Brothers & Sisters,
Life wasn't always the way it is now. I'd like to debunk the myth that I'm living in some glorious state of bliss. Am I happy? Yes, without a doubt. Have I always been happy? Not even close. I've had some fairly dark times in my life (I think we all have) and there were also some days that I felt like I was breaking under the crush of the endless waves of guilt, loneliness, dread, questions and sadness. I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider calling it a life.
That thick, destructive darkness never lasted for long, and I usually came out on the other side and was just fine. There was always a voice in my head telling me I had more to do, more to say and people to love. Thank God for that voice.
I took the death of my aunt, Judy, terribly. I put all of my feelings into a box in my mind and resolved myself to be there for my mother as she grieved. Truth be told I didn't make the process any more comfortable as I moved out a few weeks before her death much to the chagrin of my parents. I freely admit that this was the wrong move and I was selfish beyond words. For this, I will forever be sorry. I have very fond memories of my aunt, and the more I think about it, the more I feel as if her death was the veritable straw that broke the camel's back for me and my departure from my faith. Why would God take such a beautiful person from this earth? Why would God make her suffer the way she did? She passed away in September of 2004, and I didn't succumb to the weight of her death until quite a few months later, and it broke me. I always went around with the feeling that my family was invincible and never thought any of them would pass. The cruel reality of this fallacy became evident very quickly, and I couldn't come to grips with it. This destructive force would end up being a significant turning point in my life.
The darkness started to seep in and turn me into a bitter person who forgot how to smile, laugh, cry and feel anything but anger. I ended up making stupid decisions (that up until a few years ago I was still paying for), hurt countless people and generally just become someone people didn't want to be around. I'm thankful for those of you who did stick by me and see it through. I firmly believe that you saw something in me that I couldn't at the time. I would find myself getting angry at the smallest things, having opinions when I didn't have any right to have one but just wanted to be difficult, argued for the sake of arguing and walking around bitter. Who does this? Me. It wasn't great, I'll be the first to admit it, and I'll be the first to apologize for it.
It was during these dark years that I often felt like I wasn't needed and had no business existing and felt that if I wasn't contributing to the world in some way, I shouldn't be here. In these times of supreme darkness when I was at my lowest, I'd often get pulled out by a miracle worker. "Hey, Jeff come work on this project with me" someone would say, and I'd snap out of it. All of this would be fine until I screwed something up or hurt someone and then I'd be back into the thick darkness again. One of the biggest mistakes I made during this period of my life was to skip from one thing to the next and not give anything any thought at all and go go go. This way of doing things might work for some people, but it most certainly does not work for the likes of me. In fact, it was detrimental to my well being and my life in ways that I am just now starting to understand.
I don't think the past 16 years were a waste. Quite the opposite! I've learned who my closest friends are. They're my support, they're my family, and I love them all. I've also learned to slow down, to think, to pray, to understand and fully comprehend my next steps in life instead of throwing myself into the next fire. This slowing down has made me a much more conscious and thoughtful human being, and for that, I can't be happier. I don't blame my Aunt's death for everything that happened, but it was the catalyst that the storm inside me needed to get stronger and take over, and I let it.
I'll never forget the PB&J Sandwiches Aunt Judy used to make us or the french toast that was so yellow it had something magical within it. Her laugh was contagious as was her smile. And as I type this through tears, I feel a great peace knowing that she's always with us, and someday she'll get Uncle Bob his Ice Cream again because "Judy, I think it's time."
If you're feeling depressed or suicidal please call: 1-800-273-8255 there are people here to support you. You're not in this alone.