Lizanne began telling me about herself and her family by saying,
“On September 9, 1974 I became an adult.” Me, Lizanne Maria Webster was on a plane for the first time in my life headed to Naval Training Command Orlando Florida for Navy Boot Camp. I had finally realized one of my lifelong dreams, all 18 years of it. It was bittersweet for me, because my best friend was not here to celebrate this transition of graduating from high school and joining the United States Navy. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be in the Navy, be a sailor, well a WAVE (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) which is what women in the navy were referred to in the ‘70s; but as far as I was concerned there was nothing volunteer about my naval career goals and I was a Sailor and would be one for the rest of my life. I actually enjoyed boot camp; it was a breeze for me, because my dad was a preacher and I could only get away with so much and after my mom died, I lived in quite the dysfunctional household with my father and brother, so nothing alarmed me. She gave a small smile and said “To this date, my favorite military hymn is ‘Waves of the Navy’.”
Lizanne smiled when talking about her parents. “My parents were almost perfect. I even loved my brother, Justin which was a test in itself, because he was nerve-racking and always getting into something. Not street trouble, just stupid boy trouble. He is six years younger than me so sometimes I felt like he was my child.”
“He was full of energy from birth and was what most would identify as an ordinary young boy. We grew up in a small town about 100 miles from Charleston, SC. We were a Christian family and our Dad was the Pastor of our church. My dad’s job transferred him to different churches every four years or so. We were at our current church for about one year.”
“Justin was a pretty happy kid, got along with everyone. He especially loved church, which is unusual for a child his age; and so he developed a relationship with Christ early in his life. He loved the experiences he had in the church, especially the youth programs, the choir and Pathfinders (boy scouts) where he was on the drill team. His goal was to become captain of the drill team. He basically enjoyed his life.”
"He didn’t like that dad’s job moved us from one church to another. It made it difficult to grow up with the friends he made, but he seem to adjust. His elementary school years were in a Christian school and when we moved he started in the Christian Academy near our church. He loved his school and was becoming interested in school extra curriculum activities. “
“I chose to attend the public high school, because they had an excellent foreign language program with the community college. My parents were not keen on allowing me to go to public school, however, despite the moving around I manage to maintain honor roll grades, well most of the time. I was an honor student in high school and actually graduated with honors. My grade point average afforded me an opportunity to go to one of the most prestigious colleges in South Carolina, but I wanted to join the Navy and be an interpreter.”
“While trying to acclimate to his new school and schedule, Justin began struggling in math. His teacher recommended a tutor for him, a "student with outstanding recommendations from the public high school to tutor him. His name was Wade Martin. He lived a few houses down from us which made it convenient for tutoring. Tutoring not only helped Justin in class, but he began to actually like math. I told my parents I knew Wade from school and I wasn’t that keen on him. I saw the students he hung out with and it’s amazing that he was an honor student. I heard he use to get in a lot of trouble, although he managed never to get arrested or sent to detention. It seemed that someone else always went in his place. He was more like an honor hoodlum.”
“It turned out that Wade’s story was kind of sad. Unfortunately for our family, Justin liked Wade. Justin talked about his activities at church during one of their tutoring sessions. He learned that even though Wade’s mom went to church, he rarely went with her and she did not make him. Wade was not interested in church or anything dealing with church. Wade’s biological parents divorced when he was five years old and his now ex-stepfather was a deacon in the church and abusive towards him and his mother at home. It was an oxy-moron – deacon and physical abuser. Somehow, those two activities were not supposed to mix, but in Wade’s world it mixed like water and cement mix. Even though he and his father spent time together, Wade felt his father did not try hard enough to protect him and that God was not reliable. As far as Wade was concerned, he managed to survive his horrible life without his dad or God’s help. It was hard for Justin to fathom not needing God, but soon he would experience those same doubts in God.”
“When Justin was nine years old, our own lives begin to crumble around us. Our mother was diagnosed with cancer. We watched her get sicker and sicker. He and mom were very close and he just knew that God would heal her. He prayed every day for her to get better. After a year of surgery, chemo and radiation therapy, throwing up, hair and weight loss and anything else horrible you can imagine about cancer, she went into remission and was better for about a year, which gave Justin an opportunity to show Wade how good God is. Justin did not understand remission so he believed that God answered his prayers and for him our family life was back to normal. After about a year, my dad and I started to recognize signs that her remission might be reversing. A couple weeks after his eleventh birthday while he was still in school, our mom was rushed to the hospital. She was much sicker than before. Because he didn’t understand remission, Justin was confused as to why God would allow her to become sick again. He wanted to believe that God would heal her again. But, she was getting worse as oppose to better.”
“My mother tried to keep her spirits high and she continued to encourage us to maintain our faith in the Lord. She did not want mourning before or after her death. I watched as the cancer slowly dimmed the light in her eyes, however she was adamant that God’s will is always right and that if we lived in accordance to that will we would all be together one day.
One night, I heard Justin bargaining with God to save her. I was in pain for him because it would be terrible if she died. And, she was dying.”
“My dad felt guilty, because he had not paid enough attention to her in the beginning. He stayed at my mom’s bedside caring for her as best he could. I could see both my mother and father wasting away. She was dying physically and he was dying emotionally and maybe even spiritually. As my mom worsened, Justin began to distance himself from her and God. The more reality was evident, the clearer it was that my family will never be the same again.”
“She died, when Justin was twelve and I was seventeen and Justin was devastated that God would allow this to happen. No matter what anyone said, he blamed God and he became critical of anyone who didn’t blame God, including dad and I. It didn’t help that Wade fueled his distrust in God by reminding him that God is not trustworthy. Wade was no longer his tutor. but his ideology still influenced Justin in a negative way.”
“So, the real reason I wanted to leave as soon as possible was because the death of my mom affected us in a negative way and our home was no longer home. My brother and father had evolved into people I could not deal with on a daily basis.”
She stopped talking and took a very deep breath...
“I’m telling you before my mother died our family was perfect. My brother and I were blessed that our parents were in love with each other for real and raised us in a Christian home because some of my friends were really struggling. Their parents were not Christians and sometimes were not parents either. Two of my friends were pregnant and there was no support from their parents or the family of the father. Many of the kids at school didn’t have a relationship with their fathers. My dad wasn’t always home, but at least I knew who and where he was. I would invite my friends to all of the youth events at our church and sometimes my home would host a sleepover and they would play games and eat good food. It was fun times with my mother. My dad tried to be available for family events, but as the pastor of our church, he spent more time at the church and with the church members and did not notice my mother’s declining health until it was too late.”
“It was evident that my mom was the glue that held our family together. When she died, we fell apart. My father threw himself head and feet into the church, my brother left the family and the church, emotionally and I fled to the Navy as quickly as they were able to enlist me.”
“Before I left for boot camp, I advised my dad to keep a hold on Justin and a watch on Wade because although he was grieving, Justin was a boy struggling to understand why God took his mother and his faith was in jeopardy. Wade was a bad influence and he needed to keep him away. Both my dad and brother were angry with me, because I decided to leave immediately after graduation and so they ignored my warnings about Wade and about Justin’s faith in God. My dad realized the problem was a problem, when Justin was standing in front of a judge.”
“So we buried our mother and within a few months, my family was invisible.”
By now The Restaurant had become our official meeting place. Lizanne seemed a little weary today. She said she had a long night, her husband is ill. ”I just needed a minute to myself, so I’m glad we had this meeting planned,” she sighed. We found a table away from the crowd.
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