“I am not a cryer.
I used to be, but I haven’t been much of a cryer for about 6 years, only giving in to the occasional cry every several months or so. Even then, I don’t like to cry in front of people. I don’t like people to see me as vulnerable.
After being in an abusive marriage for 4 years, where I birthed three children and foster parented five, I had built a wall around my heart where very little came in and even less came out. I would stand in my kitchen after an argument with my husband, barely able to breathe, and I would tell myself, ‘Build the wall, but don’t let your heart get hard.’
I knew the moment my heart began to harden, bitterness and anger would take over and joy wouldn’t have a place anymore. Every single morning when I woke up, I had to choose joy. I chose to snuggle my babies, savor their giggles, and try to turn the hell I lived in into a beautiful life.
My marriage continued to unravel as if someone was pulling the yarn on an unfinished sweater. They didn’t even have to pull very hard. I watched this beautiful sweater I had created with my imagination, plastered-on smiles, and many apologies, completely disintegrate. I would sit in the front room of my house and stare at the custom, built-in bookcases I had always dreamed of and simultaneously think, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I need out,’ and ‘I can’t stay married because of a house.’One day, I sat in my mentor Marla’s office and breathed in sharply when I heard her say, ‘You need to ask the Lord if He has released you of the covenant you entered into when you got married.’ When she speaks, it is best to listen because her words are usually hilarious or full of deep wisdom. At my next therapy appointment, I heard the Lord speak clearly to me He had, indeed, released me of that covenant. (After all, a one-sided covenant is really no covenant at all.) As I drove home, the tears flowed as easily as my conversation with the Lord. I asked Him if He trusted me. I told Him I was ready for the battle, that I was willing to fight for my marriage. But gently and tenderly He responded, reminding me I had already been fighting for 4 years and it was okay to stop fighting now.
I watched childhood dreams and fantasies, my teenage ideas and beliefs, and every longing and desire turn and leave on its heels, as if it had never even meant to stay in the first place. I said goodbye to dear friends who didn’t agree with my decision, my dream house, my car, and the false reality I had lived in for those 4 years of my marriage.
I never even missed him because my world was much less scary without him in it.
5 months after that, I stood in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit waiting room. My arms wrapped around my brother and parents, while our pastors sat in chairs behind us. The rain poured in the blackness of the night and I began to sing.
My mom joined in and we sang and prayed while they stabilized my sister just beyond a few sets of double doors. After attempting to take her own life, my sweet 16-year-old sister had gone a long time without oxygen to her brain and we were waiting to see how her brain would respond to the injury that comes after being deprived of essential oxygen. I know now, the first 72 hours are critical for a brain injury. During those 72 hours, hundreds of people visited the hospital (we were never alone), and many family members and even friends drove all night and day to be by our side. Thousands and thousands of prayers were whispered, sung, cried, and shouted by thousands and thousands of people as we all pleaded for Krissie’s life.And when those 72 hours were over, we said goodbye to our precious Krissie.
Her brain had gone too long without oxygen.
Kristel Renee Hope.