Life is precious. It can evaporate in a blink of an eye. For parents this reality can become a tragedy of epic proportion. For those of us who are fortunate to navigate our lives within the normal cycle of life, it is merely an observation or random event that happens to someone else.
For parents who have lost a child or are at risk for loosing a child… this reality of the fragility of life eclipses all other possible concerns. Finances, personality conflicts, career, possessions…all fade into mere background shadow. When a loved one is at the edge of death… clarity for our lives becomes immediate.
Our beliefs, our true priorities, our faith all rise to the surface.
We will strain and strive to use every atom of our being to save our precious loved one. We begin to beg and bargain with God to reverse the days tragic events, and we plead for divine intervention into the medical realities of their human condition. We constantly re-wind our time with them…remembering, playing back happy memories, and fond adventures of better days. Cherishing, loving and holding onto them frantically, we cling to the barest memory of their touch, however distant or faded.
It takes us to our knees, hoping for a miracle… fervently praying that God will make an exception for us. That he will step into the tragedy of our pain and relieve us of the searing hurt and hopelessness we feel. If we’re honest we might admit to attempting to make a list of all our “good” actions and hope that it offsets the total of our “bad” actions in an effort to strike a “deal” with God.
We hurt down into our very souls. Deep like a toothache without any way to blunt the pain, it threatens our sanity and it drives all thoughts of self, or personal need from our minds. It haunts us. It eats at our hope and drowns our faith like a dark tide.
I walked into a similar scene this Sunday morning at a regional trauma center in Kalamazoo MI. My cousin Brent was in a coma, struggling to survive the weekend after sustaining severe head wounds and brain damage. His car had made a 75 mph impact with a parked semi on the nearby interstate. Brent was an only child…and the all-American boy, he loved his mom, baseball and apple pie. Handsome, generous and hard-working, married only two years now to his child hood sweetheart, he was loved and respected and seemed destined to go far and high in his sport and in his life. (article from Western MI – http://www.wmubroncos.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=4600&ATCLID=205263890 )
I wept on the drive up to Kalamazoo from Nashville on saturday. The drive was painful for me in ways I still can’t fully express or understand. I loved Brent. In the general sense. He is my first cousin’s son. I played with him as a boy at family reunions and watched from a far as he grew and became a man. I knew he was a great athlete and his parents had loved him with all their hearts, attending every home baseball game possible for his entire life. But the pain I felt for him was more than could be explained by pure emotion alone. It was something else.. deeper.
What I believe I felt was only a hint of the pain of a loving and good father, who is separated completely from his only son. It happened in the blink of an eye and it tore at the soul like no other pain could. It was as if the fabric of a beautiful life was ripped from top to bottom and all that should be… no longer was. It was disorienting. It was wrong, un-natural and unjust.
And then it hit me… Jim’s (Brent’s dad) pain, was my pain. And our pain was God’s. I felt through my cousin the distant trembling of a life that was almost taken out too early by a world out of control.
I started to consider how God must feel as our loving heavenly father, and how He suffers the same over us, with all of the needless tragedies in our world that occur every day. Those lives who suffer in other ways, men and women who may not have hit a physical semi, but whose emotional or spiritual conditions are so damaged by life that they never ever will recover. Those who didn’t have a loving family or father, or mother. And those who have no one to help them along the way.
What you don’t know yet in Brent’s story…is of the blessing a total stranger gave to us, when he was with Brent at the scene of the accident friday, praying by his side as the EMT’s cut him out of the wreckage. A stranger on the road, who was willing to give up his plans for my cousin. He was willing to be uncomfortable, and awkward and bloody as he stayed to show real love to a total stranger who was facing death and the possible end of his life alone. This stranger would be a genuine man of faith. And in our families eyes… a true hero.
My challenge to us all… it’s time for those of us who call upon the name of Jesus to become that man or woman of faith on the side of life’s road. Each and every day. To recognize how fragile the lives we pass could really be, ones that can be changed forever… lives like my cousin Brent’s. In just the blink of an eye.