My LopeLife: The eye of the storm
Editor’s note: My LopeLife is a feature in which GCU students, staff and alumni share enlightening experiences. To be considered for My LopeLife, please submit a short synopsis of your suggested topic to GCUToday@gcu.edu with “My LopeLife” in the subject field.
By Krystina Whitten
Special to GCU Today
It was one of my lowest moments, one where the depression threated to cast a shadow over my whole heart. I leaned against a wall for support as I ended the call. My grandfather’s words buzzed in my brain.
It’s over Krystina. We lost the fight.
My great-grandmother, my Mama, the closest thing I had to a mother for most of my childhood, was gone. I tried to fight the tears, hoping to avoid making a scene at work, but it hurt too badly so I let the emotions run free. As I choked over my pain, doubled over in devastation and fear, I heard a voice breaking through the fog.
“Are you OK?”
Those three, simple words anchored me to reality. I realized I was not alone, and initially I was flushed with embarrassment. I wanted to apologize, but forming words felt impossible over the heaving sobs. I managed two words, “Grandma died.”
“I am so sorry. Can I pray with you?”
I glanced at the man through the straining blur of tears and nodded. He was wearing a Grand Canyon University polo, so I knew he worked with me. He looked like a counselor I had seen around campus a few times, but I couldn’t be sure, and, honestly, in that moment, I didn’t care.
I offered a rough nod and this man, a virtual stranger, took me in his arms while I cried. He held me and shared soothing words and prayed for peace for myself and my family during this difficult time.
After I composed myself enough to breathe, he checked once again to make sure I was all right, hugged me, and made sure I went to talk to my manager so I could leave. He asked for nothing but gave me everything. I didn’t realize then how profound that moment was. After being excused for the day by my manager, I went to the hospital to see my Mama one last time.
It turned out, she hadn’t passed just yet. My grandfather had accepted her inevitable loss as fact and called me prematurely. Still, he wasn’t exactly wrong. When the doctors placed her in a medically induced coma, they hoped to prevent damage from a heart attack she’d had while in their care, but it had been too late.
Even if she breathed on her own, her brain no longer functioned. I watched, along with my aunt and cousins, as they removed and deactivated the machinery keeping her alive and she took her last few breaths. At least I got to say goodbye.
Months later, when I was no longer suffocating from the loss of a woman who had raised and loved me when even my own parents couldn’t, I thought back to that morning. I still, even years later, think often of the minutes surrounding that phone call.
I think of the stranger who, despite being bombarded with work during the busiest week of the year, saw me crumbling in anguish and didn’t walk away. I think of the stranger who, despite not knowing me, was called upon by God to share strength while I felt weak and terrified. I think of the stranger who, despite having nothing to gain in return, gave me everything during one of the most difficult and vulnerable moments of my life.
Nearly three years later, I sat reflecting on the interaction as I have so many times before. I found myself wondering again who God had blessed me with so long ago. I had always suspected one co-worker but didn’t know him well enough to claim certainty.
Anxiety oppressed my ability to reach out. What if I was wrong and just sounded crazy or irrational? What if I was right, but he didn’t remember or care? But then again, what did it matter?
Finally, I realized I just needed to know. I needed to have a face and name for the person who had such an incredible impact on me. With a flash of courage, or maybe insanity, I sent an email.
My name is Krystina and before I came to Employee Learning and Development, I was a GTR SSC for about 4 years. I mostly knew you by reputation, but in 2016 I had an interaction with an admissions counselor and I think it was you. It was during some orientation or financial clearance session when we were in Building 57 and you (?) happened to be walking into the building just as I had ended the call during which I learned my great-grandmother had passed away. Whoever the counselor was showed incredible empathy and kindness, held me and prayed with me, and let me cry until I could compose myself a few moments later.
I know this was several years ago, but it’s a memory that has stayed in my heart and I think of and share often. I was just hoping you could let me know if it was, in fact, you (if you even remember).
Whether or not it was you, thanks for always being such a wonderful UAC and for taking the time to read this. I apologize for the randomness of it, I was just prompted to write about the experience and wanted to know for my own sanity.
A response popped into my inbox within moments. Read through the soft filter of tears, I discovered that I was right. I also learned that the experience had an impact on him as well and that he found himself occasionally wondering how I’d been.
He told me he was grateful to hear from me. Then he said my timing was impeccable because now it was he in need of prayer. His grandmother was ill, and he and his family didn’t know how much longer they would have with her.
I sat in a state of disbelief for only a minute, stilled by shock. How could this be? How could God have given me the nerve to reach out nearly three years after a brief interaction at the implausibly perfect time?
Of course, the answer is obvious: God knew. He knew I would need a friend. He knew Kyle would need support. And sometimes I think back on the time I’ve spent working at GCU, nearly six years of my life, and I realize that, more than anything, God knew this was the place I needed to be.