The best way to start a story is simply to begin.
In early May 2014, life was good. Beth and I had been married for 6 great years and had two wonderful little girls. Ava was 3 then, and Evelyn was just 10 months. Our lives were simple and smooth. Working in our family business and raising our two girls. That all changed before the month was out when Evelyn contracted a rare infection that, after 5 days in Children’s Hospital, took her life. Our lives were shattered. Our perfect lives, gone in a blink. We were lost.
A few months later, living in the heavy fog of loss and fear, we got pregnant again. The baby following the loss of a child is often called a “Rainbow Baby”. It really seemed like the clouds had parted to allow this rainbow to peek through. But, as quickly as they parted, they closed again when we had a miscarriage. As the year drew to a close and we struggled through this new pain our family business caught on fire. It was nothing compared to the loss of our children but the strain was enormous. I was in the darkest place of my entire life.
I struggled. Fear and doubt were consuming me. Did I do something that had caused my daughter’s death? Would this pain destroy my marriage? Would the rest of my life be miserable? We kept attending the church we had attended for years and they tried to be supportive. Even saying Mass in Evelyn’s name but I just kept being consumed. And Angry. Angry at the doctors, the nurses, just about anyone who should have saved my daughter, even God. (Especially God.). I had a friend invite me to Crossroads and eventually I went. I mostly just sat in that loud dark space and cried my way through service. Once there was a guy standing up during worship with his hands in the air, man, did that piss me off. How could he believe God was so good? At the same time, I wanted to just go touch his shoulder so I might have just a glimpse of what he was feeling. I was so confused.
Finally the same friend who had led me to Crossroads asked me to go to MAN CAMP. The first one, the one in February with 8 inches of snow on the ground. I thought this guy had lost his mind. Camping in the dead of winter? With a bunch of church dudes? (No thanks!). Luckily, I knew I was out of options, living in complete darkness and I knew I needed God to save my life. I agreed to go. We hiked into camp carrying a ton of gear to help us survive the freezing cold but that wasn’t the only thing I carried. I carried heartache, regret, anger, pain, confusion, and so many other dark things in my head. The 500 dudes in a field, all stumbling towards God, showed me a glimpse of Jesus. The 10 men in my unit, who were there to get real, letting me lay it all on the table, not just talking about “the Glory Days” or fishing, or sports. The guys praying for me in that barn without it feeling weird. Those men removed all of that weight and it was replaced by what felt like courage, straight from God. My life was changed forever.
My journey is far from over but without that Mancamp weekend, it’s hard telling where I would be. No one is meant to carry that weight on their own. It was crushing me. The thought of camping with that many dudes sounded a little weird and a little intimidating but it’s awesome to see so many men seeking Jesus willing to carry everyone else’s burden. I still struggle a lot with losing my baby girl, it’s still confusing and it hurts so damn bad but my hope is in Jesus. I originally thought my ultimate goal was to squeak by and get into heaven just to see my baby girl again. I don't know how it all works or if I’ll get to see her again, but my eyes are now on Him.
Son | Husband | Father | MAN CAMP Veteran
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