Saturday is the five year anniversary of losing Ramon Vidaurri III to cancer.
Over the course of the next several days, my brain is going to need to process what this journey, this process of losing a best friend, a brother from another mother, a person who would have stood by my side on my future wedding day, a man who would be reveling and celebrating my #pacificnorthwelch adventure, actually means.
I’ve known this day is coming for several months. As the calendar turned to March, I knew March 11th was beckoning. I haven’t been ignoring it, but I also wasn’t seeking it out. I knew there was going to be no escaping it, but, honestly, I hoped the 5 year anniversary wouldn’t come. After all, I’m in a new city, new job and a brand new season of life.
It’s been five years time.
It’s been five years since I shed tears unimaginable.
It’s been five years since I learned to hate cancer with every fiber of my soul and body.
It’s been five years since I have seen my God show up and care for me in a season of unknown sorrow, pain and despair.
It’s been five years since I felt my soul break and be crushed by the season I found myself in, watching my brother from another be destroyed by cancer.
It’s been five years.
I was a different man; my life has changed drastically. I’ve graduated from seminary. I’ve seen friends transition and get married; I’ve seen nephews born; I’ve seen friends have kids; I’ve seen people encounter Jesus; I’ve seen churches launch; I’ve seen people embrace their calling; I’ve seen students graduate; I’ve seen God show up in my life, time and time again; I’ve made new friends.
Where were you five years ago? Where will you be five years from now? I can’t guarantee a whole lot, but I can guarantee it won’t look anything like you imagined or dreamed up.
I miss Ramon every day. I can’t help but think about how excited he would be to partner with me in this season of life. So, as you think about where you were five years ago and where you’ll be five years from now, listen to this song that compels me:
Now, as I think about where I was five years ago, my God spoke to me through two songs specifically. They aren’t songs crafted by Christians or songs sung in corporate worship, but for me, they were the songs of the season. They were the songs which helped me grieve, which helped me embrace the state of my soul, which opened me up to acknowledge my need for my God and needing Him to provide the strength, the perseverance, the clarity, the grace, the love, the knowledge, the faith, the hope, the passion, the healing I was lacking.
But, thankfully five years ago there were two songs which allowed me to have the eyes to see my God in the season of darkness.
This song, specifically, the acoustic version is a song I would blast in my truck, with my windows rolled down, after a day of ministry, class and work – on repeat.
“It’s always darkest before the dawn…” Five years later and that lyric still gets me emotional. There’s still something about this lyric which is filled with so much hope, so much anticipation. The season may be dark, it may be hard, but it’s always darkest before the dawn. It has to get worse before it can get better. Help is coming. Change is coming. Just hold out my son, hold on Jonathon, the dawn is breaking. You just can’t see it yet. The dawn will come – even if you don’t see it, even if it is too dark for you to see it. The dawn is arriving.
“Shake it off, shake it off. It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake it off.”
I remember, still, vividly, at this portion of the song, I would literally shake my hands, arms, legs and head. I would literally do my best to shake off all the feelings of despair latching onto my soul and dragging me down deeper and deeper into the pits of listlessness.
I don’t believe there’s anything magic in posture, but I do believe posture can set the tone for our heart. Even when we don’t feel it, posture matters. For me, this posture of shaking it off, helped me to begin to walk through the process of leaving this horrible, dark season behind me.
Truthfully, I had encountered many pretty horrid things before this season of my brother from another mother battling cancer, but they were all things happening to me. This was the first thing in my life, not happening to me, that was truly horrific. It was something I was involved in, but had absolutely no power over.
Honestly, this season of life crushed and broke my soul. It had to be rebuilt; it had to be pieced back together. It was the hardest, most difficult season of my life.
“How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes.”
I had never been so exhausted and worn down in my life. During this five month journey of cancer with my brother from another mother, or to put it another way, half his marriage, it was bad news after bad news. Each time we finally had a chance to catch our breath, rally, and pray for healing – new bad news hit. My heart was fickle, it didn’t know what to think or believe. I knew my God could heal, but I wondered, would He? I knew I needed to be strong in my community, for the sake of those around me I was walking with, but I didn’t have the opportunity to be vulnerable or let others in on my doubt, on my wondering where my God was? I knew I needed to be strong and to trust even when I didn’t know what trust was or looked like – even when I was leading on empty. But, boy oh boy, were my eyes woozy.
“In these bodies we will live; in these bodies we will die; where you invest your love, you invest your life.”
This line. Ramon, was a man who invested his life with his love. I’m so grateful for the things my God did in Ramon and through Ramon during his time here on earth. His time was not long enough, but I had a front row seat to how he was able to invest his life.
“Awake my soul.”
This was my prayer of my season. My God, my God – awaken my soul. My God, my God, where are you – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I can’t do this – awaken my soul. My God, my God, why are you not healing – awaken my soul. My God, my God – this hurts too much – awaken my soul. My God, my God – they’ve only been married ten months – awaken my soul. My God, my God – cancer is not a part of your plan – awaken my soul. My God, my God – where are you – awaken my soul. My God, my God – don’t I have enough faith – awaken my soul. My God, my God – why him and not me – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I don’t know what to do – awaken my soul. My God, my God – this is too much – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I’m broken and crushed – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I know you’re in this – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I need you – awaken my soul. My God, my God – I want to feel your presence – awaken my soul. My God, my God – you are my God – awaken my soul.
Five years later and these two songs still remind me dark seasons come and go, they’ll be harder than imagined, but even in the midst of cancer, my God still reigns. Things are dark, but the dawn is coming.
Five years of missing my brother. Can’t wait to see you again and talk about life and ministry.