A time of Faith
by Wendell Owens
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"A time of Faith"
I remember it like it was only yesterday. It was Monday, March 23, 1988 and I lay in bed that morning trying to catch a few extra winks before the shrill of the alarm clock went off. The sun was breaking over the Sandia mountains and had just began to warm the rooftops of the city. It was a calm yet briskly cold mid-winter morning, and there is no way I could have known that this particular day would change my life and faith walk forever.
Laying there still groggy and half asleep, the alarm and the phone went off simutaneouly sending adrenaline shocks all over my body. Slamming the snooze button on the alarm, I reached for the phone and thought, "this had better be important or someone's gonna get it both barrels!"
The sobbing voice on the other end of the phone, instantly let me know that it was one of those "every parent's worse nightmare" calls.
"Wendell?" came the trembling voice of my ex-mother in law.
"Yes ma'am, it's me!" I answered.
"Get yourself down to County Hospital now, the boys have been in a terrible accident! We are in the ER."
"Is everything ok" I said, "Talk to me!"
The other end of the phone went silent and my heart sank as I grabbed for the nearest clothing I could find and found myself still dressing as I rushed out the front door. Shock and awe filled my soul and I began to cry out to God, "O' dear God NO! Please NO! Don't let it be what I think it is. Please help my boys right now! O' dear Jesus please!"
I scraped the top of my head trying to throw myself into the driver's seat of my car. I felt no pain because the only thing on my mind was my sons. I was praying hard now and screaming for mercy for my sons, and terrified at what I would find when I arrived at the ER. I roared out of my driveway like a maniac and took sidestreets in order to avoid the morning traffic.
Pulling into the parking lot at County General, I snaped it into park and sped through the doors of the ER almost injuring myself as the automatic doors took too long to open. A tri-age nurse was there waiting for me as I introduce myself to the receptionist.
"Mr. Owens? she said.
"Yes, yes it's me! How are my boys?"
"Come with me please" she said as she turned to lead me down the hallway to a large pane glass room. I could see my ex wife and her family weeping uncontrolably around a gurney as the doctor stepped out into the hallway.
"Mr. Owens, I am so sorry sir, we did everything we could, but we were unable to get his heart started again." It's your eight year old son."
The pale face of death washed over my soul and it must have shown for both the nurse and doctor grabbed my arms and help me sit in the nearest chair. The instant horror of reality hit me like amputation without anesthesia. I was paralized beyond movement as my mind understood and my heart broke beyond repair. No strength, no power, only remorse like I have never known as I buried my face into my palms. Time stood still and I watched in seemingly slow motion as my ex wife and her family left that room. My father in law gently placed his hand on my head as he passed by as if to say he understood.
The nurse that had led me to that room of horror knelt in front of me and with a caring touch bade me to rise. She opened the door and motioned for me to go in and spend my final moments alone with my son. I brushed back the tears to be able to see where I was walking and I saw his beautiful dark brunette hair first. His little body laying on the cart caused me to loose the power of walking and I fell to the side of where he lay. Holding onto the siderails I loudly burst forth with deep sobbing and uncotrollable weeping. I didn't care what anyone thought, this was my son Jonathan, and my heart was gone.
I was able to gain control of myself temporaily enough to stand. I looked over Jonathan's body but found no wounds, no bruises, no bleeding. He lay there in just his briefs so something should have been evident, yet he looked perfect. Brushing back the side of his hair it was then that I noticed a small pool of blood laying in his inner ears. The doctor's report stated that when the car he was riding to school in was braodsided by the drunk driver, the sear force drove Jonathan's head into the metal plate above his passenger window. A hairline crack occured and centrifical force spun the crack around his entire cranium and he was killed instantly. Jonathan had felt nothing. One moment he was playing with his other brothers in the car and the next he stepped into Heaven, for that I was enternally grateful to God.
I stood there broken before my son when I heard a strong voice behind me, he spoke my name as clear as bell.
Thinking no one should have been in the room with me and feeling mighty preturbed that anyone would dare to interupt me at such a sacred moment I angrily answered the voice, "What do you want?"
His answer totally blew me away, "It's Easter season, Jonathan is not here, he has risen just as I said."
The chills and goosebumps I felt were bigger than golfballs. I stomped around the rooms with my arms raised to Heaven saying, "That's right! It is Easter season, he is not here he has risen just as Christ said! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" I was shouting it to the top of my lungs and flailing my hands giving glory to God Almighty. The medical staff in the hallway looking must have thought I had lost my mind. Indeed I had, I lost my mind to my faith in Christ Jesus that what He said was the absolute truth. His resurrection word had become fact to me now. They sent in a priest to calm me down but all he could do was listen to me repeat, "He has risen, it is Easter, He's alive! My son's alive!"
Eventually I settled down and knew my next logical step was to go to my other sons and tell them the good news. My oldest son was David who was 10, and my youngest was Benjamin who had just turned 6. They had been in the same car but only received minor cuts and bruises from flying glass. More than any wounds they might have incurred was the trauma of seeing their brother Jonathan slumped over dead in the back seat, with blood running from his nose, ears, and eyes. That is a picture they will never forget and I could not erase with soothing words. I walked into David's partioned screen and opened it up for Benjamin to see me as well. Sitting down in a chair in the middle of them both I reached out for the hands and held them tight. I ask each one if they were ok, and they responded "yes Dad" with a slightly wounded smile. I told them how much I loved them and reassured them they were going to be allright. Taking a moment for composure, I began telling them that Jonathan had gone on to Heaven to be with the Lord, and that we will see him again someday. They nodded their heads in acceptance then turned their faces towards the ceiling as if in reverance, tears flowing down the sides of their faces. Their hurt broke my heart again, but I knew this pain was for them to deal with within themselves. I stayed by their side until the doctor came and said they were going to be released and going home. I rose, kissed each one on the forehead, told them "I love you, see you later at home." "I love you too Dad" was their reply, and I walked out of the hospital into my awaiting sister and brothers arms. We wept togehter as I told them the story of the voice in Jonathan's room. They took me to my sister's home so I would not have to be alone, but later that night I went home anyway to pray, mourn, collect myself, and begin the process of closure.
Saturday came all too quickly and I made that slow quiet drive to the mortuary for services. The chapel was packed by my family and my ex's family, standing room only. In the halls were children and teachers from Jonathan's school, and many others that I did not know. It seems Jonathan had touched many, many people in his short life span, and I felt a great pride in my boy. I entered the chapel greeting people and thanking them for coming. As I stepped into the long aisle, down in front was the coffin, in the coffin was my child. The stream of tears from loss and the joy of knowing my son was rejoicing somewhere in Heaven was a strange mix. That old faithful hymn "How great thou art" rang out in the chapel. When the singer got to the second verse, my soul rejoiced and wept at the same time, remeber how it goes?..
"When Christ shall come,
with shout of acclaimation,
and take me home,
what joy shall fill my heart.
Then I shall bow,
in humble adoration,
and there proclaim,
My God how great thou art."
Thank you Lord God, was all I could manage to mumble. Thank you for Jesus, thank you for Jonathan, and thank you for my sons who lived. Make me a worthy father, make me a good man.
I could tell you of all the glorious events that happen because of my son's death but it would take a lifetime.
Things like going to the prison where the man who had killed my son was. Telling him that God loves him and that my son forgives him and so do I.
Things like at the wake luncheon how after 10 yrs the emnity between my oldest brother and my youngest, bitterness melted away because they loved me and saw my grief. They didn't want to die without forgiving each other.
Things like when I was crying alone in my house and questioning God, "Why did you take my son, I only had eight yrs with him?" God answered,"It could have been 6 yrs, thank me for what I have given you, not what you didn't receive." That changed my thinking forever I'll tell ya!
Things like the Sunday morning in church after the burial when Jonathan's sunday school teacher Mrs. Stambaugh came up to me and said, "Wendell you got to see this!" It was the scripture Jonathan had been given to memorize for the Easter pageant. It was John 14:19, "Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more, but ya see me, because I live, ye shall live also." Wow, talk about blow your mind! That was God in action if I ever saw it.
We all encounter hardships, deaths of love ones, trials and tribulations, everyone does. It is part of life. The moment we are born we begin to die, but it is not the event in life that make us stronger or wiser, it is how we deal with them that matters. This is truth and this is wisdom from God. For me, the death of my son Jonathan became a "Time of faith!"