by C.J. Couvillion
(Baton Rouge, LA)
Sarah's Question was written around 9/1/10. It is the first chapter of my book called, "Nightmare to Normal."
Here are a few paragraphs from that piece.
My son, Stephen, collapsed from accidental drug intoxication in his apartment in Philadelphia on April 23, 2010, while a graduate student at Temple University. He was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was put on life support and was pronounced dead at approximately 6 a.m. on April 25, 2010. It was a Sunday morning. My wife Kathy and I and our friend Kevin were on our way to Philly from New Orleans, in the process of boarding the plane when we heard the sad news. We arrived that Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the hospital, where we were escorted to the morgue to view his body. It was a devastating experience.
The day he collapsed was a blur and a nightmare, filled with what seemed an endless string of stressful phone calls to the hospital in Philly, to friends and relatives, and to make hotel and airline reservations. And, in addition, there was this brief conversation between Sarah, Stephen’s sister and my daughter, and I which went something like this. “Dad,” asked Sarah, “do you think Stephen is in hell?” I don’t remember what I said. But, I do remember just staring at her for a minute, to gather my rambling thoughts, as I watched her cry and sob her eyes out.
That conversation with Sarah happened on April 23rd. It is now, at this writing, September 1st, and I am still thinking about her question. How do you answer that kind of a question? There is the Sunday school answer from Mark 16:16 of “he who believes and is baptized will be saved.” There is the “tell-me-what-I-want-to-hear” answer of “God is a God of love and mercy. He would never send anyone to hell.” There is the “I-haven’t-really-studied-it-yet” answer of “there is no hell.” And, there is the honest “I don’t know.” I think that in this particular instance, sometime later, I eventually landed on “I don’t know.” But, I could not say with any certainty why I landed there, and I did not tell that to Sarah.
“Dad, do you think Stephen is in hell?” “No. I don’t.” is now my answer. Stephen was baptized into the faith and received the Holy Spirit. We received a letter from the pastor who baptized him recently, Alvin Epperson, who tried to reassure us of that very fact. In addition, Stephen had made a profession of faith at a fairly young age. He was washed in the blood of the Lamb and his sins were forgiven.
Life is difficult. I have purposely packed this writing with numerous quotes from various figures, Christian and non-Christian, to make that point. Stephen’s life was very hard and very messy and filled with pain, a struggle all the way, and a search for its meaning. His struggle and lifestyle were impossible to ignore and to some, it was all they could see in him. In the end, though he did not give up on life, but unfortunately he entered a path which eventually took his life. But those who knew him best knew that he had the identifying mark of the Christian. He never lost the love of Jesus in his heart for his family and for others in his life. His very long struggle is over and he is finally at rest.