Last night I woke to my youngest son’s ringtone at nearly midnight.
I missed the call but when I looked, realized it was the third time he’d tried.
My heart skipped several beats as I dialed him back only to have it go directly to voicemail. I tried again and a second later, he answered.
(Because he never calls me late at night unless something is wrong!)
Julian was downstairs at the front door and needed me to let him in because he’d received some odd texts from his dad- a series of random letters and emojis scrolled across his screen.
He’d tried to call him. No answer.
Tried texting him back. No message except more of the same random letters and images.
So he drove over from his house just a few miles away, the whole time running a dozen scenarios through his head.
“Is dad having a stroke? Mom is asleep upstairs and won’t know.”
“Is someone in the house and dad’s only able to randomly swipe his thumb on the screen trying to ask for help?”
“Why won’t mom answer her phone? Do they have her too?”
Five miles and ten minutes is a lifetime when all you can think of is another family member needing help- or worse.
As I was coming downstairs to let Julian inside, my husband woke up and asked me what was wrong. We got to the door at the same moment and let our big, burly bear of a son inside.
It took him a split second to realize that all was well and then it poured out–the fear, the panic, the intense self-control necessary not to simply break down the door and barge in, the pent up grief that lives inside each one of us since Dominic left and is always about to spill out and over when we think of another loss.
He melted into his dad’s arms.
This is how our hearts are wired since that morning nearly five years ago.
When the thing you never think will happen, happens, it becomes the first thing you think of when you can’t get in touch with someone.
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 (thingswe 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.
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.
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.
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.
I remember as a young mother of four working hard to keep my kids safe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ❤
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 companybut 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.