Sunday, June 7, 2009

Each Life That Touches Ours For Good

One of my very favorite things about living at my house is sunday afternoons. Particularly the ones that my dad and I (and varying family members depending on who feels like it) sit together in the living room and sing hymns and family favorites (folk songs, home written, etc) for hours. I missed this sooo much while I was at school.

This afternoon after church we were singing together in the kitchen while we prepared lunches, and we kept the hymn book on the island counter inbetween us. Dad was flipping through it finding songs we don't sing very often, so we could have the challenge of figuring them out by ear and memory. At one point he turned the page and left it open to a spot he hadn't tried to pick because he had to get something out of the oven very quickly. I looked at the hymn book. It was open to the song 'Each Life That Touches Ours For Good.'

I flew back in time to one of my trips to Salt Lake when I was in school. It had been a very difficult drive, the snow was like those cartoons you see of wolves in the clouds and snowstorms, viciously chasing after the brave hearts venturing out in it and tearing them from the road. I saw countless cars flipped over, nearly lost in snow drifts, spun out in ditches, piled on top of one another, lit into great roadside bonfires and even jack-knifed and splinched semi trucks. It was terrifying.

On the freeway I was cut off and I slammed on the breaks, desperate to keep myself from sliding into the little red car I could surely run right over in my jeep. My car spun around twice, moving toward the opposite lanes of traffic. I nearly had it back under control, but I over corrected and we (I had a roommate and a close friend in the car with me) spun the other direction several times until we flew of the other side of the road. We hit three small metal poles but were otherwise unharmed. As friends in a stressful situation will do, we made humor out of our predicament. My surfer roommate from Cali was in the backseat sleeping when I lost control and woke up to the first of the metal poles hitting her door. "Oh...this sucks." She said as she sat up. The release of tension from the resulting laughter was euphoric, it was a helpful tonic that helped me remain calm as the ranger (of course I slid off the road right next to a parked ranger, because who else in the world has that kind of awful luck?) held us in place on that frozen roadside for over a half an hour until he finally called a cop who took over and held us there for another twenty minutes (by this time we have surely missed my roommate's plane) before letting us go with only the proviso that I pay for the poles we took out.

We were the lucky ones. As I sat on my cousins couch that evening I recieved several panic'd texts asking if I was alive, ok, hurt or otherwise. Assuming that my roommate or friend must have let spill about our accident to someone back at school I answered these with a light humor. However, the next day was Sunday and another of my roommates called to give me awful news.

A young man in our ward, one of our well-known secretary's, had been killed in the snowstorm driving to Utah at the same time as me. Until church no one had known who it was, she explained, only that someone in the ward had gotten in a bad car accident and passed away.

He had been driving down with his girlfriend to visit family in Salt Lake and a woman in the car behind him had bumped his car slightly, doing a very small amount of damage. Both cars pulled over to exchange numbers and information, standing at the back of his car. Another car on the highway lost control and spun out toward them, splinching both the young man and the woman in half between the two cars. Both died instantly. The girlfriend, sitting in the front seat, was injured but survived.

The next sunday we had a small memorial sacrament meeting for the boy and his family joined us. They invited us to the funeral and thanked everyone for all the help they had given their family, for packing up the boys things and for being the people who made up his life. They bore their testimonies to us and told us about him, and the father's speech in particular broke my heart. He seems to have taken the death of his son harder than anyone else, and didn't understand why it had happened. He was struggling to hold onto his faith. He was so very, very heartbroken.

I can not imagine a greater trial than losing a child. I do not think that any of us who have not experienced it can ever, ever understand the pain of it. I have never seen a man so broken before, I've never seen so much hurt in someone's eyes. It was painful just to see him. It was painful to know that there was nothing I could do, no way to help.

I have never lost any one even close to my own age before, never known someone who has died before they were sixty. I guess I felt that oft mocked confidence of youth that we are invincible. I think we all had quite a shock. It was so strange not to see him there in the office on sundays with his big welcoming smile and teasing eyes, the emptiness of walking into the rooms he used to haunt was harsh and troubling. For weeks whenever the boy was mentioned in sacrament meeting you would find the girls bathroom full of weeping girls after the meeting. The halls were solemn and quiet, people were always hugging and trying to comfort each other. This boy had been one of God's chosen, and we all knew it. He was one of those people that lights up and room and makes everyone feel comfortable, like he's known them since birth. He loved everyone, accepted everyone. It truly felt like we had lost a brother.

That sunday when we held the memorial, we sang a song I had never heard before, and haven't been able to sing all the way through since.

1. Each life that touches ours for goodReflects thine own great mercy, Lord;Thou sendest blessings from aboveThru words and deeds of those who love.

2. What greater gift dost thou bestow,What greater goodness can we knowThan Christlike friends, whose gentle waysStrengthen our faith, enrich our days.

3. When such a friend from us departs,We hold forever in our heartsA sweet and hallowed memory,Bringing us nearer, Lord, to thee.

4. For worthy friends whose lives proclaimDevotion to the Savior’s name,Who bless our days with peace and love,We praise thy goodness, Lord, above.
If there was ever a boy whose life proclaimed devotion to our Savior's name, and touched the life of everyone around him for the better is was him. Even in death he brought people together as nothing else could have, he brought us closer as a ward and helped us to learn to depend on each other to get through the hard times. I will be forever grateful that I knew him. I know he is doing great works on the other side. I hope that wherever they are, his parents know what an amazing spirit they raised, and that he is surely there watching over them as they try to go on with their lives.

1 comment:

Bri... only she said...

Wow Kristi. That is very touching. Thank you so much for sharing that experience.