I grew up in Indio, CA, which is near Palm Springs. I only attended church when friends invited me, but had a sense there must be a God or Someone “out there.” However the idea of attending church seemed out of the question, because it seemed like something people do as families and my mother and father were against going to church.
During my sophomore year of high school, my parents began talking about divorce as the only option to their ongoing fights and unhappiness. However, by Thanksgiving my father also found out he had liver cancer. My parents decided to stay together to see things through, but the tensions in our home still continued. My father believed in positive thinking to the point that he refused to discuss his cancer for fear he would “give energy” to it. Yet I would find his grey hairs that fell out from the chemotherapy all around the house, and I dreaded coming home after school on his chemo days because he was very ill and I was never sure what to expect.
That summer I went to an Art Camp in the mountains where I could spend time painting. One day I got a message from the camp office that my mom had called, but when I called her back at work they told me that she hadn’t been to work for a couple days. I called at home, but there was no answer there either. (This was pre-answering machines.) I was worried at what might be wrong, and I spent the day in the woods just thinking and found myself talking to God, wondering if He might be listening.
In bed that night, I was still worrying and unable to sleep. The lights were all out, but in the dormitory style room with 10 other girls I started eavesdropping on a conversation across the room. One girls, I learned as I listened, was sharing with another how she had become a Christian and how Christ has changed her life.
It got me thinking. If Christ was who he said he was, “the Son of God”, then how could I ever run away from Him? I had to come to terms with Him and his existence. And so I prayed again that night, saying I would believe in Him and follow him and yes—if that meant going to church, I would go to church.
My father died the night before I came home from camp. The finality of death became real to me. To this day I have a place in my heart for kids who lose a parent. In one way you are resilient as a young person, and in another way you don’t have the resources or perspective to understand completely the whys and hows of grief. Much of that following year was a fog.