180 days… or 6 months…
If you would have told me 6 months ago from right now, on the morning of October 26th, 2016, that my little brother was going to be shot and killed, I wouldn’t have believed you. I don’t know exactly what I would have done. I probably would have been calling him all day, making sure he was okay. He probably would have got tired of me and told me to stop calling, that he was fine.
However, one thing I have found more and more true every single day, is that God can still surprise me. Our timing doesn’t matter; God’s does! A friend of mine on instagram captioned her photo with 8 words that really stuck with me. “We do not choose the moment; God does.” No one but God wanted Trae to go. God looked down at his son and said, “Alright, you have done what I needed you to do. Come Home.” Trae obeyed. Trae listened and he went. He didn’t complain and he didn’t try to run. God could have saved Trae, but for some reason, God chose not to. We don’t know why, but we try and believe that God has got it under control.
We have went through a lot of firsts since October 26th, 2017. Every new thing is a first. These are not in chronological order…
- Our first Sunday back to church.. It was hard. I cried most of the service. A lot of people talked to me and hugged me and nothing made it feel right. Sundays until about Christmas were that way.
- Our first Thanksgiving.. We never really celebrated Thanksgiving much, so it wasn’t as bad. Lowell and I went to Indiana for the week and spent it with Kala and Aaron. Milo’s came out for Thanksgiving weekend. Uncle Dan & Aunt Karen and their kids came out for Thanksgiving Dinner. We ended the evening, going around and sharing our favorite memory of Trae.
- Our first time to Washington.. Now, the reason we were there was just awful, but WA is a beautiful place. “Hills” that are here at home Mountains. They say it hardly ever rains in WA, but they must have got all the rain they get every year the weekend we were there. It rained the whole time. The second time we were here, it snowed most of the time. SO, I would like to see WA without rain or snow sometime!
- Trae’s funeral was the first funeral that I remembered that was someone so close and meaningful to me. I have been to few funeral in my life, which I don’t count as a bad thing. I have never been to one with someone whom I was very close to! There are just some things in life you never wish have to happen!
- My first time to the beach… The last time I was at Ocean City, MD, was with Trae. We went with him and some youth group for a one day trip! One day to go and come back home from Ocean City is not enough time… but we did it! It was a fun, tiring day! In January, two of my friends and I went to Ocean City for a long weekend. It was a well spent time with best friends, even though they got too close to a wild horse. It was nice to getaway and not have to worry about anything (other than your two best friends getting ate or mauled by a wild horse). But, standing there, on a windy beach, watching what was supposed to be a sun rising, but instead a cloud watching, gets to you. I stood there, talking to God, asking Him why, and complaining a little. He knows all my feelings and thoughts, but sometimes I have to say them out loud. Sometimes, you have to cry and just talk it out with God.
- First Christmas… Christmas for the Oyler family fell on the weekend of March 12… well into 2017! It was a jam-packed weekend for Lowell and I! It was a nice day. We had lunch, gave presents to the kids, released 21 balloons for Trae.. There was laughter and there were tears, like most events anymore.
- First move… They say you are only to do one major thing each year for the first five years after a death… I think we are packing it all into the first year; maybe we will chill after that! Kala and Aaron moved from Indiana to PA the third week of February! Since then, mom and dad have accepted an offer on their house, causing not only them, but Milo and Carrie to find new living places! So, we have a lot going on with life.
- First big moment I wish Trae could have been around for… Lowell and I got baptized this past Sunday at our church, Pond Bank Community Church. The night before, I was talking to my mom about what I was going to say. Carrie asked me, “Oh, you are not going to make us cry, right?” I laughed. My mom then said that this is something that Trae had been praying and praying for, which I had never knew, so yes, there would be crying. Sunday morning, in front of many, many people (which was my fault) I shared my testimony. Trae, I shared about you. I hope you were there or watching or knew somehow what was going on. I often sit and wonder if you can see what we are doing in our day-to-day life..
- First time having authentic Chinese food… Sisi came for a couple of days and she made us a HUGE Chinese supper. She started at 10:30 and worked until 6ish at night!! She made lots of yummy food and soggy cabbage! I can say that because she calls church soup “soggy soup.” 😉 It was interesting and fun! Some of it was very spicy! She just laughs her sweet laugh! Trae told me while he was at ACTS that when he got home, he was going to teach me how to use chop sticks. He never got home and I still don’t know how to use chop sticks, but I was thinking of him as I ate my soggy cabbage!
- First time to Trae’s grave.. I never thought I would be the type to visit a grave, but I have a couple of times! We don’t have a gravestone yet, so it is just dirt, but sometimes, it is where I feel comfort. Trae, Sophie told mom she wants to put a BIG HEART on your gravestone because she loves you so much! The kids talk about you all the time. You will never be forgotten!
- First death since Trae’s… We have heard many of people’s passing since Trae’s. The one that has been closest to us was two weeks ago. The Wednesday before Easter, a guy from the Fisher & Thompson (the company Lowell works for) Branch in Leola was on his way down to work with the guys in this area. They suspect he fell asleep and drove off the interstate, rolling and eventually, the vehicle caught fire. He was killed. Lowell went up to his viewing Monday after Easter. He told me that it was the hardest thing he has done since 6 months ago. So please pray for that family as they are just starting this journey!
There has been other firsts, but trying to remember them all is hard!
God has taught us all so much in the past six months.
- Understanding… Trying to figure out why is one thing that never stops. Why now? why Trae? Why? Why? But, I don’t think I want to know why. If God has a plan and I keep asking “Why?” I am doubting God. I want to trust that God has got it all under control and that He will always provide. It seems like so often instead of putting my trust in God, I doubt Him and try to control the situation myself. That never works! Proverbs 3:5
- Trust.. I just talked about trust! Trusting in God is giving Him all of the bad! Trust is not worrying, which is something I could win a gold medal for! Trust is something that is earn and can be broken in seconds. When that stranger pulled a gun and open fired on a random car, it broke my trust in humanity. My trust for the good in people wavered in a big way! I want to be the person who sees the bet in people, but it is hard after something major like this! I am trying daily to trust that God is in control and He is watching over us. Psalm 13:5
- Fear… Fear gets the best of a person, especially me. It is said that he phrase “Do not Fear.” is in the bible 365 times, one time for each day of the year! If we are told every day by God, “Do not fear!”, then we should not have fear, right?! But we still do. That’s human nature. There was a man who killed on another man while live on Facebook last week and then was on the run. My mind turns to the worst.. Fearing going outside. I don’t want to be that way, but it is life after a murder. But, I am trying every day, to give my fears to God and just sit in His peace and presence, knowing He has got it! Joshua 1:9
- Faith… I am someone who hold tightly to faith. Hebrews 11:1 is my favorite verse! Faith is super important to me. Faith is one of the only ways to get through grief. Faith is taking the step, even when you cannot see it. That is life. Life after a death is taking the nest step and the next step, not knowing what to expect always, but knowing that God won’t let you fall. Hebrews 11:1
- The best is yet to Come… Trae collected forks from events that were memorable to him. My mom now has a cup full of forks. If you have never heard the fork story, I’m going to share it with you…
“There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things in order, she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes.
She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
“There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly.
“What’s that?” came the Pastor’s reply.
“This is very important,” the young woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.”
The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say.
“That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the young woman asked.
“Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the Pastor.
The young woman explained. “My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!”
So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder “What’s with the fork?” Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork ..the best is yet to come.”
The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She knew that something better was coming.
At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, “What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled.
During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either.
He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
I don’t know if this is why Trae collected forks, but it is a good reminder to all of us. “Keep your Fork… the best is yet to come.”
Life without Trae is a hard. It’s a constant reminder that your best friend has graduated into Heaven and he is not here walking alongside you anymore. It is sad and it is happy. It is one day at a time. It is trusting in God and having faith. It is more than we sometimes think we can handle, but God knows that we can tackle it and so much more.
Last Summer, we were doing the bible study ‘Jonah,” about the interrupted life. Carrie and I were talking one day about how we have never had anything major happen to us that we would call an interruption.. After Trae died, I thought about this and said, “God, I wasn’t complaining, I was just saying! You didn’t have to do that.”
Hey Bub, I cannot believe it has been 6 months since the last time I talked to you. it hardly feels like it right now, because 6 months ago now, you were here. We miss you daily and know our lives will never be the same. The kids talk about you all the time and how you are up there with Jesus, watching over us all! I have never been more thankful for an angel. It hasn’t been easy down here, but we are making it. love you!