Scientific experts believe that a time for teenage rebellion happens between the ages of 13-20. I don’t know if this is true, I am only going in to detail about my own rebellion, and how deceived I was, the anger in me was never put out and the reason behind this is because I lost my grandmother. She struggled with heart disease for 10 years and when she passed away, I went through some dark valleys that I thought there would be no end to. On March 2, 1999. A dark cloud filled my life. One that I would be under for three years. As a teenager, no one had ever talked about death, it wasn’t a popular subject to bring up at home or at school. The death of my grandmother was something I wouldn’t be ready for. I’ve seen a lot of movies, big explosions and people shooting each other but at the time, it was a ok to watch because as the viewer you know that the scene where someone dies is only part of the script. In the end I as the viewer always knew the victim/ actor would play in other movies thus going on with his film career. When I showed up at the funeral home, I walked into the door, and there she laid before my eyes. It destroyed me to witness that. I cried uncontrollably.
I ran up to her casket and my mother and father, held me back… I was so distraught, I was determined to get to her, that I dragged my mother along with me. When I got to the front of the line, my uncles sat me down, to try to be the voice of reason. He kindly explained to me, “She is gone, but think about the pain that she was in for so many years. She smiled more times than anything else because you were around her, now she is at peace.” To this day, I don’t think I ever really truly thanked my uncle Carmine for saying those words at the time. I say it now… Thank you.
After the visitation, it was decided that since I reacted the way I did, my mother and father decided that I would not be going to the funeral. My family was too frightened that I would jump into the grave with her, so it was decided that I would miss my grandmother’s funeral and burial. That was perhaps the best decision my parents would ever make for me as their son. Days later, I couldn’t sleep, the nightmares I had from the passing of my grandmother would wear me down, I would get insomnia for a 16 months. “The pain I went through no one will ever truly understand. I was being tortured and tormented by spiritual forces that I had no idea existed yet. Many times, I would cry myself to sleep. Many nights I asked, “God why are you having me go through this, I need strength. I can’t do this, I don’t understand….”
I sought day and night for answers. I would get answers to my prayer, but it would take me three years to grasp the concept of that. Due to the fact that I sought answers from God, he would answer my prayers in human form. I would open the scriptures for the first time for myself.
Sure I went to church as a kid, but as far as reading the scriptures, it went in one ear and out the other. This time I had a purpose. I was determined to get the answers I was looking for. Tamara Norris was at the time my physical therapist but as the years went on, she would become a big sister to me without ever realizing it…
One day while finishing up with therapy, I told her that I had lost my grandmother and I was lost. I was a teenager in the middle of the road and I was being asked to make a decision I didn’t think I was ready for. She had kindly reminded me that the Scriptures said though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil for thou art with me. That piece of scripture stands out to me, it began to anchor me in rooted faith as the storms would come my way. The year of losing my grandmother was the most difficult thing I ever had to go through.
To make matters worse, I was going through it alone, no one in my family knew the kind of pain that I would go through daily. It hurt to breathe. Most of my family didn’t even really express any amount of sadness. They just went on like it was just another day. I couldn’t understand it. Meanwhile the only moments of peace I got while going through the grieving stage was reading scripture. It brought a great peace to my soul. As time went on, I began to realize that reading the Bible allows me to have great peace, so maybe, I would start going to church, but my family didn’t want to go. I was left with only option. I would watch TV preachers.
This would be my way of going to church. I would watch TV ministers like Morton and Philip Higgs. They were and are a famous duo of father and son team that brings the gospel to the world. They delivered terrific sermons on the end of the days, and the love of Christ. It became richly rewarding to hear such sermons on the meaning behind Calvary.
Even though I was watching church on TV I still displayed anger and bitterness in my life. One of the reasons that the death of my grandmother hit me like a three punch finishing combo, is based on the fact that, even though my parents loved me, they never hugged me, or even said they loved me. My grandma often went out of her way to display that to me daily to the point where it become infectious. My grandmother loved me so much that she would at many times risk her health and well-being just to see me bowl or play T-ball.
After my grandmother had passed away it was like something in my family changed. Each of my family members stopped going to church, it was bizarre. I didn’t understand why we went to church for ten years and all the sudden because a family member dies church and God in general got put on the back burner. Yet as a teenager I still felt it was very important to read the Bible and follow it as best as I could. Even though for many years after the departure of my grandmother I would just be spinning my wheels as far as being a real Christian was concerned.
Even though I would watch faith based programming, I would still be at war with my family. On November 25, 2004. I would suffer the loss of my grandfather. In the summer of 2004, it was discovered that he would have a spot of cancer on his liver. The doctors performed surgery and it was a success but one week later he contracted an infection as a result of the surgery. I went to go see him after two weeks of being in the hospital. I walked in the room with my Uncle and his face lit up with great joy.
He exclaimed to his nurses, “that’s my grandson, he came to see me.” Moments after arriving at the hospital, my uncle had stepped away to go get coffee and I was left in the room alone to speak and visit with my grandfather. As I was about to ask him how was he feeling, he looked into my eyes as I stood by his bedside and he asked me who I was? That made me cry inside, I refused to cry in front of him. I knew from that moment on, my grandfather would not live long after that and just a week later after our visit, I get the call that my grandfather had died. In the span of just three years, I had lost an uncle, two grandmothers and a now I was faced with the sudden loss of my grandfather. There is a joke in the Italian family that states, the reason most Italians wore black is just in case anybody dies they’re ready. I didn’t find that funny, I sure wasn’t laughing but I knew I was going to a lot more funerals than any normal teenager should have to.
Years later, something strange happened within the inner circle. As family we went to the Wills of my grandparents and although my grandparents thought of everyone within regards to personal needs it really destroyed relationships between brother and sister and brother and brother. I didn’t make any sense. My family was falling into chaos and arguments. Meanwhile I felt blessed to even receive anything from the two great loves in my life. To me personally within regards to how my family was acting it was like demons were let loose into the family. For years it felt as if my grandparents did their best to hold them back, but once they were passed on, they came and they came to divide and destroy our family. It wasn’t hard to see the changes happening within the family but I really couldn’t do anything about it, because I would still battle my father for control over my life and well-being.
‘O death where is thy sting, ‘O grave where is thy victory?”
Earlier I said that I snuck around to watch the Word of God being preached on TV. That only increased when I lost my grandparents. I didn’t want to be separated from them. I loved them so much that most of my relatives were jealous of me, because they thought that I only received special attention because I was different.
That wasn’t it at all, I didn’t have my love at home, I was reaching out for anything…. During my trials and bouts of being oppressed my mother was so sweet the whole time, she always came home from work and gave me the latest book by a famous preacher on the battles of the mind, knowing Jesus etc, I believe she did this , because she may have thought and feared that I would die of a broken heart.
I will tell you all the truth, the Battles of the Mind are fierce. They were so fifierce I’m certain that half the reason I was able to sleep for at least for three to four hours a night was simply because of the compassion the Lord had on me in hearing me weep, over and over and night and night for seven years.
All the while I was going through this trial, most of my family members didn’t understand and some even told me just to “get over it already.” I didn’t need to get over it, I need to get Jesus. I needed his compassion to wrap me up in a shield of protection that kept me safe from all the arrows of the evil one. I needed Jesus to dry my tears and recreate my heart, I needed God that went beyond saying a hail Mary, or sprinkling water on your forehead every time you entered a church.