A Grief Letter to My Sister Angie (1969-2004)

Dear Angie,

We just passed the 6 year anniversary of your death. I guess it was the evening of January 4, 2004 (that is what the medical examiner said), but Kristie (your sister, not my wife) thinks it is January 5 because that morning her back door blew open. Remember, she had Drew that night. She says you came to see him one last time. I told her that was dumb, but she really holds on to that. Anyway, who cares, right?

We all really miss you. There is a certain amount of darkness that follows us everywhere we go. I suppose that this “cloud” (isn’t that what you always called it?) will be with us until Christ. I have a hard time as I often wonder if I am wallowing in self-pity because of what you did and because of mom. It was just such a short period of time to have lost you both. But I really can feel sorry for myself. It’s funny because the week after you died (or maybe it was the weekend before), Chuck preached on Joshua. It was when Joshua was taking over for Moses after Moses had died. God told Joshua (to paraphrase), “Moses my servant is dead, now you must lead my people.” You know how Chuck is. Very straight forward, matter of fact, with that deep low voice? He said, “Let me be frank. Some of you are wallowing in pity over someone who has died. MOVE ON! They are dead, you are not! I don’t mean to be insensitive, but some of you need to get on with God’s mission.” It was something like that. I really needed to hear it, but so often I cannot get over it. I have learned to live with it, but none of us can get over it.

Angie, I don’t really know where you are. I think you are with the Lord. I hope that you are with the Lord. But you remember all those times before you died that you asked me about whether or not there really was a God. Remember driving back from Oklahoma City and we went through the five options? 1) Nothing created everything. 2) Chance created everything. 3) Everything came from nothing. 4) Everything is eternal. 5) An eternal God created everything. (That actually made it into my Trinitarianism course!) Just the very fact that I had to try to persuade you that God existed scared me. You used to call me in the early nineties when you could not sleep and ask me the same thing. You were mad at him for not answering your prayers about your sleeplessness. That was the first time I felt like a pastor, since you called me to ask me about it. Anyway, you seemed so full of doubt and unbelief before you died. Remember when you were upstairs at our house crying and angry that God would not take away your depression? You used me as your “God punching bag” (remember, I would always say to you and mom, “Just because I am in ministry, does not mean that I am your punching bag for God”). You said that you did not even believe in him any more. For the last month, you went really cold toward everything. That is why I don’t like to ask where you are. I do, however, tell everyone that you died with Chuck’s Day by Day book in front of you. I think you are with him.

There is just so much to say…

(BTW: I was encouraged to write this “grief letter” to you and share it. So that is what I am doing.)

I do want to say thank you for all your encouragement that you gave to me through seminary and my early years at Stonebriar. I do believe that you are a big part of why I am doing what I am doing. Remember when I first started teaching at the Center for Biblical Studies at Dallas Seminary? You would come to the class (it was Romans) and critique me in the parking lot after class. You did so good in your critique. You would say (without me even asking), “Here is what I like about your teaching…” I think you said I was very authoritative, that people seemed to be engaged, and that it seemed that I knew what I was talking about. But then you would say, “Here is where you can improve…” Lots of that. Remember when you said that I just stared at people after they asked a question with a blank look on my face? You said that they seemed to  feel really stupid and that I needed to try to encourage the students more or they would not feel free to ask questions. You helped me out so much. I don’t have anyone like that any more. You came to my Romans class all three times I taught it. You did the same thing when I was teaching at Stonebriar. Thank you.

But your death has really served as a catalyst for me and my passion for theology. I know that sounds odd. It is odd, especially after all my teaching, you were still questioning God and took your own life!! Well, it has helped in other ways. Most importantly, through the tragedy that it has brought upon us, I have come to realize that we are not sheltered from the most terrible of pain. No one is. I don’t know how to explain it. Remember I was a fitness trainer for so long. You know how I prepared people physically, and in many ways what I did was to prevent heart problems, diabetes, and other sicknesses? I feel as if theology creates a foundation, a sort of preventative measure for life’s sicknesses. I guess what I am saying is that every time I teach and preach, my heart is yearning for the stability that real belief provides. I don’t know what I would have done the last few years after all the stuff with you and mom if I did not really believe in Christ. And you know what? I do. While my faith has been experientially molded, it has not weakened in the slightest. I remember preaching at your funeral (thanks a lot by the way for making me do that…no brother should have to do that) and saying that your tragic death did not change the reality of Christ’s incarnation and resurrection. No matter what it looks like, God still loves us and things are going to get better. Death, sickness, pain, depression, and that stupid “cloud” will be no more.

It has taken me all day to write this. I just had lunch with Lindsey and Kristie (your sister, not my wife). We go to the Bagel Shop (Wayne’s Bagel Café—it is really great) almost every Friday. We used to take mom, but we can hardly move her any more (another story). I told them about this letter. They said that they could never do this. I have not cried about you in so long (except in my dreams—isn’t that weird?). I told them that right when I started to write this, I started to cry. I mean, it was the first paragraph! Oh well, anyway, we talk about you every Friday. Usually we jest about the whole situation. I think it makes us feel better. We say things like, “If that dead sister of yours was here, she would…” Or, “If only your stupid sister had not blown her head off.” Oh, don’t act surprised. You would be right there with us. Lindsey and Kristie did not want to hear to much about the letter, although I am sure that they will read it. We have grown very close since you left. That has been good. Lindsey and Kristie are my best friends. Really! Can you believe that?

We have not seen Drew since you died. I am so sorry. There is nothing we can do. David won’t let us see him. We have not even heard from David or Drew in five years. I do pray for him though. I can’t imagine what he looks like. He has to be so big. As big as Kylee.

I don’t really want to talk to you about mom. Her situation is even harder than yours. And Dad…Another time.

Well, I don’t know if you will ever see this letter. Maybe Jesus will read it to you. I don’t know. My theology of the intermediate state is rather limited. God did not tell us much about it. But I hope he does read this to you. He’ll most certianly be able to correct the grammar! Tell him I said hi. Although I just talked to him.

We all love you and miss you so much. Nothing ever has or ever could replace you. We don’t forget and we cannot forget like you said we would.

See you soon,


21 Responses to “A Grief Letter to My Sister Angie (1969-2004)”

  1. Michael:

    I deeply and sincerely pray that this helps you. It was a good thing to do; I’m glad you did it; it took more courage than I can imagine.

    I hurt for you, brother.

  2. Micheal

    I can identify with much you have written about losing your sister. My oldest daughter was murdered six years ago. She went missing and her remains were found two years ago. Her killer was just sentenced in her death, and that of three others. We call this period, that we still seem to be in, as, “the darkness”.

    I really try to live for the living. I have younger daughters, and we try to focus on them. It is our way of redeeming the time, and overcoming evil with good. It is what I believe my daughter would want.

    I used to think we would get over this. I know now we won’t. The pain seems less acute and less chronic as time passes. But “the darkness” still appears from time to time. I have come to embrace the tears that still come because Kaysi was worth them.

    I prayed for you and your family.

  3. Angelle (urmamma) January 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. What a moving reminder to seize the day with our loved ones- even if they are driving us nuts.

  4. This is my first time writing here. Your letter just ripped my heart in half. I pray that our risen Lord Jesus comforts you and your family through all this. I know this is a pain you will have to carry until he returns or you go home to be with him. Until that I happens I pray that our gracious and loving Lord, God’s eternal and beloved Son, enables all of you to endure and fills you with his peace that transcends all understanding. Amen.

  5. Michael,

    Thanks for sharing your heart. Through your pain, you’ve ministered in a powerful way.

    Your grief letter is a tremendous reminder that Theology is a very practical discipline, touching the realities of our daily living.

    And it’s also a reminder, that as believers, we look forward in hope to the day, when our Lord and Savior will wipe every tear from our eyes.

    In the meantime, although each one of us carries a lifetime of laments, mixed with the joy of living, our study of God’s Word, and the discipline it requires, provides us strength for the day–even as we keep longing for the return of the King.

  6. Michael is exhibiting “courage?”

    We all die, everyone. And we all know friends or family members who have died. And we all live with the knowledge of our own inevitable deaths. It doesn’t take courage when we’re all tied to the tracks. Staying sane is what’s difficult.

    At least Michael has supportive friends, and they listen to him, which is more than what a lot of people get even when they pay for therapy. Michael is FORTUNATE he can write anything and most of his readers will reply compassionately. We should all be as fortunate as he is, have that knid of advantage of being a top blogger in any one category that Tehcnorati rates. Michael has that advantage.

  7. We’ve come to expect little else from you, Mr Babinski. Your heart is as cold as it is small.

    I wonder who will grieve when you are dead.

  8. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt letter.

    My own brother committed suicide four years ago this last Thanksgiving, and although it was a deeply sorrowful event, it served as a catalyst for me finding my own faith in Christ.

    I have written on my own blog a couple of times how deeply that event changed me, and how some of the events leading up to his death and directly after it confirmed to me God’s love for me.

    I, too, hope that my brother found a saving faith in Christ before he took his life, but I have no way of knowing for sure. I do hope that I see him again ‘on the other side’ but I put my primary focus on not making the mistakes that he did and end up in the same sad situation.

    I have yet to visit his grave (some four years later) and still don’t know if I am ready for that journey. When the time is right I know that Christ will be by my side to comfort me as I am sure he is by yours to comfort you.

  9. The illustration about Moses, and Joshua. That made me think. A lot. Thank you.

  10. It IS brave, to open yourself up and share your grief with all of us. I lost my brother 25 years ago, and I do not share that grief with people. We all have pain, but we don’t all choose to let the life-blood flow out through it. Thankyou for sharing your heart with us. I just want to offer you the words from scripture that have given me the deepest, truest comfort through the years: Mercy triumphs over judgment. God bless you.

  11. Thank you for sharing this letter. When you write about Angie it touches me personally, because I was in an abusive marriage. Being alive and healthy today is sometimes still a mystery to me. I credit the Lord’s kindness and faithfulness, but that is also still a mystery. Why have I received so much healing that so many women I know of have/did not? (and why has my healing been helped so much by their suffering?) I still bear (mostly) invisible scars from the abuse I suffered, but there has been much healing. So, I read Angie’s story and wonder, “Why me?” about my healing, even though there’s no answer. And I hurt for Angie and for your family in deep and personal ways (though I don’t pretend that my far-removed ache compares to your up close, personal suffering and loss.)

    I continue to appreciate how personal and real so much of your theology is. It seems like you often receive criticism for that. I read people saying that you are too concerned with experience or seem to be talking theology from too much of an experiential perspective.

    It’s one thing to say one shouldn’t let experience influence your theology, one should only let the Scripture do that. But, eventually some of us accumulate so many awful experiences in life that we can’t hear much of anything else, even Scripture, because experience is screaming so loud. In the end, I don’t think it’s one or the other. I certainly don’t think theology should be the slave of experience, but neither do I think it is possible for theology to be the master of experience.

    Our lives really are made up of experiences which we believe the Lord sovereignly allows, in ways that we can’t always (usually?) understand completely. Those experiences can’t be compartamentalized away from our theology. I wrote one time that hope that couldn’t stand under the weight of my questions, doubts and laments wasn’t really hope at all. In the same way, I believe that theology which can only stand when isolated off from my experiences is very inadequate. My theology doesn’t have to be able to answer all the questions my experiences raise, but it does need to be able to stand with the questions, with my experiences.

    I hope I have not taken advantage of your vulnerable, personal sharing to make “my point”—I really am trying to thank you for something that I feel deeply grateful for to you today—the feelings and thoughts your letter stirred in me about my theology and its connection to my experiences.

    In sharing your pain and your journey through it so personally, you have touched my pain and my questions and that makes a difference in my life and the lives of those living out my struggles face-to-face with me.

  12. Edward T. Babinski contradicted another commenter’s commendation of your courage by saying, “It doesn’t take courage when we’re all tied to the tracks. Staying sane is what’s difficult.”

    But really, I think it takes an awful lot of courage to stay sane when tied to the tracks. It takes courage to find ways of staying sane (like writing this letter and sharing it–with your sisters, your blog readers, etc.), and then to do them. I would guess that the plethora of comments (however kind or understanding many of them are) you receive from being a high ranking blogger, in the end doesn’t lessen the pain of Angie’s death and the questions it leaves unanswered.

    In the end, I think relationships and connection are the things that make some kind of difference in the face of suffering (and here I agree with Mr. Babinski–Those who have those connections are fortunate indeed, and we do little else in life so valuable as build those connections).

    They don’t alleviate the suffering (as you’ve seen in your sharing with your sisters—neither the pain of missing Angie nor the theological uncertainties about her death disappear by being shared), but relationships with the people around us somehow make suffering livable for another day when it (the suffering) can keep being lived together with those near to us, however imperfectly.

  13. I seriously hope that Edward did not really mean what he has said!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this! My experience in 1972 with my cousin David–16 at the time–was remarkably similar. He was one of the brightest at a high school for bright students. I was 20 at the time. He and I had gotten close because my immediate family was out of the country where Dad was planting churches at the time. I had shared with him in much the same way as you shared with Angie.

    I hope your writing was as helpful for you as it has been for me!

    God bless you!


  15. Michael,

    Thank you for sharing your very personal pain with us. I too lost a precious jewel — my wife. Death, God is such a hurdle for us Christians. Yes, we can discuss, argue, rationalize but at the end of the day…. we are left with something miss.. our love one. I will continue to pray for your pain, pain of all Christians who lost their love ones. I am sure we will have to bare this burden till we meet our Lord and love one(s) again.

  16. Do you think you’re the only one with a sister in Hell? You should be giving glory for the opportunity to bring salvation into focus.

    Your equivocation on Angie’s damnation brings into question whether you will win souls or millstones.

    No doubts.

  17. Four years ago I lost a young friend to suicide and it seems to me that it is not something one ever “gets over.” We do simply go on – wrestling with it as we go.

    I’m sorry for your pain. May God help the people who leave tasteless and critical remarks to your outpouring of grief.

  18. SarahB:

    I lost my parents at a young age , I miss them , I love them, and I truly wish there was NO hell in fear that they might be there. There is no joy in this sorrow , Your concept of giving glory to God because it brings into focus our need to win souls is heartless!!!

    The joy in Christ is the strength to still call him Lord in spite of all that happens. To know he cares, he know he brings a sense of peace.

    There is a time to cry, a time to remember, a time to plant and a time to harvest. Time seems to help but is not the answer. Neither is works and by the way I don’t save anybody…..neither do you!!!!

  19. Jennifer (Jenny) January 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm


    I’ve been thinking about you all a lot lately. I enjoyed your letter to Angie, as I think about her often as well!

    Which verse am I thinking of…??? “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”. I can see it vividly in my mind, but ???

    Love you and miss you all!

    Your (little) Cousin,

  20. Hey Jen,

    Great to hear from you. Thanks so much for stopping by. Hope you are doing well!

  21. Athena Day Hampson February 25, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I had known your sister since Middle School @ Hoover…I remember everything about her and her grace. She was so beautiful inside and out=) I always wanted to look just like her;) lol What girl didn’t? I found out about Angie about a year ago and was so devastated and in shock for the longest time…I had no idea she had a son:( I did hear that she was depressed and had been in an abusive marriage and for that my heart just broke even more so…As I sit here and type these words to you it just crossed my mind, that her and I did have alot more in common than either of us knew at the time…I was depressed and didn’t even realize it at the time!!! It was in our eyes, as they are the windows to our soul…God is an AWESOME GOD and I will pray that everyone finds their way in the world as long as I have breath!!! God Bless you Michael and as you’re aware of time doesn’t heal all wounds; It’s what we choose to do with that time that matters!!! and YES she’s dancing with Jesus=)

    God Bless you and your family~

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