I miss you. And quite possibly for all the wrong reasons haha. Like fixing things for me, killing spiders, getting stuff out the loft… I don’t really understand what’s happened in life since you’ve gone. And so many times I think to myself “wow, I really didn’t imagine it turn out like this.” I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens if dad’s not here. I always thought if dad died you’d take care of us girls… But you’re not here. So what does that mean? Does it mean it’s my responsibility as the eldest to keep our family afloat? Was I predestined for that? All my life people have told me I’m stubborn and independent and strong-willed… Was I created with those traits because one day I’m gonna have to carry the weight of responsibility for our family? I suppose it retrospect it was unfair to assume you would do that. But when I think of you and dad not being around I get scared because I don’t want to hold down the fort on my own. Yes I know I have God; and as you once said God will never give me anything I can’t handle… Laura will be alright, she’ll have Josiah. But me? Sometimes I don’t want to be strong; or independent; or as one guy said “trying to fix everything all the time“… Someimes I want to be the one that gets hugged and told that I’m not alone. And I don’t mean this in a desperate sense at all but… I just don’t know if there is someone out there for me. I keep getting this feeling that there isn’t. And if that’s the case… I’m not so sure I’m ok with that right now. I was so very blessed to have a friend like Fitzy to walk your death with me… When I thought of dad dying I prayed that God would give me a strong guy to walk with because I have no idea how I could ever get through it otherwise. I really need that somebody to just share with and cry to. I know it looks like I’m panicking about something that’s far in the future… but if your death taught us anything it’s how fragile life actually is. And inevitably, one day dad won’t be here. Anyways Mike, I love you and I can’t wait to see you again.
Everything can change in a second.
Sometimes not even that. Our lives as we know it can change in milliseconds. That’s what happened with Mike. It’s what happens to us on a daily basis. Everyday we awake with an agenda and plans… But things come up. Things that shake up those neat boxes and bullet point “to-do-lists” in our minds. Sometimes its a short lasting panic; like getting to work on time after an unforseeable chaotic morning. Other times it’s longer lasting. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months and even years for the dust to settle after it’s all kicked up in the air. Sometimes we think life is returning to normality; only to discover a moment, a day, or even a week later that no, we’re still recovering and healing.
Heartbreak, shattered dreams, loss, change…
In my mind I often go back to the “start“. The moment my journey started. That second it all changed. With Mike I go back to the moment my alarm went off at 4am August 1st. But sometimes… I try to go back even further to the point of origin. “What was I doing that exact moment he died?” That split second. Yesterday I found myself thinking about all this. Life continues on from Mike, new split seconds of change come up. The key difference is with Mike it just happened. Often in life we’re faced with challenges that have a waiting game attached to it. I hate that waiting game as it brings fear to the surface.
So many situations end up being of a far lesser deal than what they could have potentially been. And life returns to “normal” for the time being. Sometimes they don’t though. Sometimes the situation really is what the situation is. But when any situation initially arises we never know at first which type it will be. The one where everything turns out “ok” or the one where “we’re in for a journey.” I know God doesn’t give us more than what we can handle. But yesterday I realised I’m just not ready for the next round. And I really, really, want this situation to be the one where everything turns out ok.
The long-awaited writing about September the 8th and “Mysterious?” is finally here!
For those of you just tuning in, my family and I decided to put on an event called “Mysterious?” The event actually kicked off in the days leading up to Saturday the 8th of September. But like all events, true planning started 3 years earlier soon after my brother’s death on August 1st 2009.
You see, Mike wanted to go to college and learn how to play a guitar with the intention of leading worship in Christian churches; but he didn’t make it. About 5 weeks before he was supposed to join Nexus College, and almost a year after he started working in McDonald’s to fund his course… he died in his sleep. He was 18 and a half years old… the coroner couldn’t find a single factor that could explain cause of death. Not even sudden adult death syndrome.
Pretty much straight away my family, myself, my friends, his friends, our friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues, school peers, church members… everyone in my life faced two key questions: “What happened?” and “Why?” Two years later we decided to put on a show that explored the mysteries of life. We as a family wanted to share our story, how we got through this massive life changing event… We wanted to encourage people to not be afraid of life, in all it’s forms, and to not be afraid of asking big questions. We wanted to inspire and challenge people’s attitudes to life. To find depth and meaning in amongst the superficial. We wanted to bring peace and hope… It’s ok to not have the answers. We wanted to explore the ancient question of why bad things happen to good people.
Whilst the vision had been simmering for almost 2 years by this point, practical planning started around February time this year (2012). Mum decided to check out our local entertainment centre with a simple prayer in mind “God, make this really clear to us whether we should pursue this.” And He did. We hired the venue and started developing a network around us before we even had a name for the event. People thought we were mad! Aren’t you supposed to have a programme together before you start hiring venues and issuing tickets? Truth be told… we only sat down to put together a programme 5 days before the event. That wasn’t for bad programme development… our network was in fact made up internationally of people from and living in several different countries. We only had the opportunity to sit down in person when they got here to do their part for the event!
God grew our dream into His dream and before we knew it our simple one night event turned into a week-long thing. We had hundreds of volunteers supporting us in making “Mysterious?” happen. The main churches in my city also came together to support us with this the event. We travelled to churches and camps to promote Mysterious… Maybe I should stop here and actual say our programme became three strands. Firstly we had “Mysterious?” the event. Secondly we had “One Wish.” We wanted to go into the city during the day before Mysterious and talk to the people we met on the streets. We wanted to encourage them and bring them joy, hope and peace. We refused to bible bash or stand on the street corners yelling how much we’re all gonna burn in hell. Instead, we had one simple question for them: “If you had one wish for God to give to you… What would it be?” What this meant was we LISTENED to them. We wanted to know THEIR story. We wanted to show them they are SIGNIFICANT. After they shared we simply offered to pray for them. Finally, the third strand was “One Wish: Skate Boarding” whereby we bought in two professional skate boarders to hang out with the youth on the Thursday, Friday and during the day on the Saturday.
What we didn’t foresee happening was the amount of publicity our event got!
Every time we want to the venue to discuss something with the managers, or to check how many tickets we sold… massive posters of naked women would greet us at the doors. The posters were advertising a very famous show called “Calender Girls“. Who were we to complete with them? Believe me, I seriously felt like I was Elijah waiting on God to rain down fire from heaven. Our main speaker for Mysterious was Stephen Baldwin. A famous Hollywood actor. Mum and dad met Stephen 6 years earlier and he gave them a signed dvd for Mike. On it he wrote “God Bless Mike“. One question my parents put to Stephen at Mysterious was “You wrote God Bless Mike; but Mike died. Explain that Stephen.” As soon as our small city heard a Hollywood actor was coming to town that was that! We were in the paper or on the night-time news every day for a week leading up to Saturday 8th!
Saturday 1st: Laura, my 18-year-old sister came home from a 3 week conference in Europe.
Sunday 2nd: Laura had unpacked, washed everything, repacked, went to church to say farewell, had a small party and left us again for a planned trip to South Africa. Dan and Suzie, international illusionists and our event MC’s arrived from America.
Monday 3rd: Mum, dad, Suzie, Dan and I sat down to plan the programme. We went for a walk to cool our brains down, visited the venue, met some youth, built relationships with the youth, Dan did illusions for them, we had the chance to test “One Wish”… We had amazing responses for them. Monday night we had a meeting with over 100 volunteers to brief them on the week’s activities. Much of that time was connecting individuals with “team leaders” for various activities. We were greatly encouraged to see some much passion from everyone.
Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th: I have to admit… I don’t remember these days so much but we did have a band practice. Wes, one our pro skaters had a nightmare of a time getting out of Egypt where he was based. Wednesday we received news that he was on the flight to us! 5 days later than he was meant to be but nonetheless with us!
Thursday 6th: This was day 1 of great craziness… Wes arrived in the morning, Stephen arrived around lunch time. I had breakfast with Miles and then picked up Grandma from the train station in the afternoon. After dropping her off home I went straight down to the skate park and hung out with the youth for 2 hours. Wes and Jud Heald were there and Stephen arrived soon after. The news came down to film us and many kids/teenagers came along to skate. Even I did some skating! 😛 Dan, Suzie, mum and I left the park to check up on the drama we had for Mysterious. The girls had done a great job putting it together!
Dad and Stephen Baldwin didn’t come with us because Stephen needed to go to the hospital for a xray of his foot. The day before he ran over it on his motorbike. At first we were like “Great, we don’t have time to run around at the hospital.” But God proved yet again he makes ALL things work for the good. As it turns out, Stephen going to the hospital was some of the best publicity we could have gotten! His picture with the nurse was in the news the next day. When he and dad got home we all sat around the kitchen table, held hands, and Grandma prayed for us all. As soon as she finished I piped up and said, “Grandma that was a beautiful prayer but all I could keep thinking was ‘OMG I’M HOLDING STEPHEN BALDWIN’S HAND!!!” Stephen thought that was funny 😛
Friday 7th: Day 2 of craziness. I was already operating on little sleep… Friday I woke at 7am, showered and was out the door for 8am to pick up Stephen. When mum and I got to his accommodation we hung out with him whilst he ate and then we took him to the hairdresser. I was his unofficial gofer all day 😛 I loved it haha 😛 We then had a meeting with the main event participants back at the house to get everyone on the same page for the show and after we went to Mike’s old high school. During the lunch break we hung out with several hundred teenagers doing magic, signing our autographs and promoting the event. Wes also did some skating.
I thought it was hilarious doing all these autographs! I had to think of mine on the spot and I’m sure I changed it about 4 times haha. The whole thing was so surreal. My photo was on the Mysterious leaflets and many of the young people were like “OMG YOU’RE IN THIS EVENT! I WANT YOUR AUTOGRAPH!” Hahahahah, who knew Akila would get to do that. Will have to tell Mike about that when I get to Heaven 😀
The afternoon was spent driving around locating my missing purse, picking up the bestie from the train station (Leah), and spending time at the skate park for the second day. After a large group of us went for an Indian. Everywhere we went Stephen’s presence caused a stir. Leah and I spent a little bit of time reminiscing that evening.
She was with me for Mike’s funeral. The night before his funeral we spent the night at a classy local bar with some friends and family; the next morning she curled my hair and listened to my speech. I had no idea what I wanted to share at Mike’s funeral and only “threw it together” at 7am the morning of the funeral. I got up early, sat in the conservatory as the sun came up and shared my heart to my laptop. As it so happens, the night before and the morning of Mysterious wasn’t too disimilar.
Saturday 8th: I woke up about 7am and was ready again for 8am. A family friend came to pick me up in his work van. The a close friend of my sister and his brother had made a tree for the stage. It was so beautiful…I was so proud of them. They had made it out of wood, paper, card, paint and fairy lights. I took it down to the venue and spent the entire morning at the venue helping to set up for the show. I almost cried my eyes out when I saw the stage… It was barely complete but already I could see the picture it was forming and the hard work that was being put into it. I thought I was going to be so stressed out but actually… I don’t think I’ve ever been so calm whilst preparing for an event before. Many others were very stressed and at one point a guy friend and I pretended to hide for a little while. Our stragegy was to sit on the couch in the eating area backstage and “look busy“. It sort of worked.
Leah came down around the same time the Cottinghams arrived and we all walked over to the youth zone where the third day of skate boarding was happening. While people were setting up the venue for the show, other had gotten up early to set up the youth zone. A group came up from Manchester to lay wood down to protect the flooring at the youth zone, build ramps and give out 60 boards and bikes for the youth. Leah and I didn’t stay too long… we left soon after I epically fell off the skate board 😛 She and I went back to the show venue where WriteWay, the rap group from London, had arrived and were rehearsing.
Around 4.30pm I went back stage and started getting ready. Mum and I had our own dressing room! I felt like a total celeb! Mum by this point had an emotional break down and hid crying in the changing room. I left her to it. Everyone was going through their own way of dealing with such an intense event. At one point I found mum, the Hendricks and Win Maiden all crying together… It’s going to sound wrong to say, but it genuinely was so funny to see them all! I teased them gently about it… The show must go on! Amongst our many awesome volunteers, one lady agreed to share her talents as a make up artist for Stephen. Dinner for the volunteers was served around 5.30pm and at 6pm we all met together to run through the programme one last time.
People started arriving….
We had 1000 tickets to sell in total… and in the last 24 hours we sold over 700 tickets. We actually sold out and started using additional seating to sell more tickets! There was a funny moment where I was backstage and was going through to the main seating area. I flung open the side curtain and saw many seats now filled! I’d been so used to seeing empty seats all day that I had a mini heart attack and thought “Oh.No.” Hahaha, a bit like a rollercoaster that you now can’t off hhaha.
The show started with a bang, an interactive illusionist trick that involved the crowd. Mum and dad introduced the event, CWB played Swtichfoot, I shared my story, my sister put together a video of her story… CWB played “This is your life” after Laura’s video and we had put together a string set to accompany the band. It was so powerful to have a rock song played alongside violins and cellos. Wes shared his story, the girls preformed the drama… The intermission came and went so quickly. Part two saw mum and dad share a bit more; Stephen spoke and had the attention of the audience from the moment he walked on stage; WriteWay preformed the closing act…
I was so afraid of the level of “Christianity” throughout the event. I just wanted people to be encouraged and challenged. I should have known better than to be afraid… Literally every single person who came to Mysterious left with something special to them. For weeks after we heard stories from all over the place of people who’s lives had changed for the better. I was so humbled and so grateful. Out of the whole event, it was when the band was playing “This is your Life” that I remember most distinctively. Somewhere in the centre of the crowd I sat in my seat with a tear that was making its way down my right cheek, and I was thinking to myself, “This is it. This is really happening.”
For months we’d planned. For months we had dreamed. I wanted to honor Mike in what we were doing just as much as I wanted to honor God. This show was different for me than any other shows I’d seen. I knew the stories behind each detail. I knew who generously paid for this, and I knew how hard someone worked at that… I knew the trials we faced at every single step. I walked first handedly through the many arguments mum and I got into about Mysterious… God took all of those things and turned it into something beautiful. Something life changing. Something that will always stick with me… I wish you were there at Mysterious to have seen it for yourself.
After the show people got the chance to buy cds and t-shirts from WriteWay, get photos with Stephen, or just mingle. Dan C was the “bodyguard” for Stephen that night… It’s pretty surreal, never once did I ever think that I’d be saying to Dan C, “Hey, can you body-guard for Stephen?” I think the best bit was when Dan C realised he would be driving Stephen back to mine in what he described as “a naff car” 😛 There was a miniature after party at mine… Dan C, Tim Christian, Leah and I sat on the couch in my living room and barely moved. I had some really special times with Leah throughout the day then later as we sat talking to Stephen. I miss that girl. I wished those days she was here wasn’t so crazy.
I finally got to bed around 3.30am…
So that’s basically the gist of Mysterious. And believe me when I say I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the stories that have resulted from those days. The finale song that night was called “New Song“. And there’s a line in it that says,
“We’re gonna scream til the walls come down, Singing a new song, Singing a new song.”
For now, that’s what I want to leave with you.
Thank you to God, Mike, my family and for everyone who made this happen. I’m truly blessed!