It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight months since we lost our sweet Abby. I still remember laying in bed the night she passed, unable to sleep and tossing and turning with emotions ranging from sadness, disbelief, anger, and shock. The pain that I felt was unlike anything that I had experienced before and it was hard to believe that it would ever pass.
The days following her death felt like a terrible dream that I kept half-expecting myself to wake up from. For the first time in my life, I felt completely disconnected from God. It was like a black curtain had been hung over me and I couldn’t comprehend why, if He truly existed, would He allow this to happen? I remember laying in the bed of a home that I was housesitting at the time, crying out loudly “Do you even exist, God? Are you even there?” It’s humbling to admit that as much as I didn’t want to say it out loud, I truly wondered if there was even a God. Was everything I ever believed or experienced a lie?
The next day, as I was traveling to Miami to be with my family, I sat in the airport with the same questions still spinning in my mind. Is there a God? Is He as close as I really once believed He was? The level of disconnect that I felt brought me to place of desperation. I inwardly prayed, “Okay God, if you are real and if you are still present in this situation, I need you to prove it to me.” I sat for a bit longer racking my brain of ways I could force God to prove himself to me. “If you’re here, I want to see a red balloon today.”
It would be impossible considering I would be stuck either in an airport or on a plane all day. I knew better than to ever put God to the test, but I figured that I had nothing to lose that that point.
My travels went on as normal with delays and even a landing at the wrong airport. By the time I actually arrived in Miami, it was after midnight. My dad picked me up and we had a quiet drive back to my sister’s house. When I walked in, I was overwhelmed by the aroma of flowers overflowing in her living room. A reminder that this wasn’t a dream. I stood in silence as I looked at the flowers and photos of Abby that surrounded me. I turned to my dad and sobbed into his chest. The one thing we fought so hard for for the last eleven months was gone. I remembered my request to see a red balloon and I thought to myself, “Figures it wouldn’t happen.”
After I had calmed down a bit, I went to go get ready for bed. As I walked into my sister’s bathroom, I stood in complete shock as to what was in front of me. Sitting on her counter was a red balloon.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “it felt like a kiss from heaven?” This was that for me. The next day, I saw my sister for the first time since her daughter had passed. There were no words to say, but I hugged her and my heart ached as I felt her tired and lifeless body. She hardly had the strength to wrap her arms around me. I told her the story of the red balloon and she just looked back blankly at me. Over the course of the next few days, she would sometimes walk outside to get away from everyone and everything. I followed her out and we sat in silence, both unable to grasp the right words to say. After a few minutes, she stared straight ahead and said, “I almost threw that red balloon away before you got here. But something told me not to.”
In that moment, I knew that the red balloon wasn’t for me. It was for her.
Sometimes we are so afraid to ask the hard questions. But if I hadn’t been unafraid to be completely honest before God, my sister might still be searching for her red balloon moment.
I still don’t understand why things happen the way that they do, but I am thankful that I have a God that welcomes my confusion and isn’t afraid of my questions.
“So now we come freely and boldly to where love is enthroned, to receive mercy’s kiss and discover the grace we urgently need to strengthen us in our time of weakness.” Hebrews 4, The Passion Translation