It was a Thursday.
This Thursday started no differently. I went to school, I was a Junior in High School then, and did the usual: homework, wasted some time, ate dinner. But this was a day I was looking forward to. Why? Because I got my new cell phone that day. My old one was super jankety so naturally I was excited for its replacement.
I was invited that night to go carve pumpkins with some friends. I think I had a project or something due so I passed on the offer to this late night pumpkin carving session (I might have been just really excited to sit and figure out my new phone.) I was glad that I had stayed behind because it was a gross Chicago night. It had been raining all day and the bitter cold forced Chicagoans to begin yearning once again for summer. Anyways, I had just switched out my SIM card to officially claim this phone as my own. Less than 10 minutes of activating the phone, I got a call.
“Yeah?” I responded. There was long silence.
“….” No response.
My stomach sank. “Whats up? Bro, why did you call?”
“Hadi got into an accident. She was hit by a garbage truck. She is in critical condition. They’re rushing her to the hospital now.”
I do not remember the rest of the conversation. I know I hung up and sat with it for a moment. I at least remember thinking not again! Less than nine months prior I had just lost a good friend, Caleb Yinger, because he took his own life. It is difficult to describe that pain and loss. The wounds were still fresh and slowly healing.
Nothing will happen. She will be fine. She will recover. That’s why they have hospitals right? I told myself that over and over again. Hadessa Aspen Presti Flora was a bubbly personality. People were drawn to her. She was one year older than me and actually my Middle School girlfriend of three years (whatever it means to have a girlfriend in Middle School). She was my first kiss (wow that is extremely weird to say). I thought the world of her. Really, everyone did. Everyone loved her.
I got the call. I wish I hadn’t.
She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
We all met at Garnet’s house (Hadi’s cousin). There were so many of us in her living room. Parents and students sat in shock trying to make sense of it all. I had no idea what to do.
Everything, for the second time in nine months, crashed around me. How should I react? Should I be strong? Should I cry? How is her family doing? Where is God in all this? How should a 16 year old boy react to this news? Why her?
I tried to stay strong. I really did. For a while I did not cry. It was not until my best friend, Marty Gniech, showed up and started balling that I lost it. Through tear filled eyes I surveyed the room. Pictures of Hadi were strewn across the table. People gathered in smaller groups and grieved. People came around family to pray and mourn. On the couch friends supported each other. We stayed what felt like forever.
We just cried. Wept. Swapped stories. The stories that got people laughing, those were the best. We cried some more. Told more stories. It was a viscous cycle. It was a bitter cycle.
She had an amazing funeral. The best I have ever been to, if you ask me. There were people everywhere in this big church building. They all came because Hadi had an impact on their lives. This little Christian girl was greatly loved.
A better Christian would have definite lessons that were learned from that experience. The better Christian would have three points (probably each starting with the letter “H” or something) on how God could allow this. The better Christian would have all the answers to the impossible questions. The better Christian would be able to see the definite good or reason behind her death. The better Christian would probably have gotten a tattoo of Romans 8:28.
I am not that better Christian. I question if there is.
I am not that better Christian because I still have no idea. I do not have it all together and I will never pretend to have all the answers. It is five years removed from 10/26/06 and it still lingers in my soul.
Praise God I don’t have to be.
Praise God that I am not forced to be that better Christian. Praise God that I am free to express my hurt, anger, and incredible pain to a God who cares (if you disagree with me notice the largest category of the Psalms are the laments). Praise God that when I have zero answers He is still good. He invites me to cry. He invites me to remember. He invites me to ask the tough questions. He invites me to be me. He invites me to press into Him when nothing else makes sense.
In the midst of suffering I must continually remind myself of the gospel. That Christ came into human history to rectify the problem of death that man brought upon himself. Through choosing to be his own god, man fractured life removing himself from the one who is life. Therefore death reigned. Human history is God acting to restore shalom or perfect wholeness for His people. The incarnation and cross, thereby, was God finally conquering sin and death. Humankind slaughtered the innocent God-man Jesus and God poured out His full wrath upon His son in our stead. It should have been me up on that cross. It should have been Hadi on that cross dying for her sins.
Instead, Christ did it on our behalf (the Christians’) and therefore, as we are taken up into Christ through having participated with Christ in His death and resurrection, we are free. We are forgiven. We are accepted. We are loved. We are given permission to not be okay because our God embodies okay-ness. In the cross we see God’s goodness perfectly displayed. I can rest in the impossible because the firm foundation of Christ secures me.
Let this be a time of repentance. Let the reminder of Hadi’s death (and Caleb’s) beckon you to remember this is not the way the world should be. It was not created this way nor will it remain this way. Be grossly dissatisfied with death. We feel the sting of death now but when God remakes everything death will forever die (note: this does not lessen the grieving process or the hurt). I call you to repent of the ways you have tried to be your own God. Cling to Christ.
I miss Hadi dearly. I am thankful I got to spend time with her. I hate that she is gone. I still hate that I need to speak of Hadi in the past tense. I hate that shalom isn’t here. I love that it will be here.