This is part of my series 100 Days: Waiting for a Rainbow.
This isn’t what I was planning on writing about, but it’s been weighing so heavily on my mind I can’t seem to formulate thoughts about other things. Our little community faced a big tragedy this week, when a ten year old boy was hit by a truck while he was out riding his bike. I’m friends and musical colleagues with the boy’s mother, and work and attend church with his grandmother. His uncle was in our wedding, and his aunt helped coordinate our wedding. My husband went to school with the boy’s parents as well as his aunt and uncle. Needless to say the whole community is reeling.
Many of my co-workers know this family well, and the office has been buzzing with care and concern for them all. I spent yesterday hearing people repeatedly say “I can’t imagine, I can’t understand, I can’t imagine…” How often I’ve heard these words myself. And how painful it is to be able to imagine.
The situations are totally different, and yet, I can imagine (because I know) the pain of seeing your child suffer, of making the decision to end life support, of saying goodbye to your baby. The situations are different, but the same. I’ve been weeping for this dear family and this horrible thing that has happened to them. I’ve found myself returning to those old questions that never seem to be answered. The “Why God” questions and the “How Could You” questions and the “What If” questions. My brain keeps circling around those old thoughts that I wish I could banish. The “It isn’t fair” and the “If only” and the “I don’t understand” thoughts. They can’t be avoided at times like this.
When my grandmother died last fall, I was taken aback by how a completely unrelated death stirred up so many dwindling griefs and memories. The funeral home, the funeral service, the cemetery. The tears and the sermon and music. The day brought flashbacks of memories I have a love/hate relationship with – the few memories I have of my son I never want to forget, and the most painful memories of my life. I wasn’t prepared for how one death reminds us of others.
But this time, with the understanding of the tragic death of a child – the flashbacks are different. Hospital flashbacks. Ambulances. Discouraged, defeated doctors. Wispy threads of hope that seem to vanish just as you try to clutch them. The echoing, thunderous sound of parents’, grandparents’, aunts’, uncles’, cousins’, friends’ hearts shattering into a million pieces. And the dreaded silence that comes after. Oh God, I know these things and I hate that anyone has to face them.
Then my eyes turn to my growing belly. To that hopeful little life doing his water ballet and karate chops, his little heart steadfastly beating. And the thought that has crossed my mind a thousand times since I knew he was there creeps back. There are no guarantees. He may be perfect in there, gaining his little bits of chub and blinking his eyes and listening to mommy’s voice. He may enter this world with a perfect APGAR score. He may never have bilirubin lights in his eyes.
But then there is the rest of life. Car accidents. SIDS. Swimming pools. Biking accidents. Illness. Work accidents. Heart attacks. A whole lifetime of potential tragedy. No matter your child’s age, there is no way to fend off every possible tragic event. It begins to feel a bit hopeless if you dwell here too long.
I’m so grateful I don’t have to dwell forever in this Valley of the Shadow of Death. I love that image from Psalm 23. I used to think it was referring to a specific time in life when someone was facing possible death. Then my understanding grew to encompass facing the death of a loved one. But now I realize that all of life is the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Every single day can bring an end to any one of us.
So why is it that David says he fears no evil? He knows that as we trudge through life, with fears surrounding us, God is walking by our side. Those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ know that there is a glorious end to this Valley. This end defeats death, and sets us free of the fear of tragedy, because tragedy will be no more. If it wasn’t for this knowledge, I couldn’t brave anything. I couldn’t leave my house, let my child ride a bike, take him swimming, cross the street, go sunbathing, get on a boat…. nothing. Death and tragedy never have to be the ending of any story.
When you come to place I’ve reached, where all guarantees have run out and you fear everything, turn to Jesus. He is the only guarantee.