On the Tuesday morning before Christmas, I bid Bethany good-bye as she headed off to basketball practice. Christmas break was already in full swing, but, of course, basketball practice never takes a break. She walked out the door, and I went into the bathroom and started blow-drying my hair. I hadn't been in there two minutes when Brad appeared at the bathroom door yelling that Bethany had hit a deer. I think my heart stopped momentarily before I managed to choke out, "Is she okay?" He hollered back over his shoulder, "I don't know. She just called me." And then he was gone...pulling out of the driveway in his Chevy Blazer.
I yanked on some jeans (pajama pants are my garment of choice on Christmas break), and was out the driveway just a few minutes behind him. We live in a very rural area, where the roads are curvy, and the deer are plentiful. I came around a curve, and there they were, both their vehicles on the side of the road, Bethany engulfed in Brad's arms. I pulled over and joined the group hug. Bethany was fine, just a little shaken and scared. Once I was assured that she was okay, I turned my attention to her car...and this is what I saw.
It was pretty ugly, and I hated to see her poor little car all bashed up like this, but, oh my, it could have been so much worse. She had come around the curve to find four deer crossing the road. Thankfully, she remembered her dad's advice not to swerve when encountering an animal in the road...if she had left the road, she would probably have struck a tree on one side, and would have gone into a deep ditch on the other side. And if a deer rolls up and comes through your windshield...well, let's just not go there.
The bottom line is, Bethany was fine. We made all the necessary calls to the insurance company and summoned a tow truck, and then I drove her on to basketball practice. The wreck happened only about a mile from our house, and the school is only about two miles farther down the road. I did walk in with her and explained to her coach why she was late, and why she might be a little distracted at practice.
It wasn't until I was headed home from the gym that the magnitude of the event started to sink in. "Magnitude" may not be the right word here...in the grand scheme of things, it was really a pretty minor incident. But to me, it was a reminder, like when Bethany had her concussion a couple months ago, that our family is not immune from further tragedy.
There's something in me that thinks, "We've lost a child to cancer. Surely that means that nothing more can happen to us." But I know that's not true. When we moved from Wisconsin to Arkansas when I was twelve years old, I became friends with a girl who had lost all three of her brothers. One had died shortly after he was born, one died at the age of ten from cancer, and one (the only one she ever knew) had died at the age of 17 in a car accident. I knew all of this because she told me about it, but as a kid, I never even considered what her parents had gone through. They were very kind to me, and I was always welcome in their home. Now, after losing only one child, I wonder how in the world they survived so much loss. I cannot even begin to imagine.
I recently read the story of Scott and Janet Willis's family in WORLD magazine. Seventeen years ago, the Willises lost all six of their children when a piece of metal fell off a truck and punctured the gas tank of their minivan. As they were being treated for severe burns at the scene, Scott said to Janet, "It was very quick. And they're with the Lord now." Then, as they were loaded into separate ambulances, he shouted out to her, "Psalm 34." Janet, as she was surrounded by emergency workers, kept praying Psalm 34:1 out loud, "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth," with the emphasis on will. What a beautiful picture of trust in God, despite unspeakably devastating circumstances.
Andree' Seu, the author of the article, wrote this: "Praise meets trauma where nothing else can reach. Praise in the face of devastation releases blessings obtainable in no other way. The presence of God is directly related to worship."
Would that I could continue to praise God, even if another tragedy befell my family. And even as I ask God to give me that kind of faith, I pray that I never have to find out if I really have it.