When Tragedy Strikes Near Home

I’m caught between yesterday and today. I can’t yet turn the page today despite the fact I am getting on an airplane in two hours. I am torn between excitement and sorrow. The tragedy is not mine, but it affects me indirectly. The profound reality is life is fleeting; in a blink of an eye everything can change.

“Mom! Something happened next door!” I could hardly get through the front door before the kids bombarded me.

“The state troopers were there,” Summer explained. “I was awakened to someone screaming:  ‘No! No!” she said.

“Please, go see what’s wrong,” they cried.

I turned to look at Jed. He wasn’t saying anything, but I could see it in his eyes. I took him by the hand and walked back out the front door.

As we started across the yard, I noticed a Crisis Response caregiver walking across the driveway mouthing something to a woman I didn’t recognize. I knew and feared the worst. One of Nikki’s daughters was pacing the cement while talking on the phone. She hung up as we made our way across the yard. I explained to her Jedidiah’s concern and asked her if everything was okay.

It strikes me odd how we always ask that question when clearly everything is not okay. Still we ask.

She stumbled to find the words. Her eyes overflowed uncontrollably. In deep measured breaths, she whispered, “My mother was killed in a car accident just a little while ago.”

I took her in my arms as the familiar numbness enveloped me. I knew there was nothing I could say to ease her pain. No words could erase the events unfolding in her life. Eventually, I released my hold on her and asked if Jed could see TJ. He went inside with her as I made my way across the street to another neighbor.

We met in her driveway. Her toddler straddled on her hip as questions filled her gaze. I explained to her what happened fixating my eyes on her son. I was struck by the contrast of a life beginning and a life ending. Numbness still blanketed my soul. I wondered what she thought of my lack of emotion as tears filled her eyes. We parted—she into her home and me into mine.

I pulled my children close and prayed for the family next door. I struggled to find sufficient words all the while resisting the quiver of my emotions. I ended our prayer more abruptly than I anticipated. Just as before, I struggled with the idea that life goes on, while someone next to me grapples with the reality of death.

Here I still am, and it’s the next day. It’s not about life after death for I am positive of eternal life in Christ. It’s the profound silence of a loved one gone. It’s the children longing for the deceased parent, or the spouse sleeping alone at night, and so on. For me, the hardest part of life is the profound silence of death.

There is absolutely no comfort this side of heaven that can fill the gap someone leaves behind. As a Christian, I can be comforted by the knowledge that I will see my loved one again, but still, there absence in my daily life is so strong, at times, earth shattering. My heart feels what my head cannot fully comprehend.

I don’t just say this for me. The very thought of TJ growing up without his mother, or the husband mourning the love of his life, or the mother who grieves the premature death of her daughter…it’s all this and more.

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

If death has taught me anything, it has taught me to value life more today than yesterday. To hold my loved ones a little closer. To let go of petty issues. To be more grateful for the time I am given as well as to know a life lived is a life full of joy, laughter, and pain.

 

 

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