My garden sits in the heart of Central California. The climate is dry and desert like. With water, we can grow any number of exotic plants including ornamental banana trees. I have several in my garden. They are lush with tropical green leaves 3 and 4 feet long. They grow in clumps and within a few years, single stalks have grown to groupings of 20 shoots each with massive, beautiful leaves. I have the opposite of a green thumb and to my surprise, I have not yet killed my banana trees.
Starting in the spring and through the summer, into fall, the trees are beautiful and give us shade and privacy. However, most winters, our weather turns cold and we will have a few nights of freezing weather. Overnight, the banana leaves wilt. Their vibrancy is lost to the cold. The trees become dreary and sad looking. Their lifeless stalks an anathema in the surroundings of the garden.
On August 26th, 2014, just after 6 PM, the big freeze hit me. True, it was over 100 degrees outside that day. But in that instant, pain, heartache, and grief devoured me. Frozen in that moment, my life wilted, its vibrancy gone. My life as I knew it to that point was over.
I knew the police would be at the door. I had called to ask how I could file a missing person’s report. After a few awkward phone conversations with dispatch, I was told that they would be over shortly. Something inside me knew, just knew, that this was not going to be good. I don’t remember much about those first few minutes after the police chaplain told me my son had been killed in a fatal car crash. I was stuck, frozen. I was cold inside. I felt numb, lost, disoriented. I remember now that my parents were with me and I think about how their grief must be two-fold. They lost their grandson, true. But they also sat and watched as their daughter tried to survive hearing what is possibly the most difficult news a mom can hear.
People came. They brought love, they brought their hearts and armloads of hugs and words of comfort as gifts that would start, in a very small, meaningful way, to puncture the wall of ice that had surrounded my heart. I had several decisions to make in the hours and days following the news of my son’s death. The most important was to decide whether or not I believed in God. I had to ask myself, “Do I believe what I have claimed I believed for most of my life? Do I believe that my God loves me? That his son, Jesus Christ, is my savior? Do I believe that God DOES have a plan and purpose for my life?” I knew that if I could not answer yes to those questions, then I would be hopelessly adrift.
Having my faith has sustained me along the darkest, saddest, most difficult journey of my life. There has been growth and new life since that day of the hard freeze. Springtime here, little shoots of green burst up among the clumps of dead banana tree stalks. They remind me that each step forward, each action taken to allow myself to feel again is new growth. In the most surprising of ways God has shown his love to me and continues to give me hope for a future.