Today was ordinary. Doug got up earlier than me to make coffee, thankfully, or I would still be in bed. I don’t get up until the aroma wafts into my dreams. I took my dog for a run on our usual route, snapped pictures of the grassy, golden hills and early morning sun. But for my friends Cheryl and Ken, everything in their world changed last night when they received the news that a drunk driver had killed their young son, Travis.
Nothing can describe the dark, desolate night that descends upon hearing such tragic news. No words can console. In fact, there is nothing more meaningless than words because there is no description that can accurately describe the ripping and tearing that is so violent on the heart. It is an assault of the worst kind.
In a moment, Cheryl and Ken lost their dear son because someone else made a bad decision to drink and drive. I can’t imagine the anger that must rise up. The injustice is astonishing. His children, Autumn and Eric, now have to know suffering up close. His wife, Sarah, has to travel the wilderness of grief, while at the same time, nurturing her children through their own grieving process. Such sorrow must break God’s heart, yet he could have stopped it and didn’t and what a mess this all is—and beyond understanding.
Nicholas Wolerstorff’s son died in a rock climbing accident. In his grief memoir, Lament For A Son, he shares his agony about the joy of a child’s birth and the unrelenting pain of burying that child: “With these hands I lifted him from his cradle—tiny then, soft, warm, and squirming with life. Now at the end with these same hands I touched him in his coffin.” I just want to crumble in a ball and cry about this. I hurt that my friends are on a plane to their child’s funeral. Their wilderness is so vast and their emptiness is beyond description and there is absolutely nothing I can do or anyone else can do change the outcome. We can pray and we do, but it doesn’t bring Travis back.
Angelina Fast-Vlaar wrote one of the best memoirs I have ever read on grief. There are two poems of hers that I hope bring some comfort to Cheryl and Ken. We are with you in this, dear friends, and will not leave you to sort this out on your own. We may not know what to say or do, but we can promise you that we will walk alongside you through this dark valley.
“In the center of this lifeless desert, death pounces and relentlessly robs us, leaving us deserted, empty, barren, trembling, afraid. But a stranger draws near—kindly speaks and gently leads. Others come and stand alongside to comfort, care and guide. A gentle voice penetrates our pain: In a desert land He found them, in a barren and howling waste He shielded them and cared for them; He spread His wings and carried them.”
“They sit alone to ponder their aloneness on their mourning bench.
It’s carved of stone—cold and hard
Placed out of reach of everything
Warm and soft and lovely (or so it seems).
Some pass by and look the other way,
Some stop and tell them how to sit,
How to get up and leave this place of tears.
They do not understand its purpose
nor know they have no need
of words, advice or platitudes.
You come and quietly just sit with us
and for a moment feel the contours
of this bench and share our pain.
And we are helped.”
Your plane is about to land. I pray for hosts of angels to protect you and comfort you. You are loved by many. You are not alone in this.