Jan. 8th 2014… I started out the day at home in the bed sick. I remember feeling horrible and thought a day in bed may be the best remedy. Little did I know it would be the first day of a 16 day nightmare.
It’s been one year now and for the first time I am somewhat ready to let you into my world. I haven’t said much to anyone up to this point in large because I have been trying to process this event myself. Working through the questions I have as well as trying to be the best friend/Pastor I could be in the process. The truth… I was angry at God. Why? How could this happen? God, where are you?
As I was laying in the bed on the morning of the 8th my phone rang. Not unusual… It always does. I ignored it. It rang again and again, back to back. The guy who was calling was a close friend and he never does this, so I answered.
The first words out of his mouth were “There has been a accident!” I sat up with a quickness and felt my heart begin to pound. He said “a helicopter has crashed into the Atlantic and it is believed that one of our very best friends was on the helicopter!” We hung up the phone and immediately began to try to find out as much information as possible. We were told that all the guys but one had been recovered and were on their way to the hospital. So we rushed to the hospital. We meet our friends wife in the lobby of the emergency room hoping and praying that he was there and all was going to be ok. Two hours later we found out that our dear friend… Lt. Sean C. Snyder was the one missing. We hoped with everything in us that he would be there at the hospital, but I think deep down in our hearts, we all knew he was the one they hadn’t found yet. If anyone was going to give up his life to save others… It was Sean.
I first met Sean on a Youth trip to Baltimore. His wife Amy and kids Christopher, Brady, Ethan, and Kayla had been coming to the church for some time while he was away on deployment. He had just got back in to town and wanted to spend time with his boys so he came along on the trip. It didn’t take long to figure Sean out. You always knew what he was thinking because he always said it. And at first I thought to myself… Here we go again… Another know it all. I’ve worked with these people before on trips and it’s no fun.
Sean was different. While he would give you his opinion, he was also ready to follow out whatever order you gave. By the end of the week I really liked him. I remember telling Tiffany that I thought I could be friends with Sean. And we did. Close friends. Spending nearly every weekend with Sean and Scott Higgins watching football, on the beach, vacations to the Outer Banks, etc. Just living life together. Sean even became an Elder at the Church I pastor, leading the way in several projects.
Sean was always one of the first guys in my office to check on me on Sundays. He also was the one who would be sending me messages to my iPad while I was trying to preach… of course telling me what to do! And he told me time and time again… “I know things are tough. I don’t know what you’re going through. But just know… I have your back!” And I knew he meant it.
I had learned so much from Sean up until this point. He was an incredible husband and a even better father. He was always there for his family. Taking his wife to NYC although he hated the crowds. Bouncing back an forth between all his kids events. Pushing his kids to always be their best. And teaching them all the power of commitment.It was inspiring. It made me want to be a better Husband and father. Sean made everyone around him better.
And now… In a moment… this guy that I have come to love was MIA.
The hours felt like days. The days felt like years. Sean was finally found and brought back home a week later. He was gone. I was angry. Yet I had to remain strong. After all, “Im the Pastor” I thought.I can’t break down now. I needed to be there for this family I so dearly loved. And I truly believe God gives us the grace to get through moments like that.
I found myself days later conducting a funeral for one of my friends. As I was doing the funeral I just remember that I couldn’t look down at the casket. I really felt like I was on autopilot. I couldn’t think about who that was or what was really going on.
When the event was all over, so was January. It was a blur. And now the real work kicked it. The emotions that Amy and the kids were feeling, I couldn’t imagine. To this day… They are the strongest family I know. The way they handled the events, taking things day by day, birthday by birthday, holiday by holiday, has been amazing to watch. And we have tried our best as their friends to just surround and support them in any way they needed us to. We love Amy and her kids so much. They have always felt like our own.
Months went by and things began to quite down. I have helped deal with many issues. All except my own. I was afraid to dive in to what exactly I was feeling. How could I… A Pastor… be angry with God? How could God let this happen? And that’s the journey I’ve been on.
We as humans want to understand everything. We want to put things into nice,neat categories so we can feel better about things. The truth of the matter is we can’t. If we could… Why would we need God? So in order to correctly deal with this event I had to create a new category…
The “I don’t know” category!
There are events in life that happen, and no matter how hard we try, we won’t be able to figure them out. And because we can’t… we become angry, bitter people. We have no where to put that event. By creating the “I don’t Know” category I have completely taken this out of my hands. I no longer have to try and understand it. And that OK! That’s what make God, God… and me not! I don’t dwell on these events any longer. I will not allow them to make me angry, or bitter.
I don’t know why Sean is gone. I never will.
As I type this out, with tears streaming down my face, all I can say is:
I dont understand.
I do trust God.
And I so desperately miss my friend!
One year later… after being asked a lot by people how I am doing with all this. For the first time I am able to answer…
It is well with my soul!
I love you and miss you my friend!