When People Just Don’t Listen

I had a very uncomfortable exchange with someone at church Wednesday night.  

We have a light potluck dinner each Wednesday before Bible Study and I’m on kitchen duty.  So I was uncovering dishes, adding spoons and getting things ready when conversation erupted around me about a “horrible wreck just up the road.”

I kept silent and tried to focus on the plastic wrap and aluminum foil but couldn’t help hearing the animated relaying of detail after detail until it reached a crescendo ending in someone declaring that, “Well, those people just drive too fast.  They don’t even care about themselves.”  

You might guess where this is going.  

Yep.  Couldn’t take it anymore so I said, “Most young people feel invincible.  They think it won’t happen to them.  If they knew they might really die and all that meant, they wouldn’t do it.”  

Which kind of slowed them down but didn’t stop them.  

So I asked, “Is the guy OK?”  Wanting a simple answer not an account of grisly details.  

Instead, the main speaker turned to me and began to share all he could remember in the brief time he had to take notes as he was crawling slowly by the accident scene.  (I won’t recount them here to spare hearts but let’s just say for those of us whose child left for Heaven by road accident, it was entirely. too. much.)

I looked at him and said, “That’s enough.”  He kept talking. 

I looked at him again and said, “That’s enough.  My son was killed in an accident.”  He kept talking.  

I finally raised my voice, called his name and said, “That’s enough!  Stop talking!”  He turned away like I had lost my mind.

I followed him a couple steps and said, “My son died in an accident.  I don’t want to hear those kinds of details.  Didn’t you see that I was crying?”  

His response:  “Well you asked.  No, I didn’t see you crying.”

Walked away.

Everyone heard it but no one was listening.  Everyone saw it but no one was willing to come alongside and put an arm around me.  Everyone knows about my son but knowing hasn’t sunk in deeply enough to grow seeds of compassion.

I was shaking and wanted to leave right then but didn’t.  

I’m not so tender now at five years that simply hearing about an accident upsets me.  My mind goes immediately to the family and I breathe prayers for abundant grace and mercy.  I never want others to  feel they can’t share genuine prayer requests or concerns.

But I do not want details.  I do not want a blow-by-blow nor anyone’s haughty opinion that it won’t happen to them or theirs because they “take precautions”.

I am utterly undone that after years of gently trying to help the people I worship with understand the tender places in a bereaved parent’s heart, several of them stomped all over mine.

I know words slip out.  I don’t want anyone to walk on eggshells around me. 

But I do want to be heard.  

When I tell you that I need you to stop sharing something with me, please just stop.  

Are you going to burst if you don’t let the words out?  

Probably not.  

But you might well break a bit of my heart if you don’t.  

dragging heart

At The Intersection of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will: Accidents and Miracles

I want to say up front that I am no theologian.  

I am, instead, a sincere follower of the Lord Jesus Christ who reads the Bible and tries hard to understand what it says and let it inform my worldview.  

I know I’ve written about this before but it comes up again and again in bereaved parent groups so I’m sharing MY perspective one more time.

Here’s the question: 

If God is sovereign (meaning all powerful) then why didn’t He save my child?  

Here’s my answer: 

God is sovereign.  There is no one more powerful in the universe.  He can and sometimes, does, interject directly in the affairs of men.  If He chose, we would be like automatons, simply doing precisely what He wanted us to do.

God has given man free will.  And that means that while there is a perfect plan and will of God for my life, for your life and for every life on this planet, I can choose not to follow it.  He will not force me into compliance.  I will often make foolish or sinful choices and may very well suffer the consequences.

The world is tainted by sin.  Our bodies are prone to sickness, disease, genetic abnormalities.  People make not only foolish choices but sinful ones-acting evilly against another person-causing harm and death.  Until the devil has been utterly cast out, we will continue to suffer in a world that is not at all as God originally intended it to be.

God has also set certain universal principles in place.  Gravity.  Physics.  Biology.  Each operates without His direct intervention according to the laws He created to give us a world that works in predictable fashion.  We have electricity in our homes because of these laws.  Internal combustion engines work a certain way, over and over and over.  When I get sick, my body temperature rises in an attempt to create a hostile environment for the invading bacteria or virus.  I depend on these laws every single day.  

In my son’s case, he made a foolish choice to drive too fast in a curve.  His motorcycle left the road (physics) and he could not maintain control nor stop it before he hit something.  His body could not sustain the blow (biology) and he died.

So many times people ascribe the word “miraculous” to someone who survives a nasty accident or is healed from disease.  It may be that God in His mercy DID miraculously deliver one person or another.  But it may be just as likely that the same laws of physics and biology (things we do not completely understand) which doomed my son, guaranteed their survival.  I cannot compare my life to theirs or my son’s accident to another.

COULD God have intervened?  Absolutely!  Did He?  No. 

But can I ask Him to step in and prevent these natural consequences when I would be very upset should He do it other times?

See, I want God to stop pain in MY life.  But (if I’m honest) I’d rather He allow it in the lives of others (those who molest children, for instance).  I want Him to reach down into this world He made and keep ME and MINE safe.

If He was reaching down all the time, this wouldn’t be the world I know, it would be a world where He was chess master and we were all pawns on the game board.  

The God I serve invites me to follow Him.  

He does not force me to make that choice.

It’s an uncomfortable mystery that I do not understand.  But I am satisfied that one day it won’t even matter.  

Because every question I have will melt away in the overwhelming joy of Heaven.  

trust god in the light

 

 

Saturday

For decades I looked forward to Saturdays.

When I was a child it meant a day off school and an opportunity for freedom.  Many Saturdays were spent playing outside or riding along with my dad to the hardware store to pick up needed items for a home project.

snoopy saturday

A little older and I used up my Saturday at the horse barn.  Mucking stalls, riding a little and hanging out with sawdust and hay and sweaty animals and people.

Older still and Saturdays meant date nights.  Squeezing in fun between long days in a college classroom and part time work were what Saturdays were made for.  Catching a movie, going dancing or taking a ride in the country were favorite past times.

Then came children and for awhile Saturdays represented the only time I was not solely responsible for four little lives.  The only day I might get a chance to take a bath without small heads peeking around the doorway with some “emergency”.

Later, as they grew, Saturdays were spent at basketball games where three boys played on three different teams and it took all morning and into early afternoon for everyone to finish up.  Sack lunches were the order of the day as we cheered and waited, waited and cheered.  We went home exhausted and managed a little yard work before hitting the bed.

saturday you are my favorite

Children grow into adulthood and Saturdays continued to reflect changing needs, priorities and schedules but almost always meant some family time despite the many responsibilities of each of us.  We managed to squeeze in family work days, family fun days, family trips, family movie nights.  It was beautiful.

And then came one Saturday.

A Saturday I’d like to forget if it didn’t mean forgetting Dominic.

Now Saturday is a reminder of the doorbell,

of the news,

of the horror,

of the disbelief.  

In some ways it is fitting that my heart is brought back around to this pain every Saturday because as a believer in Jesus, every Sunday is meant to recall the resurrection of Christ.  

So EVERY weekend, not only THIS one during Holy Week, my heart replays the sequence of sadness turned to joy.

The difference is that I still wait for the fullness of my promised joy.  But I’m holding on with both hands to that hope.  I’m digging in my heels and refusing to be dragged away from the hem of His garment.

He is faithful Who promised.  

He will redeem.  

He will restore.  

His resurrection proves it.  

wait patiently for gods promises

 

 

 

 

What is Safe?

I remember as a  young mother of four working hard to keep my kids safe. 

dominic and siblings little children at nannys

Next to fed and dry (two still in diapers!) that was each day’s goal:  No one got hurt.  

It never occurred to me THEN to add:  No one got killed.  

Because the most outlandish thing I could imagine was one of them falling or touching a hot stove and us having to rush to the emergency room.

Then I became a mother of teens and one by one they acquired a driver’s license and motored away from our home.  

That’s when I began to beg God to spare their lives.

One particularly frightening test was when all four went to Louisiana-my eldest driving and the rest in the van with her.  I made them call me every hour and tell me they were OK.  It was the first time I realized that I could lose every one of them in a single instant should they crash-all my eggs in one basket.

I was glad when that day was over.  Although the irony is they were no “safer” at the end of those 24 hours than they were at the beginning.

Because what I know now, but didn’t know then is this:  There is no such thing as “safe”

Not the way we like to think of it-not the way we add labels to devices, seat belts to cars, helmets to everything from bicycles to skateboards.  Of course we should absolutely take precautions!  Many lives are saved by them every single day.  

But.  BUT…

Life is more random than we want to admit.  And there is no defense against random. 

There is no way to screen for every underlying physical abnormality, no way to drive so well you can stop the drunk or inattentive driver from plowing through a stop sign, no way to anticipate every foolish choice a young person might make that ends in disaster instead of a funny story.

IMG_1795

My first response when Dominic died driving his motorcycle was that I wanted my surviving sons to sell theirs.  They did so out of respect for me.  Neither of them wanted their mama to have to endure a second knock on the door and the same message delivered twice.

I receive it as a sacrifice offered in love from them. 

Because it was.  

Since Dominic left us almost four ( now five!) years ago, I have had to deal with my desperate need to keep my living children safe. 

And it is a real struggle.

Each child is involved in a career that includes inherent risk.  None of them are foolhardy, but they are exposed-perhaps more than many-to potential bad actors and dangerous circumstances.

julian and branch in snow
This branch fell just minutes after my son was standing in that spot splitting logs.

How I long for those days when I could tuck everyone in, turn out the lights and sleep soundly because all my chicks were safe inside my own little coop!  How I wish the only danger I thought about or knew about was a bump on the head from hitting a coffee table!

How my heart aches for one more moment of blissful ignorance!

But I can’t live in some imagined water color past.  I have to live in the world as it is.  

So I remind my heart that safe is an illusion-no matter where we are.  Life is not living if it’s only about preserving breath and not about making a difference.

And I let go.  

Over and over and over.

I release them  to be who they were meant to be. 

Even if it costs more than I am willing to give.  

fiona james and julian at james wedding by water

 

 

An Open Letter to the Mom Who Was Almost Me

I hesitated to post this but plunged ahead for two reasons:

  • I want my friends to know that I welcome the opportunity to pray for them and their children-my heart longs to join in petition for the life of another mother’s child.
  • But it still hurts to hear too much detail about some things-you have no idea how well my imagination can fill in the gaps in stories of twisted metal and almost death.

So here it is.  I hope you receive it as it’s intended. ❤

heart baloon girl

Dear Mom Whose Son Survived the Accident,

I want you to know that I am beyond thankful that you will be spared my pain.  I prayed for your son as you requested-begged God to spare him.

They say misery love company but I say misery loves comfort.

I do not want one more parent to know the heartache of child loss.

Given the chance, I would not hesitate a moment to answer the Miss America question:  “If you could do one thing in the world to make it a better place, what would it be?” 

“I would make sure no parent ever had to bury a child.”

Not from disease.

Not from starvation.

Not from war or natural disaster or accidents.

No more out of order deaths!

Every parent would go to his grave assured his son or daughter would continue to carry the family legacy.

But that’s not possible.  So I rejoiced extra hard when YOUR son had that awful accident, yet lived.

You get to visit him in the hospital, take him home with medicine and physical therapy.  I met my son in the funeral home and could only choose a casket for his final resting place.

You will have this holiday season tempered by the shadow of what might have happened, but rejoicing in a second chance to make new memories.

This will be my fourth set of holidays without my son-without his presence at the table, his face around the Christmas tree, his stocking limp and empty because there’s nothing left for me to give him.

You were impatient when I asked you to respect how difficult it is for me to hear the details of your son’s accident.  Even in my joy that you will be spared my fate, it hurts to hear how close you came.  You were offended and that really hurt my heart.

I didn’t contact you; you contacted me.

I didn’t ask you to pray for me, you asked me to pray for you.

And I did. 

And I will.

Because even if you are insensitive, ungrateful and inconsiderate, I will ask God to continue to protect your son-that’s what a broken heart does.

It begs for mercy.

Love, 

A Broken Hearted Mama ❤

look into your own heart and refuse to inflict that pain