During the month of March, I have been doing this awesome photo a day that is put on by blogger Fat Mum Slim. While the posts are generally lighthearted in nature, Day 18 caused me to look back on a very challenging time in my life that exposed a lot of my personal demons with eating and the importance put on it.
In the week of March 18, 2009, Megan and I were the leaders for a spring break mission trip to Boulder, Colorado to help serve the vast homeless population in that area. Our group left Abilene incredibly excited with a fire for service that was stronger than any other trip I had been on. We stopped in Amarillo for the night and when we all got situated in our hotel, I got a call from my Dad. I just figured he had called to talk about the trip. Nothing major. I walked out in to the hallway and answered. He had gotten a call from a family friend regarding two of my closest friends, Travis and Rachel Joiner. My Dad said something had happened to Rachel, but I didn’t quite understand what he was saying. At first, I thought they had just been in a car accident, but nothing serious. Then, what he actually said came through clearly: they had both been murdered by Rachel’s deranged ex-boyfriend. I immediately dropped to the floor and sobbed. I sat in the hallway of that hotel for what felt like hours. Eventually, Megan came out to see what was the matter and we just sat and cried.
“Where do I go from here?” I thought. “How am I going to lead this group after this?”
After a night of anger and mourning, I woke up and we kept driving. The rest of the group knew about what had happened, but we didn’t talk about it. Instead, I tried to keep up the goofy and funny Nathan persona, but inside I was empty.
The first few days of the trip were fine, but then I got a call from my Dad. Travis’ family wanted me to be a pallbearer. I remember my Dad calling me while I was driving and I told him that I couldn’t talk. That was the end of that conversation. I knew that it wasn’t feasible to fly to a town of 1,900 people in the middle of west Texas. I knew that I was a leader of this trip and I needed to guide our group. I knew that if I stayed in Colorado, I wouldn’t have to deal with the grief I was burying inside.
I didn’t really know how to handle my grief at that time in my life. What I quickly realized was that I handled it like I did with everything else in my life: with eating. I tried to eat as much as possible to fill that void in my heart. I did everything I could to just not be sad. For me, that was eating out with the group. When we finally got back from Colorado, the eating didn’t stop. I kept eating to make the hurt just go away. But the more I ate, the worse I felt. It was a vicious cycle that I couldn’t control. I was on the border of completely losing control of my life.
I eventually went down to see Travis and Rachel’s family a little more than a year later. About six weeks before we moved to Tallahassee. It gave me the amount of closure, but I still carry a certain amount of hurt and I really don’t know if it will ever go away.
I can’t really sugarcoat this post or try to tie it up with some inspirational message. Frankly, that’s not the point of this post. I would like to think that through the challenges I endured that year have made me a stronger person. That they somehow have gotten me through, or will get me through, some other dark times in my life. What I do know is that this is something I don’t usually talk about. I obviously don’t go in to detail about this all the time. Really, this was the first time I’ve written out my thoughts about what had happened. Five years later, I really needed that. Thank you for listening and for being such a special community that I can share this with. I love you all.