My first year of higher education was spent attending the local community college. I had a serious boyfriend (we were all but engaged), worked at a daycare, and lived at home. Life was good.
Then, one summer night in late July I was in my bathroom highlighting my hair when the phone rings. For some reason, I was usually the one in my family to answer the phone went it rang. This time was no different. On the other line was my uncle…who rarely calls. I knew something was up.
I called to my mom. When she picked up the other receiver, I turned mine off. A minute later I heard her scream, “No, George! No!”
Thinking something had happened to my grandmother, I ran downstairs as quick as my feet would carry me. Remember the Road Runner from Looney Tunes – how his feet were going ninety to nothing while the top portion of his body floated along straight and unwavering? That’s how I felt. My feet cleared the thirteen steps almost like I was in “Lord of the Dance.”
I turned the corner and reached my mom the same time as my dad came around the other corner. We both were crying, “What? What!?”
“Shawn was killed in a car wreck!” My mom yelled as her knees buckled beneath her.
Shawn was my little cousin who had a troubling past. Again, my heart sank to my stomach and I needed to vomit. I think I may have.
Shawn had “gotten saved” that previous year, yet there had been no evidence of a regenerated heart.
When my mom hung up the phone, I had to ask her, “Do you think Shawn was truly saved? Do you think he is in Heaven?”
My mom replied, “I don’t know.”
That night, my dad drove us the long fifteen minutes to my grandmother’s house. Members of the extended family who lived within walking distance were there. We all waited on m grandmother to return from being with her son while he identified Shawn’s body.
When she arrived home and things settled enough for us to attempt some sleep, my mom and I climbed in the bed with her. My mom and I slept on and off throughout the night while my grandmother moaned.
His funeral was bad. What young person’s funeral isn’t? Yet at Shawn’s there was a struggle between his fundamentalist preacher of a great-uncle and his over-the-top Gothic friends. There was even talk from my great-aunt that Shawn’s mysterious friends were enticing evil spirits to take his soul.
I thought she was out of her mind, yet the uneasiness that came upon me the night of his death still remained. However, I managed to wrangle a bit of hope when I saw a photo of him at his baptism. I held onto that hope with all my might. It was the only way I could sanely navigate through the rest of my life. Otherwise, I would have visions of my fourteen year old cousin being tortured by Satan and his angels.