Wednesday, April 18, 2012

When Tragedy Strikes


Does lightning strike twice? Apparently so. Yesterday a well-known family in our community got into a terrible car accident on their way home from vacation. Five of them are in the hospital, and their 16 year old son, James, passed away at the scene.  This same family lost a child to a drowning accident less than a year ago. With Charlie's death, they openly grieved through a family blog and on facebook, as well as allowing the local newspaper to print some of their heartwrenching journal pages. Their faith has been an anchor. Now a fresh wave of grief is upon them, on top of injuries, hospitalization, a world that they were slowly navigating has been turned irrevocably upside-down.

I know it's a tragic world, but sometimes the depth of the sorrow, loss and pain leave me stunned COLD. Shocked. Aching.   "Again?", I say. There is always more pain to be dealt out than I can imagine. I force myself to sync back into what I know of God to make any sense of the situation. I try to integrate it with the answers I've found the past few years. The question of how He allows it is always there. The answer that this world is under a curse of pain is also always there.

Post-bereavement,  I look at tragedy with a wider lens. I wonder about it from two vantage points--the earthly and the heavenly. When something like this happens, I easily see the shock waves on earth. In relative terms, the physical injuries are the easy part.  I pray for strength that this group of precious people may not sink under the emotional weight of multiple shattered dreams. I pray for mercy, strength and courage for  the difficult recovery that lies ahead.  I pray for support to surround this marriage so that it will resolve to carry on when so much has been lost, for the sake of all that remains. I see a father who may be riddled with toxic guilt and pray for the peace that passes understanding. These people will need to be carried on a stretcher of grace and compassion for a very long time, so that in that paradoxical world of spiritual economics, they can lose and still come out ahead.

From the heavenly perspective, I wonder how it unrolled yesterday. Was there an all points bulletin issued by an archangel that said, "Urgent. Angel army required". Did they promptly report for duty, with some being assigned the task of escorting James to Paradise, some tending the injured at the scene, some helping this poor afflicted father just to continue to breathe? Did little Charlie, eager with anticipation, stand at the gates and wait for James to arrive? Perhaps he wrapped his big brother in a hug and said, "I am so glad you are here with me. Our family really will be okay. Our Father has sent reinforcements. He will enable them to use even this for His glory. We will wait for them all here, and when they come, they will see, too." Did James, now filled with joy and wonder at his new surroundings, smile in agreement and note that his little brother radiated beauty and wisdom?  How does it work on that side of things, the invisible side? I hope it's something like that.

This life is an enormous messy hands-on test of faith, hope and love. My son called it "a raw glorious mess." We are all in for it, and none of us will escape unscathed. Yet even in the worst messes, I have seen that our God is like a quiet nurse, present, guiding, easing, touching, lifting, gentle. I have experienced that. He is not a traffic cop with a megaphone directing traffic, handing out tickets. He quietly gets in the mess with us. He wallows in the pain there with us.  He gently tends the wounded. He bandages and applies ointments. He resets the broken places.  He takes His time. He raises us up through the wreckage. He shines His light over it all. We have to wipe the blood out of our eyes to see Him, sometimes we have to call out in our blindness, but when we do, we see He is there. I have faith that He will help this family through the unspeakable, as He has helped me, because He is our help in time of need. Lightning not only strikes twice, it strikes countless times... every day, everywhere. Thankfully, when it strikes, it brings the light with it.

In honor of James Normile

9 comments:

Sami Montella said...

Beautifully written Karen. I can only imagine the wave of emotions you are feeling with this due to your family experience. This is a wonderful family that has experienced the most unimaginable tragedy yet again. I am thankful they have a strong foundation....God. He has been their strength through everything and I believe He will continue to be so. I am encouraged by our community that is rising up to be another support they will need now and the road ahead. Much love to you.

denise lewis said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes when reading your earthly vantage point and goose bumps to my neck when reading your heavenly perspective. It is always the ones left behind who need the strength to pick up the broken pieces and I pray for strength and peace that passes all understanding for the Normile family.

karen gerstenberger said...

Oh, Karen.
Thank you for this beautiful affirmation of God's loving presence in the midst of this fresh horror.

Oh dear Lord, be with this precious family in every way that they need You. Be as close as their breath, as their tears, as their pain, and be their solace and healing. God, bring assurance of Your love in the midst of this unspeakable sorrow. I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Rest assured...Jesus wept!
My prayers for the family.
Beautiful prayer Karen G and thanks for posting Karen J.
Both of your losses are more than enough.
This family's losses are more than I can imagine!
Love to you,
Gary

Anonymous said...

your words are simply beautiful, with amazing grace. Thank you, with peace, prayers and love for the Normile Family.

Anonymous said...

I am in shock as I arrived home to read this. It was always something I felt scared about, maybe having another loss of my child. I am just so so sad for them. I know their faith will be stretched to the limit now, if it didn't already! I will pray heavily for them and their recovery and dealing with there most recent loss. Thank you Karen for writing such a personal letter about them. xoxo Sharon

Jeri said...

Beautifully written Karen. So very sad....My heart aches for this family.

Anonymous said...

Mom, you have such a beautiful gift of being able to convey your heart and His Hope. We know from experience how God soothes our open wounds over time, and even though the Normiles' wounds seem almost too big to ever heal, God can and will bring them through. I love you, mama <3 You and Dad are pillars of strength to so many others (including me) who walk through the valley of the shadow of death. You help keep our eyes on the hope of heaven and our Father's eternal healing. xx JoAnne

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your words of faith with me. I just know that Gods plan for us is glorious, that I am a work in progress, and have a long journey ahead before I am worthy of his face. And, I will be.
If the path were easy, the prize would be too.

Keith