November 12, 2012

Why (not) me?

On January 6, 2010, I was flying back to San Francisco for my last semester of law school.  I remember how excited I was to be finishing the final schooling chapter of my life.  I packed my bags and got ready to go to the airport.  It was a Wednesday afternoon so my brother, John, was outside skateboarding as he usually did after school.  I said goodbye to my parents and sisters and was just going to wave to my brother outside.  However, my mom made him come inside the house so that he could give me a hug before I left.  I remember her insisting, "come hug your sister goodbye!" and him naturally getting annoyed as any seventeen-year-old would.  I told my mom it wasn't a big deal and to just let him play, but she insisted.  I now remember that hug vividly; I remember where I was standing and what my brother was wearing as he hugged me goodbye.

I did not know that this was going to be last time I saw my brother standing on his two feet.

January 9, 2010 was the Saturday before the semester was going to begin.  I spent the day with my friends running errands and making plans for that night.  We wanted to make it an "epic" night as we were now 3Ls and planned on going to one of our favorite bars in the Marina.  That evening, as I was getting ready and doing my make-up, I suddenly had a bad feeling.  I remember standing in my bathroom with this feeling that something really bad was going to happen.  However, I thought I was being paranoid, as I sometimes am, so I brushed it aside and left my apartment for the Marina.

After a night of dancing, we were hungry so we walked to "What's Up Dog" across the street from the bar to get some hot dogs.  It was around 2:00 a.m.  I ordered a hot dog, paid and then checked my phone as I waited for my order.  I had a text from my cousin that read, "Julie, is everything okay with your brother?"  I had no other texts or missed calls, so I didn't know what the text meant.  So I replied, "what do you mean?"  At that point, my cousin realized that the news had not yet reached me, so she replied with, "never mind, wrong person."  It was at that point that I knew something happened.  You don't get texts like that at 2:00 in the morning unless it's something bad.  So I told my friends I had to make a phone call and ran outside to call my sister.

I stood in front of the steps of an apartment building as I called my sister.  She answered.  I asked her what was going on with John and I remember her telling me first to not freak out, which I automatically did.  I screamed at her and demanded that she tell me what happened.  "John was in an accident."  I was instantly overwhelmed with a sensation that felt like I was standing on quick sand, sinking into the ground.  I collapsed on the steps of that building crying, without my sister saying another word.  I had no idea how bad the accident was or what condition my brother was in; all I knew was that I had to get to the airport.  I ran back into the restaurant shaking and in tears, to tell my friends that I was taking a cab to the airport because my brother was in an accident.  At 6:00 a.m. I was on a plane back to L.A.

When I finally got to the hospital, I saw a hallway and waiting room holding close to 70 of my family members, who were surrounding my parents and sisters for support.  I remember seeing my mom, hysterical and in shock, and I felt as if I didn't want to face her because I had no idea what to say or do.  I couldn't see her because I knew that I had to be strong for her; but I felt weak.  My brother had just finished surgery when I arrived and everyone was waiting on the surgeon to report his progress.  Brain.  Injury.  Two words you never, ever want to hear.  The neurologist said that it was a miracle that my brother even lived through the surgery and that the following hours would be critical.  The good news was that his brain had shifted back to its proper place, but they had him in an induced coma so that he could rest.  After a couple days they would take him out of it.  I remember naively thinking that that would be when my brother woke up.

I walked into the CCU so that I could finally see my brother.  There he sat, with his head wrapped up, in a comatose state.  My brother, who I had just hugged goodbye three days before, was now hanging on to his life through the Grace of God.

The days that followed were the darkest days my family has seen.  I remember meeting with the neurologist who would walk into the room with this look on his face; a look that prompted you to pray that he wouldn't talk because you already knew you didn't want to hear what he had to say.  Then there were meetings with other doctors who loosely used phrases like, "vegetative state" and "permanent," robbing you of any hope for a recovery.

My family lived between hospitals and nursing facilities for almost a year when we finally brought John home in December.  The year we lived through was like hell on earth.

I never could have imagined this happening to my brother.  This is a story that you hear happened to someone else, but you never think that it will happen to you.  And when it does happen, you ask God the greatest rhetorical question of time, "why me?"  You wonder whether you're being punished for something until you rationalize with yourself and conclude that you and your family are good people who don't deserve these circumstances.  You then become angry with God as you take on the role of Judge and conclude that there are lots of bad people around you who are living a happy, painless life, and you wonder why God has targeted you.

The truth is that we will never know the answer to "why me?" - at least not in this lifetime.  And while it's only human nature to ask this question, we need to stop and ask ourselves, "well, why not me?"  We never ask God, "why me?" when something good happens to us; we gladly accept it, and quite frankly, even expect it.  But once we're in pain, we have the boldness to angrily turn to God and ask him why He is doing this to us.  Of course no one ever hopes for bad things to happen to them, but we never think about why we shouldn't suffer.  None of us are above suffering, as we're all sinners.  Sadly, I think God uses suffering because it's the only way to get our attention.  We never turn to God when things are going well because we don't "need" Him.  It's only when we're truly broken and can no longer rely on ourselves or the world that we seek Him.  When things are going well for us, we look forward to all the good times that await us and don't really think about God.  That's exactly how I felt before my brother's accident- looking forward to my last semester of school and "living it up."  You continue to ignorantly look forward with your high hopes and expectations until a life changing event sobers you up, drops you to your knees and forces you to look up.  Towards the Lord.  Those painful moments are the times when we truly cry out to God with all our hearts and draw ourselves towards Him.  We seek His shelter during our storms.

I would never choose the card that was dealt to my family and until this day, it still doesn't feel real.  Some may call that denial, but I believe it is God's Grace.  I believe that God numbs you of the pain because if you truly felt its depth, it would be unbearable.  I know this because every once in a while, the reality of what happened to my brother sinks into the depth of my being, and it is intolerable, both emotionally and physically.  It is a pain that paralyzes you at your core, and if you had to endure it on a daily basis you wouldn't be able to live.  The fact that my family is still able to laugh and carry on with life is all through God's mercy.  Nothing else.

While I pray for my brother's miracle every day, I try to remember that this world is not our final destination.  Rather, it is a test, full of pain; my brother's life is a testament to that.  However, I know that my brother is saved.  Though he may suffer in this (temporary) life, he will be made new in Heaven.

We should all be so lucky.

"I know it is hard sometimes to be patient.  I hear your voice crying out in the morning hours and late at night.  I make note of each request.  Remember that I am not constrained by your time schedules or limited to your solutions.  But be assured of this, I will deliver ... in My time ... in My way.  Learn to wait in anticipation.

And when you wonder whether I will take care of you, think of this: Since I sacrificed My own Son for your salvation, will I not also, along with Him, graciously give you all things?  You can count on it.

You see, there is no other God beside Me who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.  Not one.  For I am a Father who longs to be gracious to you.  I freely show you My compassion.

I am a good God, a God of justice.  And I will bless you when you confidently wait for Me.  So be still and know that I am God.  Be still before Me and wait patiently for Me to act.  Wait for Me, My child, and put your hope in My Word."  Ps 5:3, 33:20; 37:3; 46:10; Isa 25:9; 30:18; 64:4; La 3:26; Ro 8:32



  1. Thanks for sharing this story. Its an amazing thing to see and feel Gods grace and mercy. And what a hopeful future we have that we'll all be made new in heaven and thankfully this is not our final destination!!


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