(Wrongly) Judging God for the Death of My Son

[Excerpt: How many people can say, “Remember the time that the Mexican Mafia tried to kill me?” I sure didn’t think I would be one of those people. Nothing prepared me for what was about to happen…]

Kris and Mom huggingWhen I was 15, I had gotten pregnant and had an unfathomably hard decision to make for someone so young. I wanted to keep the baby but my parents opposed. They said they would not help if I made the decision to keep him and I’d have to move out of the house. Although I had decided that I would work two jobs if I had to support us, I didn’t even have a driver’s license (or a car for that matter) to get back and forth from work.

As the little bump in my belly became a larger and larger hump, the size of my love for this child grew along with it. I was willing to do anything for this child and working two jobs was only the beginning of what I was willing to do.

I wasn’t able to go to school (they wouldn’t allow it in those days) so I had a home tutor. One thing I found is you really find out who your true friends are when you are when going through personal trials and tribulations in your life. One such friend (who I am still friends with today) brought over a baby gift. While visiting, she did one of the most loving things a friend can do… she leveled with me and didn’t hold back any punches.

Do you really love this baby?” Wendi asked. “With all my heart” was my emotion filled reply. “I’m willing to do anything I have to in order to keep him.”

And then she said something I wasn’t expecting at all. “You’re being terribly selfish and self-centered. How are you going to take care of him when you are working two jobs? Someone else is going to be raising him anyway. You’ll never be there for him, his father’s not in the picture, and he’ll be raised in a daycare. That’s not true love – you’re only thinking of yourself and not what’s best for the baby. True love is when you put what’s best for the other person before what’s best for you and your own feelings.”

A few months later, I was lying in a hospital bed with a tape recorder in my face. “Say it… say it! Say it out loud! You will not try to get this baby back or try to find him. You are giving him away on your own free will.” I was sobbing too hard to say anything at all. I felt my heart and soul spilling out of me with the flood of tears. The woman from the adoption agency was the only one in the room not weeping. Even the nurse who was there to witness the event was crying. Giving my baby away for adoption was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life next to losing him again a second time. I knew in my heart that when he was 18 we’d find each other again – I felt that God was making that promise to me.

A month later, my parents took me on vacation to “get away from it all.” The first night of our getaway vacation, Dad, who was only 53, had a major heart attack. He was in ICU for a month, had a stroke, went into a coma and died two days afterward. I was blamed by several people for his death because of the stress I had placed on him by getting pregnant at such a young age out of wedlock. I loved my Dad with all my heart and the guilt and pain were nearly unbearable after only a month of having to give my precious first child away. The only way I was able to make it through it was by leaning on God. He was there with me every step of the way. He held me close and comforted me when I thought I just couldn’t go on.

18 years later, I got a call from the Montel Williams show. They said that someone had written to the show and said that they wanted to thank me for all I had done for them. The show’s Producer said although she couldn’t tell me who it was, that it could be a male or female and that I knew them sometime between my kindergarten year and high school. She said that Montel wanted to do a show on “Good news and smiling” and they were basing the show around the letter they had received. I thanked her and said “no thanks.”

My sister called afterward. “I heard that the Montel Williams show called you and you said you didn’t want to be on the show.” I laughingly answered, “Yes, isn’t that the strangest thing?” She wasn’t laughing. She said, “What if it’s your son and if you don’t go on the show, he’s going to think you don’t want to find him.”

Looking out the window of the plane on the way to New York City from Texas a few days later, I was deep in thought about my son. What would he be like? Would he be angry at me? I was beyond excited! Finally, finally the day was here where I would hold my son in my arms for the very first time ever. The first thing I noticed when I walked out on stage in front of millions of viewers was – it wasn’t him. My heart fell.

Six months after being on the Montel show, I got a letter from the Edna Gladney adoption agency. My son, who was now 18, had also filled in all of the paperwork necessary for communication to be open!!! For the next six months, we had to play by the rules of the adoption agency. They would only give us first names (not last) and only the state we were in. They would only allow us to communicate through writing letters and would be reading each one to make sure we didn’t try to give each any other means of communication such as phone numbers or cities.

My son’s name was Kristopher and he went by Kris. I had given him a name myself and had called him Karl when I was praying daily for him.

Kris - at the airportTo speed up the story, Kris and I finally got to meet face-to-face and I finally got to hold my son in my arms for the first time. At this point in my life’s journey, I had gotten married at 21, had my beautiful 2% miracle child Brendan at 24 and was divorced when Brendan was 6 years old and I was raising him on my own.

I was elated when Kris decided he wanted to move in with us! I finally would have both of my sons living with me as a family. It was a dream come true and an answer to prayer.

But Kris was a mess. His adoptive father told me the story. Kris’ adoptive mother was not a good mother at all. She would tell him when he was 4 years old and misbehaving that she was going to take him back to the orphanage. (He was never in an orphanage – he was with them from birth.) When Kris was 7, the adoptive parents got a divorce. She told my son it was all his fault and that she never wanted to see him again. Kris’ adoptive father gained full custody.

Kris and I at the airportHe had quit school in the 9th grade and was constantly in trouble with drugs, alcohol and the law. At 18, he had just gotten out of drug rehabilitation in Jamaica. (I know, Jamaica for drug rehabilitation?) I was willing to do anything I could to help my son.

My son Brendan was 9 at the time Kris moved in with us. I had no idea that our “G” rated lives would be totally turned into an “R” rated soap opera. It didn’t take long after Kris moved in with us for things to take a sharp turn in the wrong direction.

How many people can say, “Remember the time that the Mexican Mafia tried to kill me?” I sure didn’t think I would be one of those people. Nothing prepared me for what was about to happen…

Kris had an infatuation with the mafia. He believed hook, line and sinker the make-believe ideology that Hollywood plants in our kids heads. He told me that he would build me a mansion with the money he would make running drugs back and forth between Mexico and the United States. I told him I didn’t want his blood money and tried with everything in me to explain what that kind of life is really like and how far away that kind of life was from what God wanted for him. I wanted him to go to college, get a degree and make his money by using his talents and brains – he wanted to be a tough guy making money the “easy” way.

Prior to finally meeting Kris, I played a game with myself based on the things my son might have become called “What if.” It went like this… “What if he’s gay?” And the answer was, “I’d love him just as much and accept him.” What if he’s rude and obnoxious?” And the answer was, “I’d love him just the same.” Then I beefed up the stakes – what was the worst thing I could think of that my son could have become? And the answer was – a drug dealer. I would love him even if he was a drug dealer.

Funny how the worst thing I could think of – he had become. Every day became a living nightmare. Here’s an example of a “normal” day. Waking up one morning to go to work, I stumbled upon an empty pill bottle in the middle of the living room floor. Walking out to my car, I saw that my window to my Mustang was rolled down. Upon closer inspection, I found cigarette ashes all over the window and side of the car – a step closer revealed a gun laying on the passenger side seat. Empty beer cans littered the floor board on both sides of the back seat. The key was in the ignition and the battery was dead. Rushing back into the house to see if my son was alright and what in the world was going on, he was passed out in his bed. Shaking him awake, he told me that he had been up all night guarding the house against drive by shootings. I didn’t live in a drive by kind of neighborhood. These were people he had gotten involved with that were gunning for him. Every day there was a major incident – and several major incidents every day.

I had to send Brendan away to his Grandparents house because of the danger. I finally ended up in the emergency room in agony from every muscle in my back being in spasms from the stress. Surly there was a way to help my son and get him on the right track. I loved both of my sons with all my heart. I would do anything for either of them. Unfortunately, in the end I found you can’t do anything for someone that doesn’t want to help themselves.

It got to be overwhelming and dangerous – and Kris wasn’t changing nor was he willing to go to counseling or rehab. I couldn’t continue to have him being a danger to Brendan or influencing him. I finally had to ask him to move out.

Three weeks later, in the middle of the night, I got a call. “You have a collect call from an inmate at the Harris County Jail. Will you accept the charges?” I accepted. Kris was crying on the other line. “You’ve got to get me out of here! They are going to kill me!” I said, “Slow down, Son. Who’s going to kill you?”

The Mexican Mafia! They are afraid I’m going to nark on them – so they are going to kill me before I go to court. There are a bunch of the members in jail with me. Mom, you’ve got to get me out of here!”

Kris and me in NCIt turned out that when Kris had moved out, instead of moving in with friends, he went down to the streets of Houston and had gotten involved with selling cocaine for the Mexican Mafia. He got caught by an undercover police officer selling cocaine in a sleazy bar on the outskirts of downtown Houston.

The next thing I knew, I got a call from (get this) Chrystal from the Pink Pussycat. (Yes, you heard right!) She said she had Kris’ truck and wanted to give it back. She said Kris had given her the keys to his truck when he was arrested as she had been with him at the bar. As I was talking to Chrystal from the Pink Pussycat (just had to say that again) she handed the phone to a guy who said he was a friend of my son’s and was a Manager for Blockbuster at a location downtown.

He sounded pleasant enough – but something inside told me not to trust him. I know now it was God. He said, “I have your son’s truck and want to bring it by your house. Where do you live?” I told him a lived a long way away and he didn’t have to bother. “Just leave the truck outside of the Howard Johnson hotel downtown. Put the keys under the mat for me.” He persisted, “It’s no problem. Just tell me where you live and I’ll swing by and drop the truck off.” I countered, “No, no, I don’t want you to go out of your way.”

He said, “Then meet me by the dumpster behind the Jack-in-the-Box. I don’t want anyone to steal the truck.” What he meant was, “I’m a lazy killer and it would be very convenient for me if you are close to the dumpster when I put a bullet through your head.” For several days, he continued calling me – asking about court dates and times and trying to convince me to meet him or give him my address. I continued being sticky sweet and giving no information. I told him Kris and I were no longer on speaking terms when he asked about court dates and times.

The phone rang at 6:00 a.m. as I was getting ready for work. A hollow voice on a recording said something along the lines of “Your truck is at the police impound….” The rest of the recording told me that they had the truck the entire time – they picked it up when Kris was arrested that night. Sick to my stomach and literally in fear for my life, I gathered up a few things, dropping them as I shoved them into a small suitcase and headed for the door. I looked up and down the street for suspicious people before rushing to the car and heading for the airport. I flew to another state to get away from the danger and visit a friend. Thank goodness Brendan was still at his Grandparents house.

I got a call from a friend at work… “Do you know that guy that’s been calling you about Kris’ truck? It was just on the news that the police are looking for him. He and four other guys killed a 76 year old man Sunday on a life support system. They caught three of them but he got away and is on the run.” They killed him Sunday and started calling me on Wednesday. At least if he was running he wouldn’t be interested in me and dumpsters anymore.

Kris finally went to court. Since this was his first offense, the Judge decided that he would let him off with nothing on his record if he would nark on the higher ups in the Mafia and help the police by going back out on the streets. I begged the District Attorney not to allow my 18 year old son to do this. He could be killed. I had tears in my eyes as I pleaded with the man as he looked back at me with eyes of steel. He said, “Your son is in no more danger than he was before when he was out on the street with these people. He got himself into this.” There was no budging him; his heart was hard as nails to match his steel y eyes.

The one thing I have to hang on to is what happened next. As soon as Kris got out of jail, he came up to work. “Mom, I know you are scared. I am too. I’m afraid I’m not going to make it through this and they are going to kill me. I love you and I know you love me. Don’t ever doubt that. There’s something I wanted you to know before I go out there because I know how important it is to you. I gave my life to Jesus when I was in jail. So no matter what happens to me, please remember that.” He hugged and held me on the steps of the high-rise building in downtown Houston.

As he walked away, he stopped, turned around and yelled, “I love you, Mom!” I shouted back, “I love you too, Kris!”

Three years later, Kris was shot and killed outside of a bar in Dallas, Texas. He was 21.

No one bothered to tell me. His stepmother (the woman who married his adoptive father when Kris was 12) had said, quote “I had thrown him away” again so I guess they thought I didn’t have a right to know my son was dead. I found out they buried him in North Carolina through a newspaper clipping in the online archives.

It happened like this… a few months after Kris had helped the police, he called me from a town nearby and begged me to let him live with us again. He said he wanted to return to a normal life and was tired of the insanity of the streets. He promised he would go to rehab and then wanted to begin college as soon as he got out. We all jumped in the car and drove to the town to pick him up. Believe me, there were a lot of tears and hugs going on.

But within a few weeks, things were upside down again and getting crazier by the day. His promises of rehab fell by the wayside as did his entering college. The drugs and alcohol returned. He stole prescription drugs from the medicine cabinet. The undesirable friends returned. I woke up and he was on the living room floor with a girl. Fully dressed, mind you, but this broke house rules.

Kris, wake up!” I pushed him with my foot as I was still having issues with my back. Angrily I pushed him again. “F _ _ _ you!” he shouted. That was it. “Kris, get out of this house! Get the girl out of here NOW! You are to NEVER CUSS at your Mother again – DO YOU HEAR ME?!” He angrily gathered his things together along with the girl and headed for the door.

You’ll never find me again!” he yelled as he stomped out of the house. “FINE! I don’t want to until you change!” said I.

The years slipped away. I was in the pit of despair as a parent. My youngest son, Brendan, was packing his things and moving out of the house. What was I to do? Who was I besides a Mom? As a single parent from the time he was six, every choice and move I made revolved around him. As his room emptied out I felt that my life was becoming just as empty.

Five days later, Brendan came to return a borrowed ironing board. I was sitting in front of the computer. I was trying to find Kris. We had a connection with each other and I could always “feel” him. I was very worried because for a long time, I lost the connection. I felt something bad might have happened and that he was in prison or some such thing. I didn’t want to think about the “some such thing” but I was about to be forced to.

I had found Kris’ social security number but didn’t know what to do with it. I thought maybe he had gotten married by now. I went to the Social Security website and put in the number. I was just about to hit enter when Brendan came in with the ironing board.

What are you doing, Mom?” Brendan asked. “Looking for your brother,” I said. “I was just about to hit the button on this page. Ready?” I said cheerfully. I pushed the enter button on the keyboard. Kris’ name popped up. But it wasn’t under the marriage records. It was under the death records. There was no date of death.

Brendan, who had come to look over my shoulder, immediately started to cry. “Oh, no! Oh, no!” I said, “Don’t worry, this doesn’t have a date of death! Everybody is probably in here and when you die they fill that part in.” He reached around me and pushed another button. There was Kris’ date of death. What a way to find out. Brendan and I threw our arms around each other and wept and cried.

I blamed God. How could He allow this to happen? I had asked Him to take care of Kris and to watch over him and keep him safe every day from the time he was born. This wasn’t supposed to happen this way. He was supposed to have been raised in an environment of love and support. He was supposed to be raised by people that could love him, provide for him, and give him all the love that I wanted to as his mother. When I found him, he was supposed to be wearing tennis shorts and have a racket in his hand and tell me all about his experience at Harvard. He was supposed to get married, have my grandchildren and live next door while I watched them grow up.

He wasn’t supposed to be raised in an unloving environment. He wasn’t supposed to have quit school in the ninth grade or become addicted to drugs and alcohol. And he certainly wasn’t supposed to have become a drug dealer and involved with the Mafia. Most of all, he wasn’t supposed to be dead at 21.

That was December 16th – it was the day I found out my son was dead and the day I turned my back on God. I wanted nothing to do with a God that I had prayed to and that had all the power in the world to do something and He chose not to. I didn’t want to worship and love a God that could have done something to prevent all of this and didn’t. How could a loving God allow this to happen?

I HATE YOU, GOD, I HATE YOU!!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs in my empty house. “WHAT KIND OF GOD ARE YOU? ARE YOU SADISTIC? DO YOU LIKE SEEING ME IN PAIN? ARE YOU TRYING TO PAY ME BACK FOR ALL OF THE MISTAKES I HAVE MADE? I HATE YOU!!!!”

When I turned my back on God, I lost my best friend. At the time I needed Him most I shut Him out of my life. Without Him, I was in utter and total darkness.

On Christmas Eve, a concerned friend gave me the book, “The Shack.” All Christmas Eve and through Christmas, I choose to be alone and read. The man in the book was so much like me: bitter and angry at God for allowing his little girl to be murdered. He was judging God and God came up short. He was going through what he called, “the great sadness.” But the man in the book was fictional. I was my reality.

In the book, there was a conversation between the personification of God’s wisdom and the man whose child was murdered. Here are some of the words that spoke straight to my heart but I’ll put my son’s name in the spot for the character in the book…

…Maybe your understanding of God is wrong.”

I just don’t understand how God could love Kris and let him go through that horror. Did God use him to punish me for what I did to my father? That isn’t fair. He didn’t do anything to deserve that.”

Is that who your God is? It’s no wonder you are drowning in your sorrow. God isn’t like that, He’s not punishing you or anyone. This was not His doing.

But He didn’t stop it.

No, He didn’t. He doesn’t stop a lot of things that cause Him pain. Your world is severely broken. You demand your independence, and now you are angry with the one who loved you enough to give it to you. Nothing is as it should be, as God desires it to be, and as it will be one day. Right now your world is lost in darkness and chaos, and horrible things happen to those He is especially fond of.

Then why doesn’t He do something about it?”

He already has…”

You mean what Jesus did?”

Haven’t you seen the wounds on God too?”

I didn’t understand them. How could he…”

For love. He chose the way of the cross where mercy triumphs over justice because of love. Would you instead prefer he’d chosen justice for everyone? Do you want justice, ‘Dear Judge’?”

But I still don’t understand why Kris had to die.”

He didn’t have to. This was no plan of God’s. God has never needed evil to accomplish His good purposes. It is you humans who have embraced evil and God has responded with goodness. What happened to Kris was the work of evil and no one in your world is immune from it.”

But it hurts so much. There must be a better way.”

There is. You just can’t see it now. Return from your independence. Give up being His judge and know God for who He is. Then you will be able to embrace His love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing Him away with your self-centered perception of how you think the universe should be. God has crawled inside your world to be with you, to be with Kris.”

I don’t want to be a judge anymore. I really do want to trust God.”

From the time I found out about Kris’ death, I was guilty of being God’s judge and jury. And I didn’t give Him the benefit of a fair trial. I closed my eyes to the fact that His love was so deep that He not only chose but allowed His only son to be murdered for my sins and the sins of my son. My son and I were not innocent. His son was. While I had to see reruns in my mind of my son lying in his own blood dying in a dark parking lot, God had to watch His son being tortured and beaten to the point it He was unrecognizable as a man, spit on and nails driven through His arms and feet. Could God have done something about that? Yes. Did He? No. Why? Because He loved us that much.

I am now closer to God than I’ve ever been. I trust Him that there was a reason for Kris’ early death and the pain in his life. Perhaps something that was going to happen in his future was too painful for God to allow him to go through. Whatever the reason, I trust God enough to know that my ways are not His ways and His ways are higher than mine. And above all, I trust a God that went through the same agony and pain as I did watching Jesus on the cross – allowing it to happen because He loved me.

Those eight days without God were some of the darkest in my life but I serve a God that’s forgiven me for turning my back on Him. It makes me sad just to think about screaming “I hate you.” I never want to be without Him ever again. He’s my best friend, Father and Savior. He is my God.

I am consoled that Kris said he gave his life to Christ when in jail. I will see him again one day.  Brendan, Kris and I will be a family for eternity in heaven.  Kris is in our hearts and the arms of God.

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(I wanted to add this picture of my friend, Wendi, from the story.  Who was to know when she was talking to me about adoption that 20 years later, Wendi would adopt a child of her own.  She’s an awesome Mom!)

Wendi-Tim-and-Ryan

 

 

 

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