Onward and Upward Even Though… It’s Been 20 Years

How long has it been since your greatest trauma or tragedy occurred? Mine was 20 years ago.

Exactly 20 years ago today I was 2 days from getting that middle of the night phone call waking me out of a dead sleep, “SuAnne, are you awake I have to tell you something?”  I answered that I was awake as obviously I stumbled to the house phone in the living room to answer it so I must be mostly awake.  The caller was a coworker of my husbands and asked me a second time if I was awake. I answered again that I was. It was then that I heard there may have been a bad accident though the caller wouldn’t say for certain as he was called by another coworker that sounded hysterical and drunk.  He thought it true enough to call me in the middle of the night to fully wake me and share what he believed to be very bad news.

As I walked away to my bedroom wondering what exactly I should be doing now as our three sons were sleeping upstairs and I needed to be there and couldn’t know for sure that anything happened at all.  It was then the phone rang again, and I was feeling grateful that this coworker was calling me back to say he was wrong and to not worry and apologize for fully waking me.   On the other end of the line I heard, “This is the Shawano County Sherriff’s department….”.

So began the turning of our world as we knew it for three boys ages 14, 10 and 7 and for me who would be tasked to press on and attempt to make sense of what happened to their father, to them and to me. 

There are so many details of pain, heartache, sadness, brokenness that I just do not want to relive again.  I want to treasure and focus on life, survival, hope and healing aware that call started a journey I never wanted to be on for me or our boys or for my best friend and husband of 18 years.  It was not supposed to end that way and yet the call did arrive, and our lives were never the same and we were all placed on a new road to journey on.

 I did press on stumbling, tripping and making many mistakes along the way, yet God has a way of healing, restoring and rebuilding.  He never once failed me…. though in the moments of greatest pain for my boys and for me…. I did wonder. It is only in the looking back that I can see His hand of mercy and grace upon us.

Having returned to school to gain a profession that could support our family I found healing and can now sit and hear the brokenness, heartache, loss and pain of others. I realize I have a measure of empathy that I gained through our tragedy; I know the emotional pain that is so real you imagine your very life should end as it hurts so deeply.  I also know the pain of hurting for others; hurting for your children and being unable to change their reality. The loss of hope for a life that will never be again.  I also know the healing and amazement of waking to realize you just lived through one more day.

I have now had nearly 20 years of waking to a new day. So much has happened; our love for Haiti following their tragic earthquake, losing my brother Mike, a brother-in-law who was another favorite uncle of my boys and so much like their dad and then my brother Rick. We’ve lost three of my parents and thankfully I gained a personal cook and husband who accepted all my baggage and brokenness for the past 16 years. I’ve watched my boys walk through their own road of pain and healing seeing their greatest healing in becoming fathers themselves.

In 20 years, those three little boys are grown and still alive and that is no small feat! They are now fathers who paint, climb trees and cook for a living and we have 10 beautiful grandchildren from 10 years old down to one. I am so grateful for each one feeling blessed to have rocked, sung and prayed over each one asking God to guide and protect them.

I have learned and now teach others the value of tears that has apparently found me once again… even though I was determined to not feel the pain today.

 So is the reality of loss, of trauma, of broken hearts and lives.  The pain lessens with time. The number of tears lessen with time.  Yet, tragedy and loss, if it has found you, will forever be a part of your story.  

I can’t go back 20 years and prepare my younger self for what was going to happen in just 2 more days, but I can focus on today and tomorrow. I am thanking God that though I didn’t ask for life to take me down this road it is my road to walk having learned He has gone before me and that He walks beside me. Know that I also look back and see how God did prepare me for what was to come before that call.  Once again it was only in the looking back that I could see His hand of love and grace upon me.

Following this 20-year anniversary I am starting a new journey in my career and I am so grateful that I can use all that I am to serve others hoping to continue to offer hope and healing for broken hearts and lives.

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4 Responses to Onward and Upward Even Though… It’s Been 20 Years

  1. Terri Marxen says:

    SuAnne, you are one of my heroes! It has been your Faith that has seen you thru it all and you have walked thru the flames 🔥 but have NOT lost your faith. Satan could NOT destroy you or your family like he wanted to because of your FAITH🙏 Prayers held you up when you could not stand. We prayed for you and your family fervently as did so many others. I’m so proud of all you’ve done with your life and how you did NOT let satan win! You, my dear, are a winner and as you continue to help others,you too will be Blessed. I’m happy to call you my friend🥰


    • SuAnne says:

      Thank you Terri, the prayers and faith of yourself and others certainly had to have carried us through those most difficult of days. Thank you for your encouraging words and for being a friend.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart. Many blessings to you and Randy!


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