One Year Anniversary 7/27/14
Whiteness. A flashing line of black. I have been here too many times to recall. Sitting before a blank slate of nothingness, empty page staring back mockingly. Authors speak of this. It even has its own label. Writer’s block is what they say. In a way it is funny. Ironically, even as the space bar pulses against the bare canvas of an untouched word document, the mere ability to define such a term seems to elude me. I suppose I should embrace it. For the past year this has been my existence. The complete inability to adequately express my feelings audibly, much less in written form, has become a daily occurrence. What do you say when you realize that nothing as you once knew it will ever be the same? Perhaps more importantly, where do you look?
I would imagine if you are reading this that you are most likely in some way familiar with the trial our family went through a year ago at this time. I want it to be clear that my purpose of writing in no way stems from any desire for empathy. Instead this is meant to be a sort of commentary on the events of that day as I remember them and the subsequent days to follow as we sought to come to grips with what had just transpired.
I have always been somewhat of a visual learner. Movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos are all relatively easy for me to retain. Maybe it is because of this that, at least in my mind, July 27, 2013, still feels like yesterday. The best way I can think of to describe the experience is it was like walking onto the set of a movie. To what horror film capable of shattering my dull Saturday afternoon had I awakened?
I stepped over the median, head reeling. From the littered asphalt to the countless medics, none of it felt real. Dad was one of the first to greet us. When he called for the family to gather, I knew something was amiss. His words were few. Not until after they were delivered did it dawn on me that nothing was fictional about them. All he said was “Ok, here’s what we know. Chad and Courtney didn’t make it.” Looking on while someone you love hurts coupled with the understanding that you can do nothing to remedy the situation is one of the worst feelings in the world. Whether physical or emotional, what son wants to see his mother in pain? Almost as soon as the news was uttered, I watched in slow motion as mom’s knees buckled and my father steadied her. “Didn’t make it.” Never have three words rang louder in my ears. Turning away, I struggled to comprehend the gravity of the statement myself. A quick survey of the hill behind me was no comfort. There my friends, the people I had gone to high school with, were receiving medical attention. One of them held my gaze. His eyes contained a lost expression and seemingly stared into nothingness. Twice he called my name. I could not respond. Caleb, now my sole remaining brother, was nearby. I grabbed him and wept into his shoulder. Finally it had hit me. Not only was this real, it was my new reality.
After the accident I would hear people make comments such as “I don’t know how your family can go through something like this and stay so strong.” Frankly I wondered too because at least for me personally, I honestly didn’t know that I was. Yes, I knew my God was good (Psalm 119:68). I knew that while things may not always initially make sense, He would ultimately work them together for His glory (Romans 8:28). You see it was easy for me to acknowledge God as loving when nothing was wrong (I John 4:8). I could recognize Him as sovereign when everything was fine (Psalm 135:6). I even readily accepted that He had a plan for me and did not desire to harm me when the sea of life was calm (Jeremiah 29:11). This head knowledge was all great, but what would happen when it was my loved ones whose lives had been taken? Would mere Biblical truth really be enough to carry me through now that the tempest was rising and I was the one in the boat? What if I didn’t make it? What if I didn’t become more like Christ?
When we headed off to school in the fall Caleb was finishing up seminary, and I was entering my freshman year. As first floor counselor for our dorm, he was able to request that I be on his hall. Several months into the school year we were talking in his room late one night. With many ongoing distractions back home, it would be a lie to say that adjusting to college had been easy. I doubt he even realizes it but, at some point in the conversation, Caleb said something to me that I have remembered ever since. “Daniel, you have not suffered first, nor have you suffered most. If you ever view our trial as greater than the splinter in the hand of a guy down the hall, you are dead wrong.” That’s when it dawned on me. No, I had not suffered first, and I certainly had not suffered most. The Man of Sorrows had (Isaiah 53:3). How dare I view my testing to be more significant than that of someone else in any way? Not until I grasped these two concepts did cliché become conviction. Now when I was reminded of God’s goodness, His love, or His sovereignty I understood. He was a good, loving, and sovereign God. This was not just some of the time; it was all of the time (Hebrews 13:5). He was always in control, even when I couldn’t see what He was doing (Psalm 77:19). It had been proven on the cross of Calvary (I Peter 2:24). No matter what the furnace of affliction, I had a High Priest who could be touched with the feeling of my infirmities (Hebrews 4:15). Praise God for grace through Christ that sustains, even in the midst of the deepest possible pain (II Corinthians 12:9).
Posted by Daniel
7/26/2014 11:29:25 am
Thank you for this, Daniel. You are a true blessing. God will continue to use you and yours through all of this. Our prayers go with you all.
Daniel, thank you for your reminding us all of what is real in our trials. God's Word is truth and it's words are not only our balm but our strength, hope, and hiding place. God works mighty things in our lives through each and every trial if we're willi
7/26/2014 11:47:17 am
7/26/2014 12:01:51 pm
Good words. Thanks.
7/27/2014 02:17:03 am
Dear Daniel, Thankyou for this very well articulated glimpse into your heart as well as into the heart of our savior. We continue to grieve with you and your family. We know that all thing work together for good but is it not always as easy to understand how that is. We will just trust and pray. You have grown into a very wise young man.
Thank you Daniel for sharing your life events with all of us. It reminds us that no matter what happens in our life our God is always in control and His love surrounds and protects each of us daily. What a joy it is to rest in His arms. Thank you, Mrs.
7/26/2014 09:58:50 pm
7/26/2014 10:01:43 pm
7/26/2014 11:12:41 pm
He suffered first, and He suffered most. Something good for us to remember!
Art & Irene Bourbeau
7/27/2014 01:09:22 am
Thank you Daniel, For sharing,What your family has gone through is something no one can feel. Only by the grace of GOD can we accept and know that GOD has his reasons.
7/27/2014 04:19:42 am
It is so very difficult to face times like this, and my thought goes to wonder how people with no relationship with Christ endure such trials. They do it without HOPE. Without Grace. And without Mercies of The Father. I am so glad glad the Phelps family continues to honor Christ and exalt Him! Bless you.
7/27/2014 05:15:26 am
Daniel, thanks for sharing your heart with us. I'm proud of the young man you've become. May God continue to use this very difficult time in your life to mold and make you into the man He wants you to be.
7/27/2014 06:25:23 am
Thank you for sharing. We appreciate your testimony as you have gone through the valley of the shadow of death. We lost our daughter on July 23, 2012 unexpectedly and suddenly from a stomach virus. Our hearts felt like they were breaking along with your family when we found out about your families losses. I know your lives have been forever changed as a result of your losses. Suffering loss causes you to view everything and everyone with different vision. I know God will continue to use your families losses for His honor and glory because we know that is truly what counts in this life.
7/27/2014 07:51:40 am
7/27/2014 08:16:24 am
Thank you so much for sharing. I have prayed for your family often throughout this last year. Our family recently suffered a terrible tragic loss of my sister in law and 2 nephews in an home explosion. Your words are a salve to my soul.
Cheri and TimCharbonnesu
7/27/2014 08:29:24 am
Thank you for sharing your tradegy it has inspired us to be more thankful for the family that God has given
7/27/2014 02:10:25 pm
i know y'all are having a really hard time i miss them too Just remember that God is with you always even through your hardships.
7/30/2014 07:22:03 pm
Daniel, I was greatly encouraged to read this post. It is obvious that God is molding you and shaping you into His image in order that He can use you to bring glory to Him. I will continue to pray that God uses this event in your life and the lives of your family, as well as who knows how many people around the world. Grace to you.
8/1/2014 01:55:40 pm
I wanted to thank you for your post. It's hard to believe that was a year ago. I appreciated your honesty and your willingness to share your struggles with the world. I read the article on Sunday, and it has been on my mind for most of the week.
7/26/2015 08:54:00 pm
I worked at CoBeAc that summer and to this day it shows that no matter what you do do all to the glory of god because we never know when our last breath will be every breath we take is a gift. Thank you Daniel for sharing this story what a blessing it was.
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