Births. Marriage. Divorce. Adoption. My company’s Corporate HR group calls them “Life Events.” One such life event is the death of a loved one. Of those, perhaps the most painful or traumatic to a family is the loss of a child.
The natural order of things seems to dictate that our children should outlive us. Thus it is especially jarring when that order is reversed. More so, it appears, when that loss is sudden and unexpected.
Last Friday night a co-worker’s daughter drove home from her restaurant job waiting tables. She was alone in the car. There were no drugs or alcohol involved. All that’s known is that the car left the road and crashed. Abbie was dead when the sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene. It was one day after her 18th birthday.
Abbie was beautiful. She was a high school senior, a musician, a cheerleader and a surfer. Beyond that she was her daddy’s girl, the very image of her mother, and a favorite of her classmates. She had everything going for her; a limitless future. Her dreams of that future were snuffed out with her life on the side of the road.
Today the memorial service was held in this small town’s First Baptist Church. The building couldn’t begin to hold the crowd.
Flower arrangements filled the front of the sanctuary where the choir sings on Sundays. The plants and bouquets overwhelmed the pulpit and spilled down off the platform to the pews. The service was to begin at 10:00 am. The building was packed by 9:20.
Abbie’s family requested that to the extent possible, as a tribute to their daughter, those attending should not wear black. Instead the suggested attire was jeans, Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops. A few of the older mourners wore suits and church dresses, but the vast majority was in colorful, flowered garments.
The service was a celebration of life and of the promised resurrection of the dead. Nevertheless there were no dry eyes as the congregation inched forward after the eulogy to hug Abbie’s Mom and Dad and sister. Dad, my coworker, held up much better than I would have. I know he was in agony on the inside.
So now, life goes on. The grieving will continue, and the healing will begin. Life will return to almost normal for most of the town. But the hundreds of lives touched by Abbie will never be quite the same.
Dying is indeed part of living, so I guess it is a “Life Event.” To many in this small Texas town, our mortality has been brought to our attention in a tragic and jolting way.