Growing up, my Grandmother was the center of my life. I went to Grandma’s house every day until I started kindergarten, and then every weekend during school. My grandparents, my Mema and Papa, were devout Christians and it was evident that they wholly believed in Jesus Christ. Every Sunday, we went to church, where I had to endure singing very slow songs in a book with musical notes that I could not figure out. So I just stood there until the children were dismissed to children’s church. I had even memorized John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” I memorized it, but I did not know what it meant. To me, as a kid, I tried to believe in Him, but why couldn’t I see Him? I heard people talking about Him showing up to church, but why didn’t He ever visit our church? At least I had seen pictures of Jesus. I guess Jesus was real.
Another one of my highlights was that every summer, my cousin Chris would come over for a week or two to visit and stay with us. For those couple of weeks, I had a friend to play with, an older cousin who could take care of me and protect me. We would go out in our trailer park and play basketball with all the kids, and I really felt special. I sure was someone. One particular summer, I was definitely looking forward to seeing him and being able to play and hang out with him. I was so excited I couldn’t wait! One day, we got a phone call. My playmate, my cousin, would not be coming over that summer. He had shot himself in his bedroom, and no one ever knew it was coming. I remember hearing everyone talking about it, and trying to put the pieces together and fill the hole that had been ripped from our family. God, where were you? Why did you allow this to happen? Didn’t you love Chris? Our family? I didn’t understand. How could God just come and take someone away without even telling me first? God, are you hiding?
My Grandmother found out that she had breast cancer. As an 11-year old kid, I had no idea what cancer was. I guess they could just give her medicine and she would be all better. She even told me she would run around the yard and chase me when she got better. She would never lie to me. We sang songs about God and Jesus, and because she believed she was going to live forever. Everlasting life right? In November of that year, I was at Grandma’s house, and my sister and I were woken up to hear that Grandma was real sick and that we needed to go back home so she could rest. So, we did. There was an emergency phone call, and the next thing I remember is hearing the whisper in my ear, “She’s gone.” Those words still play so vividly in my mind. Why? She wasn’t supposed to die! She was going to get better! God, where are you??? Why didn’t you save her, make her better? You heal people right? I was so angry at God. I hated him for years after, about 12 years. There was no way that God was real. He never showed up.
Or so I thought.
Fast forward to my junior year of high school. I made an attempt on my life and was hospitalized. Go forward some more years and one day I lost it at work and made another attempt on my life, with no one around, and I still lived. Another day came and I screamed, “God, are you there??? If you’re there, please take my life for I am not worthy of living.” I was determined to end my life a third time, yet God stopped me again. Yes, God stopped me.
I came to realize, through all my pain, grief, and anger, that I was looking at things the wrong way. I was seeing what I wanted to see, not the bigger picture. God created my Grandmother, and He knew I would need her long before I was around. God created my cousin, Chris, because He knew I would need a playmate, and He provided that for me. My family was God’s gift to me. Three times I have attempted to end my life, and three times I failed. This time, I couldn’t ask God where He was. I knew right where He was. He had protected me from myself. From the lies that had tempted me for so long. My life is God’s gift to me. If God created those special people because He knew I would need them, then perhaps He created me because someone needs me.
Nothing could stop God’s plan for my life. Where is He? He is love. He is hope. He is always where He needs to be, and always will.
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor