My life changed forever on the morning of May 23rd, 2007. My Dad, my best friend, died on the way to the hospital after collapsing at home. He was 51 years old. It turns out he developed a blood clot during a red-eye flight. The clot went right to his heart and had a sudden heart attack at home. Being a lifeguard supervisor and CPR certified at that moment in my life, I felt extreme guilt because I did not attempt to save my father that morning. He left behind my loving mother and my two younger siblings.
Since his passing happened so fast, the next week was a blur. We had two very big wake services where over 1,000 families came to pay their respects to my Dad, who loved his faith and was larger than life. Naturally, I was a mess and it compounded because it was so sudden. I was 19 years old and now the “man of the house,” which was a frequent saying that I heard at the funeral service. That simple statement made me furious.
I went through one year in a very deep spiritual valley. However, one Sunday morning, I woke up while in College and realized that something was missing. Something was different in my heart. I randomly went to church, but that morning I rolled into church 15 minutes late, and sat in the back. Why did I go back? Was something pulling me back? Was it the spirit acting through my friends and family? Or maybe it was the guilt because I know my Dad would be disappointed to know that I was not participating in Mass.
A couple of months after my Dad passed away, a friend suggested that we go to Cornerstone of Hope. It took time to go, but the initial decision to make a first appointment was our biggest step. Upon walking into the original building at Cornerstone, which was not the beautiful campus they have now, the staff was understanding, patient, and extremely welcoming. It took a number of visits, but they slowly provided us with the tools to help my family and me cope with the sudden loss of my father. The staff at Cornerstone tailored their ministry to the needs of my family and me. Cornerstone met us where we were at that point in our life. They encouraged me to love and embrace my faith instead of running from it.
Cornerstone of Hope provided tools and allowed me to realize the decisions and actions I was making in my life. After one Cornerstone appointment, I remember going to my local parish church, crying in the parking lot, but then deciding to go to Reconciliation.
Reflecting back to my time at Cornerstone, they taught me tremendously about dying to self. Dying to self can consist of different things from one minute to the next, from one life moment to the other, but ultimately, you give of yourself to others. Cornerstone of Hope provided the resources and taught the tools for me to let go and let God be the priority in my life.
Even though it has been 12 years since my Dad passed, I will be the first to admit that it is sometimes still a struggle. However, I always seem to go back to the principles and techniques I learned when I was at Cornerstone of Hope. They helped me embrace my faith, understand what has happened, and helped me be in communion with Jesus. I am truly blessed to have the life I have been able to live and I attribute a lot of my personal journey to Cornerstone of Hope.