Reflection comes at a higher price these days. My children have lost someone they called a friend. Life circles around us as we live each day until there is nothing left to be wrung dry from it, and when it’s over, we’d better know that we know. One Father’s Day afternoon a beautiful soul was snatched as quickly as he came into it. We ask why – but there is no why. There is a when and how, but the why stays elusive.
My daughter’s youth group was in Costa Rica last week. They flew down as a small team with group leaders and immersed themselves in Costa Rican culture. They arrived on a Friday, and were soon connected with their host family – separate homes and all different experiences. Big homes and humble homes became base for the week. Sunday was to be the kick off to starting the week out right. When the news started trickling into us that early Sunday afternoon about the accident, my heart dropped right out of my stomach. We did not know the driver of the car, but the backseat passenger is a close friend of my son’s, and of course, the boy who died was a school friend of my daughter’s. From kindergarten on up he had been a friend in that close-knit group of Berlin kids. Middle school and high school can sometimes serve to make friends drift apart, in that soft way that it does, but the tie is forever there.
Now, thousands of miles away, they were to find out that one of their own was gone.
Even though Facebook messenger and wi-fi were readily available, at least to my daughter, I didn’t reach her in time. The Internet had already done its job. They knew – and were already processing it by the time I was able to chat with her. As a mother, I worried how they would react. Shock and disbelief were apparent, but I was to find out later that this terrible accident was to inspire how the rest of the trip went. While we at home were still sick to our stomachs at this sudden and tragic loss of life, our kids in Central America were in a sheltered bubble of what you would call the “mission trip high” – but what they took from it, I later learned, astounded me.
My daughter, throughout the week, was able to connect with friends here at home via her iPod, and deep thoughts about what happened started occurring. They became open about sharing, about connecting, about how life is too short and how we need to be ready. She realized that sharing about Christ - a passion she struggled to know how to share – shouldn’t be so hard. That people we care about and take a certain amount for granted can be whisked away to live in the presence of Jesus in the blink of an eye. This untimely death of a friend opened the doors for connection and sharing. She said she could feel the energy flowing through each and every one of her team and her friends back at home. God was doing a work in both places.
His death was not in vain, and the impact of his short life is reverberating through my daughter and her friends’ lives. She told me he had come to Jesus in a powerful way a few months ago and that he was living for him, trying to be and make a difference. These are her words, not my own. We can never know why God chooses people to come home to Him, but Selena and her friends are comforted knowing that he had chosen a path that led him straight into Jesus’ arms. Heady stuff for teenagers to take in.
I think of the choices kids make. They go through driver’s training, they drive with us for six months, they take the driving test, and they get their license and get out on the road to drive. Our hearts drive along with them, for that is what a child is – our hearts beating outside of our body. We’re not with them when they make foolish choices, we can only instill in them what we know to be true and right. In the end, at least until they fully grow up, they will continue to make unwise decisions. They will drive a little too fast, blare the radio too loud, and think they are invincible. They will do all these things until someone loses a life, then they will stop and think. Don’t we all have someone we’ve lost to something silly, it seemed? In a flash they were gone – and we still think about them today. We hang on to the emotions and feelings we had in that split second we found out they were gone. We also hang on to what we learned from it. I have three that I still think about – Carmen, Kenny, and Rick - all gone too soon.
The Costa Rica team arrived safely home last Sunday night. Hugs were dispatched all around as we brought our daughter home to unwind from an inspiring and life-changing trip. Several friends came over that very night as they processed the death of their friend, and the pieces of the trip and connections they made there and at home while gone served to let them know one thing – God is ultimately in control of their destiny – wise or foolish choices or not.
Published: June 26, 2012