Joy Comes in the Morning

A little over a year ago I met a woman named Mari Venezia who has become a dear friend to me and a mentor in my life. God has gifted her with a magnetic personality, and she is constantly talking about the Lord to those who are drawn to her. God has also given her a life full of stories–of sharing the Lord with others, of adopting twice, and of losing a teenaged son. Several months ago I adapted a testimony she gave into an article. I had hopes of the article being published in a particular magazine, but it was not accepted. I’ve decided to publish the article here on my blog, in the hopes that Mari’s testimony will be a blessing to you. By the way, she’s a better speaker than I am a writer, and if you’re looking for a down-to-earth, godly lady with a wide variety of experiences to speak to your group of ladies, I recommend Mari.

Joy Comes in the Morning
By Mari Venezia as told to Addy Forrest

I heard some clattering on the boat dock and poked my head out the door to see what was going on. It was Frankie, my 15 year-old son, looking for his kneeboard. As I watched him there in his red swimming shorts, I couldn’t help but notice how handsome, muscular, and bronzed he was. He grabbed his kneeboard and then raced toward the truck where two teenagers were waiting for him. Steve, a medical doctor from our church, was taking the boys jet skiing. I yelled out, “Be careful!” Before he reached the truck, Frankie whirled around and, with a playful smile said, “Did I tell you I loved you today?” That was one of our games we played together. Each day we would race to be the first to say it. “No,” I answered, “Did I tell you that I loved you today?” And then he was off.

It wasn’t unusual for Frankie to say or do something sweet like that. He certainly wasn’t perfect, but he knew how to brighten my day. Just the night before, he had been riding in the car with his dad, Frank Sr., and he saw a flower vendor on the side of the road. He told Frank to pull over. Frank and I were having a young couple over for dinner that night. Frankie told his dad that he really ought to buy roses for me since it was a “romantic” dinner. And he told Frank that he ought to get some for the other guy too, so his date wouldn’t feel left out. He was always thoughtful that way, and the roses were a hit that night.

Frankie had been a joy to me from the moment I found out I was expecting him. Frank and I had been unable to conceive for years. I had wanted to give Frank a son—someone who would look like him and follow in his footsteps. But it seemed impossible when, year after year, we failed to conceive a child. But after four years of waiting, I became pregnant with Frankie, and my dreams for a son who looked like Frank came true with the birth of our baby boy. Several years later, we realized the miracle of conception wasn’t going to happen to us again. Instead, God gave us the privilege of adopting our two other precious children, Nicolas and Alyssa.

I was cleaning the house the afternoon Frankie was jet skiing when I got a phone call from Steve. He said that Frankie had been in an accident. I figured he must’ve broken a leg or something. I asked, “Well, what should I do? Do you need me to come and take him to the hospital, or can you fix it?”

“Mari, a helicopter is on its way to take Frankie to the hospital. I think you need to come.”

Then I realized it wasn’t just a broken leg. I hung up the phone, got on my knees, and prayed. I asked God to not allow it to be serious. And I prayed that if it were serious, that He would give me the grace to handle it. Then I called my husband Frank, who had been out running errands, and asked him to meet me at the lake.

When I got to the lake, a helicopter and several ambulances were parked around the area. I saw a stretcher and ran over to it. Frankie’s eyes were fixed upward. Blood was coming out of his eyes, nose, and ears, and he wasn’t responding. But he was breathing. I turned to Steve and asked him what had happened. Steve said, “He was hit with the jet ski, and I think he was hit in the brain stem. But I could be wrong. If he has been hit in the brain stem, and if his brain swells, he could die. And there’s nothing that they most likely will be able to do to prevent it.”

I said, “Steve, who hit him?”

He paused, looked down at the ground, and said, “It was me. I was driving. I just didn’t see him. I didn’t know he was in the water.”

I grabbed Steve, hugged him, and told him not to worry—no matter what the outcome, it would be okay. Later I wondered how I had been able to show forgiveness and love, rather than anger, toward Steve at that moment. I realized it was God giving me the strength that I had prayed for.

At the hospital, the doctors confirmed to Frank and me that Frankie’s condition was just as Steve suspected. There was nothing they could do to prevent his brain from swelling. All we could do was wait and pray.

During that time of waiting, many images ran through my mind. I thought of the possibility of Frankie dying. I wanted to prepare myself in case that was what God had for us. And I thought about Frankie living as an invalid for the rest of his life. The doctors left room for the possibility of a miracle, but they were also very clear that, if he were to live, he would probably never have any brain function and would live in a vegetative state. It was hard to know what to pray for. I didn’t want my vibrant son to come out of the accident any less than what he was beforehand, yet I didn’t feel like I was ready to lose him completely either. I just wished that I could turn back time and prevent the accident from ever happening.

I stood by Frankie’s bed and played his favorite Christian music, hoping something familiar would wake him up. While the music played, the nurse came in to check his eyes, and I could tell by her reaction that Frankie was gone. Later, the doctor came and confirmed that my son was dead. The gravity of the news was overwhelming. I asked God, Why? Why did you take our boy? It could’ve happened to someone who could have child after child, but we weren’t able to conceive other children. Why did it happen to us? We were doing everything we should be doing. We were being faithful to You. Why did You take him? I didn’t have immediate answers to those questions, but I knew, deep down, that God was in control.

For weeks, and even months, I felt like I’d never smile again or have another happy day. I had wonderful friends who supported me during those difficult days by crying with me, listening to me talk, and running errands so I wouldn’t have to be in public. Frank and I continued to pray for God’s grace to carry us through our tragedy. We meditated on verse after verse of Scripture and took comfort in believing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28 NIV), even though we couldn’t understand how the death of our son could work for good in our lives. I kept busy focusing on our other children’s needs and trying to maintain as normal a life as possible. We talked about Frankie to others and told them about how he loved God, and many friends and family members began to believe in the God Frankie served. It gave us a glimpse of the good that was coming from our loss. We began reaching out to people in need, and we found that helping others distracted us from our own sorrow. When one of the boys Frankie played baseball with was killed in a car accident, we were the ones called on to comfort the family.

In time, I received an overwhelming feeling of peace—a confidence that I was going to be fine, a comfort knowing that Frankie was safe in heaven. At times I almost felt guilty that I wasn’t in excruciating pain over my loss anymore. I would ask myself, What’s wrong? Didn’t I love him enough? I would tell God, You don’t need to give me all of this comfort, Lord. I’m ok. Save it for someone else. And then I would realize that God was answering my prayers for grace and healing my pain. As the months wore on, slowly, life began to become normal again. Of course, it was a different kind of normal than I was used to. There were four of us instead of five, and that made my life very different.

Now that Frankie’s tragedy is twelve years behind me, I don’t have very many sad days anymore. God is healing my wounds over time. I usually have a smile on my face when I remember Frankie and the joy he brought me. I’m just thankful that God allowed me to have him here on earth for almost sixteen years. Psalm 30:5 has been true in my life: “Weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

Mari is a frequent speaker at ladies’ functions and can be reached at fmfna@yahoo.com.

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Published in: on March 27, 2007 at 3:08 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Addy, I just relived this time in my life. I remember thinking I would never be able to go on and yet today I am full of joy. The Lord uses all kinds of trials and trauma to make us more like Himself. Thank you for sharing this real life example of “Joy comes in the Morning.” God is good all the time!

  2. I know this story because Mari is my first cousin. I am sure whoever reads this will shed a tear, but it is a perfect example of turning tragedy into triumph. My cousin is a strong and corageous woman, not to mention fun-loving, kind, generous, etc. etc. So, I may be a little partial. I don’t think she and Frank and Nicholas and Alyssa could have endured this without a strong faith and belief in Jesus Christ. No matter what circumstances life gives us we have to always remember that Jesus is there to comfort us and get us through. He is the one we should call on to give us strength and he is the one we should praise and give honor to. I haven’t had the opportunity to hear Mari give her testimony in public, but I am sure it is powerful because she is articulate, intelligent and real. I know she and her family will continue to be blessed and will one day see Frankie again in glory.

    If you don’t already know Jesus, I hope you will take this opportunity to make him a part of your life. He will sustain you. He will calm your fears. He will give you peace. He will bring you joy.

    Cindy Jordan

  3. What a beautiful testimony of a trustworthy God. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I am first cousin to Mari also & remember Frankie and the joy he channeled from God. Two years ago next month my brothers son was taken to heaven by way of a car accident the grief paralyzing at times I am grateful this story site was reposted it has been such a help. Maristel you and Frank are greatly missed. Teresa Nuss Seyfried


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