This week has been exceptionally difficult for a few families in our neck of the woods. Unexpected and sudden tragedy entered the picture. And relationships were interrupted.
For one family, very regular plans for twin brothers enjoying their last summer with friends before entering college when tragedy intervened. The kids had been playing a game, counting & comparing how many seconds they could hold their breath under water when a girl, who happened to be a life guard, noticed their friend at the bottom of the pool. It’s almost too shocking and too hard to believe. She quickly dove in, pulled him out while emergency responders raced in to help.
For another, plans to spend time with family and friends after moving to Nashville two weeks ago were in full swing. Gatherings were had and a going away party planned. Until a heart stopped and a young mother was raced to the hospital – her loving and devoted husband by her side with four young daughters caught in the glare of this-can’t-be-happening!
The finality of such separation leaves us weak, nauseated, fighting for air. Everything about it screams wrong. Maybe because the essence of our being is created for together, not separation. Relationship is woven throughout every fiber of our being. I’ve thought about this a lot as I’ve had friends go home over the last couple of years. I share in my new book a little about those stories, but I often find myself returning to a two in particular:
In the book, Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber recounts a dinner at the esteemed university where she sat next to a renowned heart surgeon from the United States named Dr. Inchbald. Being that the physician’s field put him in countless life-and-death situations, he was asked by another guest about his view on God, science, and life. A portion of his response, an aha moment he had while literally holding someone’s heart, resonated with me.
“Well, as I was standing there, all the uncertainty of my life, the absurdity of all this death, and all our attempts to ward it off, came down to a pinprick of light—like the glint o the scalpel in my hand. . . .
“I’ve come to the conclusion that God is sovereign, even over science, and that I cannot pretend to fully know His ways. They really are mysterious, as the saying goes. And they are not of the mind of men, no matter how hard we try to wrap our minds about these ways. . . . But to cut to the chase,” Dr. Inchbald stated, “when I see death, I know it is wrong.”
“Obviously.” Dr. Rieland snickered.
“But really, really wrong. In-my-gut wrong,” Dr. Inchbald almost pleaded. “It was not meant to be. It was not meant for us. We were not built for it. Everything in my body, at a cellular level, let alone a metaphysical one, twists against it. Not just my death, but the death of every living thing.”
I think he has a point.
The second thing is something my friends Taylor and Jennifer shared with me. Five years ago, they lived the unthinkable. Watching the 10 o’clock local news, they saw something in the lead lead story that would forever impact their family. It was a regular night, three of their four kids were home with them. The fourth had called a little while earlier to let them know he was on his way home from evening swim practice. Sure it was taking a little while for him to get home, but nothing out of the ordinary for a teen who tended to linger with friends. The local stations led the news with a horrible car accident on Northwest Highway – several cars, fire, explosion, injuries, fatality. Looking closer at the television screen, in disbelief words crossed a father’s lips – that looks like C’s car.
Gosh, tears sting my eyes even now – it’s all too much.
But here’s what Taylor told me when I asked if I could share their story:
Words just don’t capture the deep, deep level of pain felt and the GLORY of God realized as he lifted us from that pain – not immediately, but in His sovereignty over the time period he deems perfect. As he continues to lift us.
Though sadness and separation can feel overwhelming, Hope reigns victorious through Truth. Truth that God takes ashes and makes them beautiful (Isaiah 61:3). Truth that God “makes a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). Truth that we need not fear for the Lord himself says:
…I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Physical death is a relationship interruption. A family, a friendship interruption that will be back connected soon. For those of us on this side of heaven the time might be long, but not for those who are already home.
Thanks for walking the road with me.