Friday, November 06, 2009

Marking the day

November 6th, 1996 is a day that I will never forget. Just 4 days after my 16th birthday, my mom took me out of school early so I could go and get my driver's license. I passed easily, and to celebrate afterwards, we went to the mall to get lunch. As I sat across the formica table from mom, sunlight pouring in through the skylights of the food court of the Cool Springs Galleria, I realized something was wrong. As I looked at mom, I knew there was something she wasn't telling me, and when I inquired she finally broke down and told me that my cousin Mark had died that morning. She didn't want to tell me earlier because she didn't want to distract me from taking my driving test. Through the shock and sadness I realized that every time I stared at my driver's license, my happy face smiling back, that the date, November 6, 1996, the date my license was issued, would always hold a much different meaning to me.

Mark was a year younger than me, and had been diagnosed with brain cancer the fall of my freshman year. If I remember correctly, the doctors gave him 6 weeks to live when he got the diagnosis. Mark proved them wrong and lived for more than a year afterwards. His illness brought our family together in a way nothing else has since, or will ever do. My entire mom's side of the family dropped what they were doing in the fall of 1995 when Mark was fist diagnosed with cancer, and we all made the trip up to Wisconsin to visit with Mark, my aunt and uncle, and the rest of my cousins. The weekend was bittersweet because we were all together, but no one knew how much time Mark would have with us.

Summer of 1996 came, and we began a legacy of annual 4th of July parties. All of mom's side of the family made the trek down to Tennessee, Mark and his family included, and we swam in the pool, ate way too much food, and set off fireworks. The parties have happened every summer since then, with the exception of one, I believe the first summer mom and dad moved into the Franklin house. Now the parties are held in Cannelton at my aunt Lisa's house, but it's still a lot of a fun, and a great excuse for everyone to get together. Had Mark never gotten sick, we probably never would have began this tradition. Something greater came of this tragedy for me personally though.

When Mark passed away 13 years ago today, I was already a Christian, but like anyone I struggled with the difficult questions about life and death. Why are we here? Why do good things happen to bad people, and how could God could be in something so sad? I reasoned then as a teenager that God must have really needed Mark for some other special purpose, a purpose that could not be fulfilled on earth.

Some people lose their faith in times of crisis, but my faith in Jesus is what got me through that experience, and facing that crisis strengthened and shaped my faith more so than any event has in my life. I could not fathom a world where life or death does not matter, and there is no afterlife, or purpose for living, and so the pain led me to Christ, and solidified my belief that He is in everything, even if we don't understand it. As I have matured in my faith, I understand that while God does have his hand in everything, He doesn't necessarily cause something to happen, but we can't know His mind or His purpose. Instead we must trust that He is in control, and that we do have a purpose. God created us to glorify Him, and by following His example set by Christ, that others may know Him, and know their purpose in life as well.

Every year on this day I think about Mark, and think about how old he would have been. But I also cling to Jesus and remember that I am not in control, and surrender my life to the one who is.


Nikki said...

Beautiful post. I will never forget that day either. I, too, agree that God's purpose for Mark's life was much bigger than we can understand.

Mia said...

Amanda, your faith in Jesus is, as I've always known, incredible. This writing is as much a tribute is Christ as it is to Mark and his family. Thanks for sharing.

Jane Huber said...

I agree with some of what you have said. My God is a woman, she is kind and good. She only wants good things for her children. The bad things that happen have nothing to do with HER. These things happen because of science and nature. She has allowed my family to go on. Thanks for the thoughts of Mark as he is always in ours.