Two Years Later

 

This last February 5th marked the 2-year anniversary of the accident that resulted in the death of Sara and Miranda Cole.  Within a short while following that accident, I started this website and  chronicled the accident in my inaugural post.

It’s now a little over two years since that day, and as I sit here at my keyboard to write something profound and moving (a testament to my own arrogance), I realize that every time I start to type, my fingers stop and I feel stupid.  I feel compelled to say something, but nothing I can think of seems to be of any real significance.  Earlier today I sent some messages back and forth with Chad, and even then I felt like a bit of an imbecile.  After all, my wife and children are still here with me, sitting not 20 feet away from me in the living room on a rainy Sunday afternoon while I sit at my computer feeling resolutely ignorant.  How do I even begin to relate to an old friend who lost his wife and child in an instant?  Even calling Chad an “old friend” seems disingenuous, since the truth is that while we were in college, we were more like “casual acquaintances in good standing” than we were proper friends.  Then we didn’t cross paths for nearly two decades until the dawn of the Facebook age, and my re-acquaintance with Chad was jump started by the loss of his wife and child.  It seems to me that in order to call someone a “friend”, you actually need to be a friend first, and what kind of friend doesn’t bother coming around until there’s a death in the family?

Yet here I am, sitting at a keyboard with a compulsive need to share my feeble thoughts.  That makes me either someone who can be personally moved by humanity, or a self-indulgent egotist who tries to make everything about him.  My hope is that it’s the former, my fear is that it’s the latter.

 

Time Is Fleeting

Chad, Sara, and Miranda Cole haven’t strayed far from my thoughts for the last two years.  More than any other single notion, I’m reminded of a phrase which I’ve learned came from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem “A Song of Life”:

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

It’s cliche to state that we’re all going to die some day, but how many of us actually consider that point?  I’ll admit that it never gained permanence in my mind until recent years.  In the summer of 2007 I called 911 from the cab of a semi outside of Detroit, MI after believing that I was having a heart attack and a stroke simultaneously (and by the grace of God, I was wrong).  I remember sitting in the truck, slowly fading from consciousness, thinking to myself that “I’m going to die in this damned truck on the side of a highway”.  I stayed out of a semi for four years after that.

I didn’t think much about death again until almost four years later when news of Sara and Miranda’s passing hit me like a train.  I remember lying next to my wife in bed that night and crying like a child.  For reasons I still don’t understand, I felt Chad’s loss as though it were a member of my own extended family.

Then, in the spring of 2012, I was rear-ended by a semi in Atlanta, GA during rush hour.  Mercifully I escaped with my life intact, but you can rest assured that the similarities between my accident and the one that took Sara’s and Miranda’s lives didn’t go unnoticed.  I still drive though Atlanta on a daily basis, I still notice when I go by that stretch of highway, and I still think about how things could have been much, much worse.

My father died 24 years ago while on a trip in Florida.

My grandmother died of a sudden heart attack at an Indiana rest area.

No man knows the hour of his passing.

Time is short and unrecoverable.

So what are we doing with the time we’ve been given?

 

A Quest For Meaning

Maybe it’s inevitable that when we’re faced with the realization of our mortality, we start to look for meaning.  Then again, maybe most people are content to not bother with such quibbles.  I envy those people, the ones who can go blithely through life in hedonistic bliss.  They have it easy – they figured out how to “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”.  I’m cursed with the burden of wanting to know why to the point of occasionally being anhedonic.  It’s even a challenge for me to go for a nice motorcycle ride sometimes, because I get struck with the notion that riding a motorcycle is almost exclusively for my own selfish pleasure, and the part of me that wants to be more like Christ can’t reconcile itself to a purely self-centered pleasure.

Yet didn’t Christ come so that we may “have life, and have it to the full”?  (John 10:10, NIV)

How does that work?

I suspect that the answer lies somewhere in 1 Corinthians 2:2, where Paul writes, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”.  The problem is, I still don’t fully understand what that means.

The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t understand a blasted thing.

So much for being college educated.

 

So Now What?

I’ll confess something.  I’ve been avoiding writing in my blog for a long time now.  I could come up with viable cheap excuses like “I work a lot of hours”, or “I need to spend some time with my family”, or “I have a lawn to mow” (all true statements), but the deeper truth is that I’ve had a bit of an internal credibility crisis.  It’s not that I have nothing to talk about… far from it, actually.  I have a number of drafts in the hopper that I really should finish one of these days.  It’s just that every time I start to write something, I start wondering “Who am I to be saying this?”  It’s one thing to talk a lot (just look at how Facebook has become an Andy Warhol 15-minutes-of-fame nightmare run amok), it’s quite another to have something worth saying.  And when it comes to such weighty topics as The Meaning of Life, I find myself poised at the precipice of spouting cliches like some sort of daily affirmation Pez dispenser.

Yet here I am, sitting at this God forsaken keyboard, still moved to tears by the image of a tiny baby girl in her father’s arms.

A little girl I never knew.

A young mother I never met.

A father who I watch in awe from a distance.

 

If I’ve tried to do anything at all with this website, I’ve tried to be genuine.  I once read a quote that has stayed with me for years:

“There comes a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion…”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self Reliance”

So I’ll close this entry with the admission that while I sat down to write some sort of definitive treatise on Life After Sara and Miranda, the truth is that I have no idea what to say.  All I know is that I can’t forget about them, and that their lives continue to compel me, to push me forward toward something.

One of these days, I hope to learn what that is.