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Life Lessons from God the Year Dad Died

As she looks back on 2020, a young woman shares how death, disappointment, and a deadly disease allowed her to learn invaluable life lessons from God. This is an excerpt. Please watch the full 3-part Faith Speaks Global Event series on the INC Media app.


Life Lessons from God the Year Dad Died

Eribelle Celestino: It’s almost time!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1.. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

2020, the beginning of a new decade, the perfect year, AND everyone was looking forward to great things for that year, especially me. 

I was turning 18! Such a big year right?

Well my family was planning on throwing me a big party in Italy on the 23rd of February 2020.

I designed my invitations, picked out the color palette, I even picked the theme.

But God had other plans.

Let me back up for a moment. In January 2020,  on my parent’s anniversary, my dad took off to go to the Philippines for my grandma’s funeral and viewing. 

He was supposed to stay there for a week and then come back to the UK. 

He never did.

While in the Philippines he suddenly got sick and things weren’t looking good.

January 18th, but it was already the 19th in the Philippines . I attended worship service with my bible student back then. On the way home, we grabbed some boba and went around the shops for a while. 

But that’s when my sister Ericka called me and told me to go home at that exact moment.

By the tone of her voice, I felt like something was wrong.

When I got to our road, it was dark, then I saw my mom and my brother, Sam, walking towards me.  

That gut feeling started getting worse.

Then, my mom approached me and she spoke the words I never wanted to hear.

Anak, wala na si daddy.. Papà è morto. Dad is not with us anymore. He passed away..

I screamed in despair, I couldn’t believe it, it couldn’t be true. I mean, we had a whole life ahead of us. I wasn’t even 18 yet…and my youngest sibling was just 9 years old at that time.

Dad wouldn’t be able to teach us how to drive.

Dad wouldn’t be able to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day.

I miss his constant reminders.

There was this one time he felt sick, and he told us, “Anak, kapag nawala na ako, huwag na huwag niyong tatalikuran ang Iglesia”

“When I’m gone, don’t ever turn away from the Church”

Well it hits different now that Dad isn’t here anymore. 

I had so many thoughts… that my mind just went blank.

I just couldn’t imagine a life without my dad.

This definitely wasn’t what I expected 2020 to be.

I don’t remember if any of us had any sleep that night, but I do remember that when I finished crying and letting everything out, I went to the bathroom to wash my face and when I opened the door, my mom was there and I told her: “Ma, ‘di bali, makikita natin si daddy sa Bayang Banal”.

Now being the 2nd oldest in the family…I’m not usually the talker but at that moment, I reminded myself and my family that this is not the end, God will never abandon us. And we’ll see dad again. 

So…I’m not saying it was easy to cope with dad’s passing

I’m not standing here because I’m already healed… The truth is, it hurt a lot.

It still does.

I miss his constant reminders. I remember this one time, he felt sick and told us: “Anak, kapag nawala na ako, huwag na huwag nyo tatalikuran ang Iglesia.” (When I’m gone, don’t ever turn away from the Church). 

But those are the reminders that kept us going. We knew we had our Almighty God  by our side and that He wouldn’t give us anything we could not handle. However, my dad’s passing was just the beginning of the rocky year we had.

But I didn’t realize that my dad’s passing would just be the beginning of the rocky year we had. 

It would just be so easy to give in and give up on 2020.

I lost my dad, I didn’t have the celebration I pictured, and now the whole world was stuck at home scared of a mysterious sickness that didn’t have a cure yet. 

Honestly… if I didn’t have my faith, I wouldn’t be here.

2020 taught me and my family to look for God even more.

During lockdown, I felt like I was stuck in a rut. I think everyone could relate.

But joining the KADIWA District Officers to care for the youth of the Church, helping out in the Church’s media,  joining online Church activities as a family, gave us a break when everything else felt bleak. It was reassuring to see the brethren online, but above all, it allowed us to feel that God was indeed by our side.  

Sure 2020 wasn’t what I expected it to be. But it was the year that God showed me what it means to be His child

Today, I’m still moving forward with my life. I still tear up when I think about my dad sometimes. But I am grateful. I am grateful because in every step I’ve taken to where I am right now, I have felt God’s love always surrounding me and my family.

Thank you for listening.


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Life Lessons from God the Year Dad Died