The tragedy that took place among us is an event that will forever change how we look upon the realization of traumatic times in our lives. As a family, I would have never dreamed we would face such an ordeal. But it happened and God brought us through as only He could.
A month had passed since the celebration of Easter, and prior to the holiday our second son had been born. It was a time to celebrate God’s goodness to us. I glanced at the clock knowing traffic would soon be heavy.
“Honey, remember the traffic on the freeway,” I reminded my husband, Rick.
“Yes, I know. I’m coming.” He kissed me goodbye as he left on his way to work.
It was a sunny, beautiful morning. With a question in his eyes my eldest son asked, “Mom, what are we doing today?”
“I thought we might go to the park and visit your grandparents,” I answered.
“Oh, I would like that. Josh will like that, too,” Justin said.
“Remember, son, your brother is eight weeks old, so we will only be able to stay for a limited time,” I said.
“I understand,” was his reply.
The day greeted us with low humidity and an almost cloudless sky. We had the park to ourselves. Justin busily went from swing to slide and climbed on the sand bags and hid in the cave.
“Justin, you can slow down, you know.”
“Well, mom, you did say we had a limited time.”
Limited time, I thought to myself. If we could only freeze the time we were given with our children.
Our time at the park soon ended, and then we visited my parents. Time would beckon me to call it a day. Dinner needed cooking, and Rick would soon be home.
“Justin, tell Granny and Poppy goodbye.” We gave hug for both, and then we left.
“Daddy’s home!” Justin exclaimed.
“Hi, Justin, how was your day?” Rick said.
“Good,” Justin replied. “We went to the park and Granny’s.”
“Sounds like fun,” Rick said. “Hi, honey,” he said as he kissed me hello. “The baby must be asleep.”
“Yes, for about an hour,” I replied.
Justin and Rick watched some television as I cooked. “Dinner will be soon,” I reminded them.
“Mom, I’m hungry!” Justin complained.
“Now would be a good time to wash your hands and face,” I said.
We all sat down to dinner and the blessing said. We enjoyed the meal, then Rick said, “Honey, I’ am going to shower.”
“Can I take a shower, too?” Justin asked.
“As long as there is no horse playing,” I replied.
“We won’t, Mom,” Justin said.
I was busy in the kitchen when I realized Justin had forgotten his towel. I was removing a towel from the linen closet when I heard words that I never thought possible. I knew then he had been molested.
With intensity I opened the door and without hesitation took my son out of the shower and wrapped a towel around him.
I found myself thinking, How could this be happening? And then I said to Rick, “What have you done?!”
The next two years involved prison time, court appearances and raising my children alone. But I never was alone, for the God that I serve was always beside me, every step of the way.
I found Him to be the father to the fatherless and the husband to the widow. God was always faithful, He was then, and He is now.
He is a God that can be trusted, even when life throws the worst at us. We will fail him, but he never fails us.
“Mom, come quick, something is wrong with Josh!” Justin wailed.
I ran into the room and Josh was lying motionless. I picked him up and noticed the fever, then the rash.
“What is wrong with him?” Justin asked.
“I’m not sure, but I do know we are going to the hospital.”
I grabbed what was needed and we departed.
The hospital wasn’t very far from our home. When we arrived it was busy, but one look at the baby and he was attended to.
It seemed like an eternity before they came with a diagnosis.
“Mrs. Vanderbilt, I am a afraid that we are going to have to do a spinal tap on your son,” the doctor said.
“A spinal tap?” I asked.
“Yes, we believe he has contracted spinal meningitis.”
“Meningitis?” I was in shock.
“When he was brought in we gave him the antibiotics because of the fever, so therefore if it is Meningitis we won’t know if it was bacterial or viral. From the way he looks if it is Mengitis then our treatment plan will be as if it is bacterial. These are the papers you have to sign,” the doctor said.
With pen in hand, all I could think about was how ill Josh was, how much I wanted to believe it was in fact not meningitis.
“Don’t worry Mrs. Vanderbilt, Joshua will be asleep, and he won’t even know what is going on,” the doctor assured me. “It will be a while before I speak with you.”
“Mom, is he going to be alright?” Justin asked.
“Justin, we need to pray,” I said.
At the moment God was all Justin and I had. My parents had previously moved, and Rick was on probation. Even though he could have contact with Joshua, he was unable to see Justin.
It was going to be a long road for the three of us. But one I would not walk alone. Christ was there beside me. Without him I would not have been able to endure.
After a while, as Justin and I were talking, the doctor approached.
“Mrs. Vanderbilt, it is Meningitis. We will be keeping him under quarantine until the rash disappears and his fever subsides.”
“When can we see him?” I asked.
“You can see him now, but you both will have to be completely donned in sterile clothes,” he said. “The nurse will take you to where you need to go.”
Joshua was asleep, but we stayed until visiting hours were over. Tomorrow would find us here again. His hospital stay was nine days, and the future was unknown.
“Mom, why are we moving?” Justin asked.
“Because it will be better for us,” I replied. “Life will be easier living away from here. With your brother contracting meningitis, and everything else that has taken place, we will have a new life, God willing.”
Our new life began two-and-a-half years after the tragedy in our home. My children and I moved to the other end of the state, where my parents lived.
It proved to be a blessing. I knew Justin would have to adjust to a new life. But I had no reservations when I made the decision to move, nor do I now.
Rick and I divorced in the spring of the following year. The boys grew and thrived in our new town. God was blessing us, and we were thankful.
Our future, our hope was not only in the Lord, but a person God brought into my life. I was a single mother for five years, from the time of Rick’s incarceration, to my marriage of a wonderful Christian man.
I always thought I would not attain happiness in the realm of married life, but again God showed me that with Him all things are possible. I met Tim in the most unexpected way.
The boys and I had to move into affordable housing. My landlord unbeknownst to me was my future husband’s stepmother. God does work in mysterious ways.
One Thursday afternoon, a knock sounded on my door. I opened it and a handsome man who was 5 feet 8 inches tall, dark marine cut hair and blue eyes stood before me.
“Hello, I’m Tim,” he said.
“Hi, I’m Lori. Come in. It is nice to meet you,” I said.
“I’m glad you could come over,” I said as I closed the door. “I was talking with your stepmother about my situation, and she mentioned you were living at their house”
“Yes, for now,” he replied.
“Oh, boys, I would like you to meet Tim,” I said.
“Hello,” Justin said.
“Hello, Justin. It is nice to meet you,” Tim said with a smile.
“And this is Josh,” I replied. “He is on the quite side.”
“We’ll be outside Mom”, Justin said.
Tim and I talked until it was approaching the dinner hour. “Lori, I know you probably are not expecting me to ask, but would you and the boys like to go out for pizza?”
“That would be nice,” I commented. “I will call them in to wash up.
“Boys, it is time to come in,” I called. “Tim has asked if we would like to go out for pizza.”
“Yes!” Justin exclaimed.
Tim said he would see me tomorrow, and he came as expected. We had an enjoyable evening.
We were married twelve days after we met. God kept his word—we did find happiness in our lives. Even after a devastating ordeal, God brought closure in my life through someone else.