if tomorrow

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.

12 Replies to “if tomorrow”

  1. I was deeply sadden when I recieved my mops prayer email Sunday morning letting us know about the car accident involving the students. Last week we had a death in our family … My cousins husband at be young age of 35 had a heart attack … On his way to the hospital because he just wasn’t feeling well. He told my cousin if anything were to happen he loved her and always will. I’m thankful she has those words to ease her pain. You just never know when time

  2. Darci, this makes me so sad! I do too remember that day at paso high like it was just yesterday! My 12 yr old just experience the same loss of a classmate a couple of months ago on Sept. 17ish. She a her mommy were killed by a drunk driver in a boating accident. It was extremely painful as her mother to see my baby so devestated and to explain this heart renching pain. It even tested her faith and didn’t understand how god could let something like this happen! To this day she cries herself to sleep every so often. I bought her a journal to write her feelings, Which has helped! But, yes it will never be forgotten! Prayers to Torri and her school community!

    1. That sounds so awful, Laura. What must be so difficult about it is the senselessness of it being caused by a drunk boater. So sad. I’m so sorry for your daughter. And I know how helpless you feel in comforting her.

  3. I’m so sorry for their family and for yours. This kind of loss is so difficult to deal with and understand. It is a sure reminder that life is precious and fleeting. My prayers will be for this to draw those that miss her closer to the only one that can truly comfort those who mourn.

  4. Oh this couldn’t be more true, I hate that our kids have to learn these lessons so early and that we can’t take the pain away for them.

  5. As always, you write things with such depth and feeling. Thank you for sharing your experience, and know that your daughter, her friend and both families are in my prayers.

  6. It is an unimaginable pain to lose a child. I hope that Torri and others will find some measure of comfort in your words, as they are so very true – she was not alone.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss so many years ago and for Torri’s most recent loss. That first loss as a child or teen of someone your own age is so stinging. It’s so hard to understand how or why it happens, how someone so young and full of life can be there one day and be gone the next.

    1. That is exactly right. When you’re a teenager it’s so difficult to comprehend. One thing I can say for sure, though, is that to this day I DO NOT swerve when an animal darts out in front of my car. My kids think I’m some heartless animal killer or something, but it was a lesson that Kelly’s death taught me. I hope that this situation will teach Torri to always always always put her seat belt on and leave it on. This girl most likely would have survived had she been wearing hers. :(

  8. So very sad. Death isn’t ever easy to explain and it hurts like crazy, but…you’re right that somehow, someway, God is right there in the midst of it. “An ever-present help in time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

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