I’m sitting in class, taking notes as the professor talks about humanity.
He’s talking about if humans are all cut from the same mold, if our circumstances determine how capable we are of evil, if our character is ever really the determining factor. If when confronted with pain, we will all innately respond the same way.
Then I flash back in time, and I’m fifteen again.
It’s November, but it’s a different November, one when the red leaves look less like glory and more like blood dripping from the trees. That November was dark, cloudy and sad. And my mother hung up the phone on a Wednesday afternoon and turned to me with the tears in her eyes and told us news that was going to break our hearts.
Five days later, we dressed in our Sunday best and went to the church, and shook hand after hand and spoke in quiet voices as I stood next to my dad, watching his every move as he politely accepted condolences from strangers. After a few hours, we walked into the sanctuary and slipped into a pew as the pastor read from the Bible. I stared at the closed casket and the pictures around it, pictures of him in high school, pictures of him before the addiction smothered him.
He was only 39 years old.
And I wonder, how could something like this happen? How could this be my life? How could he slip through my fingers? Had it only been six months earlier that he had asked me about my mission trip, about why I was going, why I would leave my comfort zone to do nothing but love strangers? He’d been searching, and only God knows if he found the answers, but I sure hope he did.
Oh, how pain loves to find someone to blame.
My uncle was reading the eulogy, choking it out in his tear-filled voice, and suddenly it was harder to swallow. I had never known loss like this before, the loss of a person. It was like learning to speak a new language.
And I remember how I chose at that moment to let death be my teacher, not my enemy. I wouldn’t allow the future to make me bitter. I had a choice, but I refused to choose despair. I chose love and peace and beauty.
And for my grandma’s birthday that year, I wrote her a poem that said God is our solution. We will turn to Him.
Suddenly I’m back in my seat, taking notes, but when I look down at my page I see:
I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.