I stood shivering in the cold but not really minding it terribly; on December 1st, it could have been worse I knew. Besides, I was chatting happily with friends and surrounded by others from our small town, many of whom I recognized and liked, others I knew enough to raise a greeting to, and a small number I hadn’t seen before but was now connected to by the air of festivity engulfing us, connecting us, joining us almost as though we were family.
Children ran underfoot, and adults laughed aloud while singing along to our talented local band as it belted out Christmas music sung in a hearty Irish brogue or with that unmistakable country twang. Together, excited kids and cheerful adults, we awaited Santa’s arrival in the annual Christmas parade to light our town Christmas tree.
That’s the way Christmas is in a small town: festive, friendly, magical.
And then I heard the familiar alert chime on my phone. I checked Facebook and couldn’t believe the post…
A friend’s husband had been killed that morning in the Metro North train derailment.
My heart clenched. My stomach tightened. My smile evaporated as quickly as the steam escaping from my happily chatting friends’ mouths.
I couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t known the man and truthfully didn’t know his wife that well either, but I did know her, had spoken to her only a few weeks before – and I liked her – very much.
The festivities continued around me. Santa came amid the blaring of horns from the local fire departments, one of which pounded out Jingle Bells air horn style. I took a few pictures. I smiled and laughed for George and Kaleb. I was festive through it all, but a part of me was detached in the surrealness of it all.
This stranger’s death had hit me, and I sought out my best friend at the end of the night to talk to her. She listened sympathetically and I asked her to pray for the family, but there wasn’t much to say and eventually our conversation rolled around to the concern we share over friends experiencing recent marriage break ups.
We stood there lamenting the foolishness of the things people do to one another, the cruelty, the selfishness, the mistakes people make and the lack of forgiveness that accompanies them, and it occurred to me yet again, how arbitrary life is.
I have watched over the years too many of my friends (myself included) take relationships for granted and far too many others justify walking out on marriage and family, excusing their behavior and putting their lives ahead of their children’s because they “couldn’t take it anymore” or because they “have the right to be happy, and he/she wasn’t making me happy anymore.”
I thought and thought during the short drive home and while getting the kids to bed that night. I woke up in the darkness saddened by the loss this family must be feeling, feeling helpless because I did not know them well enough to offer help. Any help I offered at this point would be intrusive. I could only sit and pray quietly alone in the dark.
And pray I will.
I will pray not only for this family, struck by such unthinkable tragedy at this festive time of the year, but also for all of my friends and their families, for the strangers struggling to make life work, for those carrying on appearances, pretending to try but really just going through the motions, selfishly, fearfully, or ignorantly refusing to look inward, refusing to sacrifice, to make those difficult changes.
I will pray for all those who are throwing away marriages, relationships, families, when I am guessing my friend’s family would have done almost anything to have this husband and father back.
Why does God allow some marriages to live and some people to die while in other cases He allows marriages to die and people to live, especially as those people continue to destroy and kill one another slowly by living in a hurtful manner.
I don’t know, but I do know we all have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting in Him, trusting in His will and knowing that death of any kind is not God’s will at all.
If you are reading this, please pray for this family and others affected by tragedy but also take some time to treasure those around you, love them every minute and let them know of your love. Look inward if things could be better in your life, and never, ever take anyone or any moment for granted.
- Life is arbitrary.
- Love is purposeful.
- Live purposefully.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding.