories. None the less, it is through those heartaches that I have come to know God as my healer, comforter, and God of wonders. I have come to know God the Father in a very intimate way through these hard times. I would be limiting God's amazing glory by sharing only the great joys in my life. I have a need to expose my hurts and pain because it is in those dark moments that God’s amazing glory did shine the brightest. The stories I will share will not coincide necessarily with the time frame of parts one - three of my testimony but is more of a beautifully broken medley of God's redeeming love.
I shared with you that though I had claimed to be a Christian I had not been living the life of a Christ follower. Sure, I shared Christ with people, but my actions washed out my words. There is power in the Holy Spirit, and at times, I felt a tug at my heart and I knew that it was the Spirit of God telling to share Christ with someone. At times I would, but at other moments the fear or rejection, of being mocked and of appearing too religious held me back from speaking. Afterwards, I would go through the world's worst guilt trip for not doing so. One Friday, I felt a heavy burden to speak to a friend of mine about Jesus, and about the hope found in Him. God’s message was very clear. It was as if God wanted me to speak only about hope. But, I was uneasy with sharing God's hope to her. It turned out that we would spend the entire day together. For a second time, the Lord told me to talk to her. I neglected to do so one more time. Again and again, throughout the day the Lord kept prompting me to speak to her. I spent a good 6 hours with her engaged in conversation and what not but I did not speak to her. Afterwards, I felt horrible because I knew what I had to do and didn’t do it. “Next time Lord,” is what I said to Him. She committed suicide that night.
I have made many terrible decisions, but to me, none can be worse than this one. Through many words of comfort, I was reminded that she made this decision on her own to take her life. But the doubt that if I had said something to her she could have possibly still be alive today. I have never been able to surrender this guilt fully. A part of me finds comfort in holding myself accountable for her death. I still drive by where she committed suicide and just cry till I can’t cry anymore. After her death, life for me changed forever. I promised the Lord to be obedient to His prompting and to speak boldly. However, this was not going to change the fact that she wasn’t here. I couldn’t sleep for a very long time. I would have dreams of her asking me why I never shared Jesus with her. What helped was God’s divine grace. He bandaged my wound with the help of my family and friends. A friend from church bought me a pillow to cry on, a journal to vent and a book* that helped me get back on track and be a courageous witness to the lost. The day of her funeral I had written a poem dedicated to her. I gave it to her grieving parents.
There is one more death that I have bottled up inside and probably the most difficult one to talk about. And if you are somewhat close to me, you know that if it wasn’t for God I wouldn’t be writing about this. This Sunday, December the 6th will be five years since my Grandfather went to be with the Lord. As if I didn’t cry enough about Susie’s suicide, writing about Abuelito is shredding me to pieces. His death is the deepest wound I have. Far deeper than the suicide, far deeper than walking away from my first love, far deeper than the most horrific experiences I had. Death is so final.
Abuelito to me was my earthly Prince. He would always remind me of how I was his favorite grandchild. He always commended me on being strong willed, and of a rough character. He would always smile at me when I would stand up for myself. He spoiled me with love. He let me get away with anything. He would let me light up his cigarettes as a child. And often times he would leave me a beer under the dinning table, knowing full well that Mami would get upset at Him. I loved rubbing his bald head and his belly. I loved his hands and his feet. He was the funniest man I knew and will ever know. But he was also, one of the godliest too. He knew the Bible, every story, every word. He taught me to love cheese, Häagen-Dazs ice cream and the New York Yankees. He was a hard working man. His death was very sudden. And even though I have all these wonferful memories to keep his memory alive in me, I still am mourning his death, I think I always will.
The night before He went to be with the Lord, my Grandmother had called me to ask if I could take Abuelito to his doctor’s appointment the next morning. She told me the time and I agreed to pick Him up since it was going to be my day off. The morning came and I was running late to go pick him up. That’s when I got the phone call from my Grandmother. She was panicking and I couldn’t understand what she was saying. All I could make out was, “Pedrito! Ay Pedrito! Corre!” in English it would be, “Pedrito! Oh my goodness, Pedrito! Hurry!” I ran to my Mother’s room, she was getting dressed. I yelled that something was wrong with Abuelito and we rushed over to their house. On the way we called an Ambulance to meet us there. When we arrived we found that a neighbor had already called 911. I watched the limb body of my Grandfather as He lay on the floor. The Paramedics were resuscitating him. My Grandmother was freaking out, Mami was hysterical and my baby cousin could not stop crying. I was motionless. I felt as if my life was being taken from me. All I could think was, “Raquel, why didn’t you pick Him up on time??? You could have had him at the clinic the time the heart attack happened.” Within minutes he released all his body fluids and I knew very well what that meant. But I wasn’t going to lose hope; the paramedics rushed Him to the Hospital.
At 11 am, that Monday morning they doctors signed him off as dead. At the least I know he didn’t suffer. I have never been able to forgive myself for this. Nor have been able to forgive myself for the pain I have caused my entire family with this great loss. I could have been there earlier, with time to spare but I wasn’t. It took me a very long time to return to my Grandmother’s house. Still today I go back there and I remember vividly Abuelito on the floor, lifeless. I am so overcome with guilt that I can’t even stand being around my own Grandmother, because I feel that I have failed her and caused her so much grief. Maybe I sink into guilt because it will offer me a temporary explanation for Abuelito’s death, when I can’t understand why He had to die. And even though, I may never be able to overcome Abuelito’s death, knowing that He is in Heaven enjoying the presence of the Lord gives me great joy. Without a doubt, I know He is with the Lord. And yes, this year he had God help the New York Yankees win the World Series, lol.
God has sustained me through both of these terrible experiences, along with other heartaches that maybe someday I will share with you. Though I have had a hard time forgiving myself, I bask in the forgiveness of God and find peace and security there. The Lord gave me two great verses that constantly console me, when guilt seems to creep in:
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, and they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
December the 10th 2004, I have recorded in my journal verses that the Lord gave me to comfort me through the book of Isaiah** after Abuelito's death.
These heart aches, scars and memories that I have endured are what unite me to everyone else. We all hurt, we all cried and we all lose something or someone we love at one point or another. But we have a great God that can work out everything for our good. In the words of Ken Graves, “pain is our teacher.” I have known the pain of losing someone to eternal damnation, a pain that our Father must suffer too often. I have known the pain of momentary loss, like God submitted himself to when Jesus paid our debt in the pits of Hell. I have known rejection, humiliation, mockery like my Jesus has known when I share Christ and He is rejected. But I have also known the joy of seeing a friend come to Christ. I have known the joy of knowing that I will see Abuelito face to face. I have known the joy of walking with the Lord and I am not letting go.
I invite you to return to my blog tomorrow Friday, for the conclusion of this Lily story.