July 10, 2005.
7 years ago today, on a Sunday morning, I remember going to church. I was on staff at Fabre Street Church.
I remember lifting my hands as the worship team led us into the bridge of Blessed Be Your Name: “You give and take away, You give and take away; my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name”.
I remember opening my eyes at that moment and seeing my sister Stefanie, across the room, with her hands lifted up too. I don’t know why we both did that, but we both have never forgotten it.
That afternoon, I remember my mom taking a nap on the couch in the upstairs living room and covering herself with the throw-over blanket. I remember when we were all awake again, we stood on the porch out front and were talking about how good it would look when the landscaping in the front of our house would be finished later that week.
It was Sunday night now, and we had church. Once the service was over I remember heading over to a funeral home to be with some friends as they mourned the loss of their grandparent. As I was on my way out I remember seeing my parents waiting in line to enter the visitation area. They were surrounded with people from my church and I remember seeing my mom from a distance. She had a smile as big as ever as people told them how happy they were to have me join the staff at Fabre.
I remember walking up to my parents to let them know that I’d be home later. I had a youth pastor’s meeting at a friend’s house on the south shore. On my way there, at around 9pm, I remember the thunder and lighting that filled the sky. It was incredible but only lasted 15 minutes and then the sky cleared up again.
I remember eating burgers and laughing with the other pastors as we bonded and talked about ministry.
At 11pm, as I made my way home that night, I remember driving down my street with a question in my mind that I had to ask my mom when I got home. But to my surprise, my parents’ car wasn’t in the driveway. No worries. They were probably babysitting my nephew.
I remember walking in and hearing my grandparents in the basement. They lived with us. My grandmother and grandfather were standing at the bottom of the stairs in the basement and she had a phone in her hand. I remember her next words to me (in Italian): Mom and Dad were in a car accident and they’re at the hospital.
Being the eternal optimist I remember telling them not to worry. After all, I thought the worst that could happen would be a few broken bones. I remember going to my room and finding my beeper/pager (that I forgot to bring with me to church that night). It sat on my desk and flashed with several messages/numbers that I needed to call.
The first person I called back was Pastor Mortelliti, whom I was now working for. With wisdom he asked if I had spoken to my brother-in-law Michael. I hadn’t. After finishing that conversation I got a call from a close family friend, Steve. He seemed to know a little more of what was going on. He told me to call his parents and that they were ready to pick us up to bring us to the hospital where my parents were.
I remember being so confused at his words. “Why do I have to call your parents? I have my own car. I can drive with my grandparents”. Again, with great wisdom, Steve said “No, my parents are expecting you to call them and they’re waiting to bring you guys.” At those words I finally relented and said ok.
I made the call. I remember from the time I hung up to the time they showed up at the door. I grabbed my Bible and read Romans 4:17.
This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing
Now I was thinking – the worst that could happen is death. Right then and there I began to pray in tongues and then I prayed something bold: “God, if you take one or both of my parents, then You need to give me the strength to deal with it. I trust you with my life and you are in control.” In that moment, I released it all to the One who knows all things, and I remember feeling peace in my heart that no matter what situation I was about to walk into, I was going to walk out stronger.
The car ride to the hospital felt long. it was late. Definitely passed midnight! I remember pulling up to the hospital and seeing pastor Andrew open up the door for us to walk in. As I walked in, my grandparents trailing behind me, I could see a few people I recognized. Then I saw a whole hallway lined with people I recognized from different churches in Montreal.
I remember asking myself, “why are all these people here? It’s the middle of the night. What is going on here?” My eyes began to frantically zip through the hallway to find a family member and before I knew it my eyes landed on my dad. Then my sisters. And then my brother-in-laws….. but where was my mom? My dad met me at the door of the little room where my family was and with tears in his eyes, with a shaky voice, I remember hearing the words that I never expected to hear. “Jonathan, mom went home to be with the Lord.”
I remember the tears instantly flowing down my cheeks and then hearing my grandparents, my moms parents, sobbing in despair.
I remember as a family walking into the room where my mom’s body was. We gathered in a circle around that table. We talked about her, trying to grasp the reality that we now had to face, and then I remember all of us holding hands in a circle and fervently praying for God’s help.
At some point that night I remember pastor Andrew asking me if there was anyone he could call on my behalf. My best friend Joey, my Bible school friends, and Zion Bible College itself.
I remember Joey driving me home and we were trying to embrace the reality of what just happened. It was now almost 4am and I remember getting home that night/morning and lying in bed awake and crying, and hearing my dad in his bed doing the same.
I remember many broken hearts feeling the void. For my dad – his wife, friend, and lover. For me – my mom, my hero in the faith and champion in the home. For my sisters (who were both pregnant at the time) – their mom, confidant and best friend.
After all this, however, 7 years ago today I remember learning all about…
I probably remember too much, but maybe it’s because you needed to hear it!?
Today, God has given me a beautiful woman in Priscilla and a baby that’s on the way. God has blessed my father with a wonderful wife in Cheryl and we are amazed, but not too surprised, since God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him! (Romans 8:28).
Here’s a slideshow I prepared that week when we joined with several hundred friends and family members to celebrate her 50 years of life.
[The song in this video is a song I wrote while in Bible school. I ended up singing it that week at my mom's funeral service since she loved it so much]
My sisters and I posing with my mom