Joy in the Mourning
My brother left this week to prepare for deployment to Afghanistan. He's stationed at Ft. Hood. I'm grateful beyond words that he is okay, but my heart grieves for all the families who lost loved ones there yesterday.
While I don't know why terrible things like this happen, a friend blessed me recently by sharing how God healed the sorrow in their family and turned it into something good. In 2006 Jerry and Pat Prosapio lost their teenage daughter Katie in a tragic accident. Katie was a talented musician and writer, and in the months before she went home to the Lord, she was preparing to go overseas to help those who were being persecuted for their faith.
Now the Prosapios have started a remarkable ministry called Katie's Comfort to encourage and support families who are grieving the loss of a loved one. As a tribute to Katie and those who lost their lives yesterday, here is a beautiful essay written by Laura Prosapio, almost four years after her sister's death.
Joy in the Mourning
by Laura Prosapio
Deeming an event as “extraordinary” is not the most common occurrence. The word “extraordinary” immediately implies that something wonderful and miraculous has taken place, and that because it has occurred, a person will never be the same. Well, God has worked extraordinarily in my life, and He has changed me. He has showed me that He can create something beautiful from a tragedy.
The lowest point in my life was when I heard the news. I was at my friend’s house next door, and her mother told me to go home right away because she got a call from my mom. I figured that my family was having dinner, and they needed me home. However, I realized this was not the case when, peering through the screen door, I saw my mom, dad, and brother standing at the top of the stairs, obviously distressed. My sixth grade mind never expected the worst. I simply reasoned to myself that my pet rabbit had died, and that they were looking for a way to tell me. How wrong I was!
My dad sat me down on the couch in our living room, and all he had to utter was, “Our church got a call from the director of Rockford Master’s Commission. Katie was in a car accident. She’s in Heaven.” Time seemed to stop. Feelings of sadness and disbelief entered my mind. For those few moments, nothing else mattered. My only sister, my big sis Katie, was dead, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
In the days that ensued after I heard the news, the emotional wake and funeral came and went. Through every waking moment, I felt as though I was living a nightmare. Surely, this tragedy could not be true!
The first trace of purpose from Katie’s death was when my sixth grade teacher came to my house, evidently very excited. She disclosed to my family that three of my classmates had asked her to help them ask Jesus into their lives; this happened right after they heard about Katie’s death. Although I attended a Christian school, it had taken my sister’s love for God, posthumously, for some of my peers to fully devote their lives to Him. Immediately, I felt honored to be Katie’s sister. My breath was taken away at how God was still working through Katie’s life, even when I thought He was finished.
Since that first time of seeing God’s purpose in my sister’s death, more than I could ever imagine has unfolded from His perfect plan. People have been touched more and more from Katie’s life. Before my sister went to be with Jesus, she wrote and composed a song in honor of the persecuted church around the world. This song has touched countless people, including three thousand souls at a Christian crusade in Nigeria. The song was even played at a Gospel for Asia conference in Texas, where missionaries from all over the globe came to be encouraged by fellow Christians.
Another amazing occurrence unfurled from God’s plan about a year ago, when my family was informed that a Teen Challenge Center was to be constructed in Cambodia for young men who suffered from lifestyle addictions. The center was going to be named “Katie Hall” in honor of my sister. Katie’s dream seemed to be coming true to bring hope to the lost people in the continent of Asia. I was in awe of God’s mighty power working to fulfill Katie’s desires.
God has continued to astound me time and time again. After some time of not knowing God’s purpose in Katie’s death, and thinking that I would never understand why my sister was taken away from me, I have now been able to see God’s hand in every aspect of her life and even her death.
Getting over Katie’s passing and the lack of her presence has been challenging, but the Lord, our Savior, has been there for me through it all. Of course, there have been moments when I’ve simply needed to talk to my sister. Through the milestones of life, especially, I’ve missed her. But, the grief and sadness of the first day I found out about her death have passed. The Lord has given me a fresh, new joy every day, and I thank the Lord for His unfailing presence.
If I look at God’s point of view, the waves and storms of life seem drastically smaller. Countless times I have looked at my sister’s death from my point of view. Every tiny wave of grief feels like it will swallow me. Looking at hardships from my point of view is disheartening, and these hardships never seem to improve as long as the waves keep coming. But as I look at what God has brought me through, and as I stand on God’s truths, it is as if I am on the top of a lighthouse, safe from the hurt and struggles. Sure, difficulties are bound to come my way, but they will always seem so much smaller when I cling to Christ as my foundation.
It is because of this hope that I’ve been able to live my life normally again. Even if I had the choice to bring her back, I would not. Although this may seem awfully extreme, I mean it wholeheartedly. Katie is in such a better place now, basking in the presence of God with no worries and no cares. The Lord is continuing to work through her life, and mine, as God is giving me the honor of sharing hope with those around me who are hopeless.
Three years ago, when I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I never would have imagined that God would have brought me to the point that I am now. He has made me more in love with Him from a situation that seemed dark and grim. His extraordinary joy has always come in the morning, and even in my mourning.