A few years ago, a friend and I both received a Saturday night phone call every parent of a young adult dreads. Both our daughters were in accidents. My daughter’s was a fender bender. Her daughter was dead at the scene—cut from the car with the jaws of life.
It was the week before her daughter’s wedding. The family made the tragic pivot from planning a wedding to planning a funeral. She was buried in her wedding dress.
More recently my son was hit on his way to work. His car was totaled—a crumpled mass of steel and glass—but he was unharmed.
Last night I received another dreaded Saturday evening mom call. This time from my other daughter.
A third child.
A third wreck.
A third favorable outcome.
A third car damaged.
A third child unscathed.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Prayed a prayer of gratitude.
Advised her what to do.
Assured her we were not angry.
And encouraged her not to fret about it. That’s why we have insurance.
Cars can be replaced.
And then my innately introspective mind commenced churning, reflecting, and remembering.
My friend had three kids too.
My friend had two girls and a boy too.
My friend is a woman of faith too.
My friend is a praying parent too.
All three of my children have survived car accidents. Her child was in one wreck that killed her. A wreck from which her daughter’s fiancé, walked away without a scratch.
In my memoir writing class this week we will explore crouching into universal mysteries. An examination of existential questions to which there are no easy answers.
My Saturday night experience gave me much to ponder in this regard.
When disaster strikes its tempting to spout religious platitudes and offer high sounding, but empty, explanations.
Comments which often ring hollow, are UN-helpful, and offer zero comfort to loved ones wrestling with the nuance of tragic and unexpected loss.
I realized that when I’ve done this, it’s been born of MY discomfort and MY awkwardness about sitting with people in their grief.
In 2020, I experienced so much death and tragedy I learned to be comfortable with two short phrases: “I don’t know”, and “I’m so sorry.”
There are universal mysteries to which there are no concrete answers.
I’ve learned to surrender to mystery when certainty is elusive.
I’ve learned to surrender to being at peace with NOT always knowing.
I’ve learned to surrender to the understanding that life is complex and some things will never be fully understood this side of glory.
I’ve learned to appreciate questions—even when those questions go unanswered.
Sometimes there are lessons to be learned just in the asking.