I don't know that I ever truly questioned my decision to turn my back on my faith until I met Bishop Stewart. The Church had played a large part in both Danijela's and my upbringing, and it was only natural that we would carry that into our children's lives. When I lost my family, I felt betrayed by God. I blamed him for taking my family from me, and the day I laid them to the rest was the day I walked away from the Church.
Over the years since, both my father and brother had tried to convince me that I was wrong. Oh yes, they'd tried to coax me back, explaining how God had a reason for everything that happened, and how I couldn't possibly hold him responsible for the violence of war. They questioned how I could blame him for deaths caused by people little different then them or I. And of course, there was that greatest of all excuses, the one produced when all others fail, how could he possibly be everywhere at once? It didn't matter how much they talked, how much they prayed for me to see the light, I refused to listen, my family was gone, my life was over, and nothing they could say could undo that.
When I came to the United States I tucked my abandoned faith away with all those other parts of myself that I no longer wanted to acknowledge. No one knew me, I could be anyone I wanted to be, and when people got too close, I did what soon came to be too easy, I ran away. Why I didn't run away after my first encounter with Bishop Stewart I'll never know. Almost from the moment I began treating him something happened to connect me to him in a way that even now can't explain. He saw through me in a way no one else ever had, and without my realizing it, from those very first visits he began guiding me back.
I never told Abby, but, as concerned as I was about the Bishop's health, I found myself dreading the thought of once more entering a Catholic Church after so many years away. Then, once I was in the Rectory, and seeing the state he was in, listening to his story, hearing of his own lapse of faith. If someone like him could have doubts, I wasn't sure what to think. Somehow, without knowing it, the Bishop had found a way to set in motion my way back, even if I still didn't quite know it.
I honestly believe that it wasn't until that moment where he offered to hear my confession that I fully accepted what he was offering me. I remember his words to me, and he was so right, I had carried the weight of my guilt for so long, and I didn't know how to free myself of it. I don't even remember the last time I had fully told the story of that fateful day, or when I had allowed myself to remember it in such detail without using it as a reason for blaming myself for my failures. I only know that he allowed me to not just relieve myself of the guilt I'd carried since the day I'd lost my family, but, he gave me hope for the future, something I didn't believe existed. How do you thank someone for a gift such as that? How do you thank someone for giving you back your life?