Written by Shane O’Neill
In the Fall of 8th grade, my Pop Pop died. That’s not uncommon, aging kills.
But I hurt. Someone responsible for my life stopped living.
The cold outside worked its way into me.
That same month, that same cold Fall, my aunt died. She decided that life was too hard. She hoped there was something better in death and decided to find out. I think she just wanted the hurt to stop. She tasted the gun barrel and forever went away. I knew something was wrong here; does it get so hard that stopping is better?
There were people left behind. They hurt. They hurt. Like an irreparable tear in a priceless quilt, formed and stitched through experiences. Now, rent apart. My aunt gone. My cousins slept in the cold, torn from the warmth of their mother. Gift become curse: memories with others aren’t meant to be carried alone.
I played pretend. Everyone went to my grandfather’s deathbed. I kept away. I wanted to stay warm: social media, movies, shows, porn, anything.
Time. I found new hurt, new kinds of cold. I found new patches for my pretend-quilt: alcohol. marijuana. percocet. oxycontin. heroin.
More people died. I kept pretending. So cold. Aching. Lancing. Biting. Cold: like a lonely boy in a barren arctic, always night, naked, curled up. Hugging himself to stay warm. Hugging himself so the lonely will go away. There’s no quilt here. Just pretending.
But then He came, in the dead of night. But not dead.
I think I’d pretended He was dead. But here He was, the only thing alive. How did He find me in this arctic-place?
Still cold and curled. He kneeled over me. Warm tears ran from His eyes to beat upon my face, hacking through my hurt. Warmth. I was still alive. Callused hands, careful, took my quilt: Tore it like a veil, top-to-bottom.
I whisper, “I’ll die here, I know I will.”
His cloak placed on me, a real quilt. So warm. His body domed around me, like cupped hands protecting the smallest spark. His breath breathing warmth, promising a fire.
All night, He stayed and took my cold. Always, tears were streaming from His eyes upon my covered body, like they were eagerly running from His face to love and warm me. He cried all the tears I was too scared to cry, and He rinsed me in them. Baptized in His tears.
He hurt. He hurt so He could find me and be with me, in my hurt.
Before dawn, He died of cold. He had to die — so He could know my Pop Pop’s hurt too and go find him in his arctic-place.
Me, I woke warm. New. I had a new quilt. This quilt told His story, He gave me His story. His body broke that night before, broken for me, each piece a new patchwork in our story.
Curse undone: memories now have meaning, never carried alone.
Hurt still comes, like a blade of cold. And I still hate it. But there’s more; I remember what it was like, to see it stab His body. Now, hurt doesn’t come alone: I remember His noise, like a whisper growing louder, chorused in every sunset, in the groans of dying leaves and falling friends: “I am making all things new.”
Shane O’Neill is the Editorial Director for Proven Men Ministries, a non-profit sexual integrity organization that partners with individuals, churches and organizations to see men, women, and families discover Jesus’ freedom. Shane is currently working on a graduate degree in apologetics at Liberty University’s Rawling School of Divinity.