When I was fourteen one of my friends from cheerleading, Kelly, was killed in a car accident on the way to school. She was the passenger in a car with a junior–or senior, I can’t remember for sure–who swerved to avoid hitting an animal in the road. She lost control of the car and wrapped it around a massive oak tree. I was passing between classes when my best friend’s boyfriend stopped me and told me about the accident. In an instant my best friend and I were headed to his car with him. We left school and went straight to the hospital. The receptionist stopped us and asked who we were there to see. We told her our friend’s name and asked to see her parents. The receptionist told us that they’d already gone home.
I knew then.
Last night, my eighteen-year-old daughter experienced her own version of that same pain. A girl she didn’t quite know well enough to call a friend was killed when she was ejected from a truck early on Friday morning. For three full days Torri’s Facebook feed overflowed with mourning. By late last night all of that sorrow had permeated deeply. It’s not fair, she said. She was just at school the other day and now she’ll never be there ever again.
I distinctly remember thinking that same exact thing when Kelly died. It was October 4th. A Friday: game day, when the cheerleaders were required to wear our uniforms to school. For weeks I would close my eyes and see gruesome visions of her in that uniform–them using the jaws of life to pull her from the twisted wreckage. The game went on that night, despite. We painted R.I.P Kelly in big black block letters and hung it over our HOME OF THE BEARCATS sign. The football players wore black bands around their arms. The cheerleaders, too. And at Kelly’s empty spot in the formation her megaphone was draped with flowers. On Monday, first period was interrupted by the low, mourning sounds of music piped in: Silent Lucidity.
It being the first loss I’d ever experienced I remember how raw the pain was. How crying all of those tears left me wilted and exhausted. How I couldn’t wrap my head around the so sudden–permanent–goneness. I think that’s where Torri is at. She’ll walk into English class today and her eyes will be drawn to the empty seat next to hers. The sight of it will surely drain her empty.
It’s not fair, she cried out last night. I didn’t have the right words. No I said. It’s not. But here is what I want her to know: God isn’t a puppetmaster on high. He didn’t stop this girl from getting into that truck or spare her from the crash. But He was riding next to her when it happened and He’s been there all along. From the very first moment her heart beat within her mother’s womb, He was there. He knew this day would come and his heart broke when it did. All her life He’s loved her. He didn’t flip the truck she rode in but know this: He caught her when she fell. He slipped her out of that broken body and walked her gently into His kingdom.
Torri’s friend won’t soon be forgotten. My own October 4th, 1991 is an assurance of that. But–like Kelly’s–let this whisper of a girl’s life mean something. Live each day. And when He comes knocking at your heart, answer. Because you never know what tomorrow might bring.