It’s been a while since I last posted something of personal significance on this blog. I’ve been posting The Friday Muse each week – small writing snippets full of fiction and fancy – but I haven’t been posting much else besides that. For that, I apologize. I made a New Year’s resolution to be more transparent with my readers, but life has just been…rough. This last season – the darkest I’ve ever encountered – has been one of tribulation for me, and I feel like I’m just barely walking out of it.
It was last year that my wife and I made the decision to move back to Arizona from the Bay Area. Our finances were running tight, we had no church home, and the Bay Area was just congested and frustrating most of the time. Three-quarters of the time I was in the Bay Area felt like time adjusting to the Bay Area. We had originally moved there to become part of a church plant but I later realized that was simply God’s tool to bring us into the Bay Area.
I’m still becoming acquainted with the actual reasons that God had us in the Bay Area. I know the main reason was separation from our lives here in Arizona. We needed distance. We needed time to realize where we wanted to go as a family without outside influences – such as friends and family – helping to steer our ship. It was just us and God, and now that I look back on it, I realize it was one of the most incredible seasons of my life.
Going back to our decision to move back to Arizona, over the course of about eight months, my wife and I were excited (and I was sometimes conflicted) at the prospect of moving back. We went back and forth in our discussions on whether or not we should head back to Arizona. We talked and prayed and talked and prayed. We finally settled firmly on our decision to move. I was about to start a publishing company, and Arizona – with its much more reasonable cost of living – would give us a bit more breathing room to do so. We both became excited at the move because the Bay had done a number on us, and we longed for some of our old friendships again.
It wasn’t until a month before we moved that I realized I didn’t really want to move. I didn’t want to leave my grandfather who lived 2 1/2 hours northeast of us, especially after learning a tumor had begun to develop in his face – I had already gone through the heartache of moving from Arizona to the Bay at the same time my dad had endured many health issues of his own. I didn’t want to leave an environment that had fostered our family to grow without outside influence. I didn’t want to leave the cool weather, the gorgeous geography, the lively and wonderfully populated areas.
But it was God’s plan for us to move. I know that now. It wasn’t just a fluke that we moved, it wasn’t just our personal opinion that the Bay Area wasn’t right for us at the time. It was a decision that we were spiritually led to, just as the decision to move to the Bay Area was.
So we moved.
Once in Arizona, I crumbled. I hate the desert. I hate the heat. I hated the distance between me and my grandfather. I hated the isolated feeling one has when there is no city noise when you have become accustomed to city noise. Most of all, I felt like we had come full-circle back to the situations we were in before God moved us out to the Bay Area, even though that was the farthest thing from the truth.
Regardless of my displeasure with moving back to Arizona, I pulled up my bootstraps and got to work on my writing projects and on the publishing company. I came to the realization that we could move back to California someday, after we spent some time in Arizona to recharge. In the meantime, I tried to focus on work, on my family, on enjoying where I was in this journey instead of being obsessed with where I was headed. Most of the regret I have felt over the last few months is that I didn’t enjoy the Bay while I was there – I was too overwhelmed with adjusting to it to really see it for what it was. It’s not a mistake I want to make here in Arizona.
But something was off. I couldn’t shake an intense panic that crept in, an intense compulsion to move back to California right away. I even told my wife I was prepared to pack up our stuff, grab a truck, and head right back to the Bay Area. It didn’t make sense to me as to why I was feeling that way. I just did. And no amount of praying, no amount of contact with my friends or family, took any of it away. Friends tried to console me. Family tried to comfort me. But nothing would take it from me. I just felt like my heart was already in a car, on its way to California. I thought I was having some kind of obsessive issue with the state. I thought I was losing my sanity. I also thought that maybe God was laying it on my heart that we had made a mistake in moving back to Arizona, that we had taken an ‘easy’ way out.
In the meantime, I learned that my grandfather had begun radiation treatments for the cancerous tumor in his face. It was a frustrating ordeal trying to communicate with him because he is deaf and can’t use a phone and, because of a stroke he had many years ago, couldn’t really write me. So I had to communicate through my aunt, who isn’t always a reliable source of information. Regardless, I learned what my grandfather was going through and prayed for him. His situation only seemed to add to my panicked feelings, but I continued to press forward in life and not allow myself to be tempted to stray outside of God’s will.
And then the middle of August came, when I received a letter from my aunt in California stating that my grandfather had killed himself. It wasn’t as much of a surprise to me in regards to the way he went out of this world. Apparently his tumor had gotten worse, even with radiation therapy. He was a Korean War vet, he was a survivor of colon cancer and a stroke. He told me many times that if he ever found himself in agony in his later years that he would go out on his own terms.
I won’t point the finger of blame at him because of what he did. I can’t possibly imagine the pain he endured. I know he was also depressed in regards to the crumbling family structure. At the same time, I don’t condone what he did. I don’t believe that’s God’s will for anyone to leave this world, to take matters into their own hands.
His death wasn’t the worst of it. I then found out that my aunt had hid news of his death for a month and a half. He actually passed on June 29th, the day before my 10-year wedding anniversary.
I won’t go into all of the details surrounding the family drama that ensued. Needless to say, I traveled to California and paid my respects to a man who was more than a grandfather to me. He was my best friend in these later years. I found closure at his grave. Now I carry the spirit of his ideals with me, along with my memories of him. Nobody can touch that. Nobody can defile it or steal it from me or douse it with drama or greed.
I’m back in Arizona now. The panicked feeling is gone. I still want to move back to California some day, but I don’t feel that urgency that stirred my heart for so many nights, preventing me from sleeping peacefully. I know that feeling was my spirit telling me that my grandfather was going to pass, and that he had passed.
Now, in the aftermath, I feel drained, but I also feel at peace. I’m walking out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I still feel the darkness, the anxiety, the panic at my back. But up ahead, I see the future God has laid out for me and my family. There were days I wanted to give up. There were days I truly questioned God and His communication skills. I fought the darkness, and I fought myself.
Now I stand on my patio at night and feel a cool breeze on my cheek, telling me I’m at the start of a new season, and that the old one – the darkest I’ve ever walked through – is fading behind me.