Reflections on Disaster

On Thursday, June 17, 2010, I was in a bad wreck.  The people at the scene of the accident could not believe that I survived my car taking a direct hit from a logging truck.  But, thankfully, I did.  A week after the wreck, I have only one small scratch remaining.  People told me how “lucky” I was.  They mentioned that I had been protected by my guardian angel.  “God is not finished with you yet,” was a frequent phrase.   I don’t intend to argue with any of those sentiments.

My primary thought and emotion has been one of gratitude.  During my career as a pastor, I heard how many dumb things people say after a tragedy.  They may be well-meaning, but there is a lot of bad theology that surrounds heartbreaking disasters.  Be careful with your words in times of crisis.

The two sentences that made the most sense to me are these:

  • I say my Alleluias softly, and
  • God is present.

I am happy to be alive.  I am grateful that on July 3, 2010, I was able to walk my baby girl down the aisle and present her to the man who is now her husband and my son-in-law.  All four of Julie’s grandparents are dead and my best friend, her second dad, passed away this past year.  I am grateful that I was there for Julie and Tom, and not in a hospital room or in a grave!  I am glad that I am still here to cuddle with Sally at night.  I am thankful I can still take my other daughter and her husband and my grandson to a baseball game.  More than ever, I appreciate peach cobblers, roses, jazz, waterfalls, and good books.  I love my friends.  I am grateful to be alive.

But I do say my Alleluias softly, because everyone who has been in a wreck did not survive and/or thrive.  Many sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, dads and best friends have been seriously injured or even died in tragic accidents.  I don’t think God loves me more or that my prayer life is better.  Anything that credits my survival to my goodness is probably bad theology.

As I was sharing this perspective with two friends, I discovered that one of them, my seminary buddy Don Garner, had indeed lost a son in a car wreck about a decade ago.  God loves and loved Don and his wife and their son as much as God loves me.  Don told me that their “lesson” during their awful grief is that God is always present.  God is present when I survive my wreck, and God is there when Don’s son did not survive his wreck.  God is present. 

Those are lessons enough for me.Imagek

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Reflections on Disaster

  1. Bob Ferguson

    Well said, my friend.

  2. Thanks Marion. After Moore OK, I have heard some fairly troubling pieces coming out of the Christian community about judgement. Amen to the soft alleluia.

  3. Al Jacobs

    Marion, after two wars I have had more than my fair share of the moments you describe….times when my survival defied all logic and people around me didn’t make it. The only lesson I have ever derived – but it’s a good one – is to live every day like it is the last day you have on earth. It just might be. Best regards my friend, Al

    • Al, I think living every day as if it is the last day makes a lot of sense. I am in Princeton, NJ, now, and just had a great meal and am getting ready to read a great book. (Do you read Lee Child? I think you would like him.) Tomorrow, if I wake up, I intend to take a long walk, then drive into NYC and watch the Mets and the Yankees.

  4. Susan E. Davies

    I hadn’t known about the accident, Marion, and yet I echo your quiet alleluias.

    Since we’ve seen one another I’ve had surgery for a brain aneurysm that would have killed me had it burst, and six years later more surgery for a hard spinal synovial cyst with knobs on which was delivering devastating pain throughout my body. I can walk freely now, without a stick except for the balance issue left by the brain surgery, and can even mow my own lawn for the first time in seven years or so. I rejoice at the gifts I’ve been given – as I walk though Mount Hope Cemetery here in Bangor I talk with all the people who have gone before me, and wave my arm with joy at life itself. At the foxes and woodchucks and squirrels and ducks and snapping turtles and pond lilies and pine trees and birds singing . . .

    As you say, none of this means that God loves me more than my mother, who died from a brain aneurysm in 1966, 18 years younger than I am now, nor my father, who died ten years younger than I am from heart problems, nor my cousin Tom who died 9 years younger of Lou Gerhigs disease, nor my cousin Bonnie who died of cancer, nor my cousin Marshall who died two months ago of a heart attack in Taiwan.

    Death is the beginning of a new life none of us can imagine, and continued life here is a gift for which we can only rejoice and be glad. The birds are singing, the peepers (spring frogs) are peeping, lilacs and honeysuckles are blooming (only a few bees – colony collapse?), and your body and mine are still moving with love for our family and friends. What more can we ask?

    Gratitudes for love and life – that’s the answer. Sue

    • Amen,Sue. Thanks for posting that. I sure do miss our talks at the NCC. Since you and I were hanging out together, I lost my two best friends. You may have heard me talking about them at different times. Fuzzy died at age 60 and Dabber died at age 63. Dang. But we had good times together. One of the things we did was a trip, just the three of us, to Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards. Dabber and I love baseball and Fuzzy hated it. But he got great joy out of complaining, and I can’t write what he called Fenway Park but it was colorful and alliterative.

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