Monday, January 2, 2012

Snapshots Along The Way


Here are few snapshots of the past few months:


Jill and I went Christmas shopping, and had a pleasant enough experience. We decided to have lunch at Chili’s. At a table near us, a family was having a birthday celebration for their college age daughter. They sang happy birthday. Her name was Rachel. Of course it was…


When we traveled to southern California for Christmas we passed a car with a bumpersticker that read: “Freedom Isn’t Free. My grandson died for it!” In a way, Rachel, too, died for the sake of freedom: The freedom to drink and drive. No one celebrates her heroism, though. True, she did not choose her sacrifice or volunteer to put herself in harm’s way. With no greater protection than her blind faith in the goodwill of her fellow drivers, she took her chance, as we all do, every day. Now look at us. God bless America...


I get Google alerts for “DUI Homicide”. I don’t read them anymore. It is the same sad, maddening story every day. Nothing has changed. Rachel is dead. The world wasn’t impressed enough to change. How many more Rachel’s it will take until it does, I am too sick to reckon…


Two days before his 21st birthday, our son, Erik, and his friend, Amanda (whose boyfriend Aaron was killed in a drunk driving incident), were rear-ended at an intersection by a 17 year old girl. The impact propelled his car into middle of the intersection. Fortunately, nobody was crossing at the time. His car was totaled, though. The driver’s mother, who carried the insurance, is underinsured and will not cover the cost of replacement. Happy Birthday! Jill and I were in Chico that night, going to see the movie, The Way, by Emilio Estevez, about a man who carries his son’s ashes as he finishes his son’s pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Erik didn’t have the heart to call us that night. He waited to call us in the morning until he knew we would be home from church. Another phone call. Another reminder of the fragility of life, of how slim the thread by which all our hopes hang...


No Christmas tree. No holiday music. A pile of cards stacked on the dining room buffet were the only evidence of the season inside our house. We didn’t have the heart for it, and because we were going to be in southern California, we had a good enough excuse not to make the effort. We put up a wreath and lights outside. Any casual observer would never know there was a completely dispirited couple making a show of life inside. True, it wasn’t as dreadful as it has been. I don’t know if we are showing signs of improvement, though. We were numb, indifferent, going through the motions. Merry Christmas!...


Dispirited. I received an email invitation from the Abbey of the Arts to consider seeking out a word that would guide my spiritual direction for the coming year. The word that was given to me is: “dispirited.” Hardly encouraging. But true. I recognized the truth of it the instant I heard it, and, as I lay on my bed listening, I heard it all night long. So there was no mistake. It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. It’s necessary first to acknowledge the problem, to find the starting point, before we can take a step in the right direction toward wholeness. Jill and I have already begun to do that. I don’t know where it will end. By the grace of God, the grace of God…


Some of Rachel and Erik’s friends visited us while we were down south. There was a moment when two of Rachel’s friends were sitting on the sofa with a space between them, and I had the distinct thought: Rachel should be sitting right there in that spot, laughing with her friends, discussing her job, her school (no, she would be finished with school by now), her boyfriend (or husband, or child…)with them. I let it go. I tried to be thankful for the gift of the presence of those who were there in the moment. A step in the right direction. Still: How much more beautiful the world would be if only Rachel were here…


I had to get out of the house, so I revisited Mt. Rubidoux. I walked to the cross at the top of the mountain to watch the sun rise. I went seeking something, but I did not know what I wanted. Though I did not receive anything tangible, I did come away with the conviction that many other seekers have walked the same path up the mountain with a heavy heart. I found signs along the way...


The cross is a holy emblem that reminds us of a noble act and a sacred idea. But as I observed the birds, the coyotes, the people on the mountain that morning, I had to acknowledge that they were no less holy than the cross I had made the goal of my pilgrimage.


I am reading Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons. The protagonist describes a Native American he knew, called Bear: “Bear loved all the tangible manifestations of Creation as fervently as Baptists do King Jesus. It was not the spirit of winds, rivers, mountains, trees that he worshiped, it was the living things themselves.” The living things themselves... The phrase resonates. One of the things I have come to appreciate more painfully than I ever thought possible is just that: the unique and irreplaceable precious life of each individual. The holiness of life expressed in every particular. Rachel is just one of the billions of humans that have ever lived. There has never been and there will never be another. How is it possible to live with the loss of something so uniquely precious? That is what I am dying to find out…

3 comments:

Markie K. said...

I cannot begin to imagine what you have gone through with the loss of Rachel. If at anyway possible I would like to interview you, and your story for a Documentary that I have begun. This is for the purposes of awareness and letting your story be heard. Email me, I would love to meet with you.
Markielife@aol.com

jasmine nile said...

thanks .....

j. Charles Dill said...

Crushing. I have lived with the fear of this, and by the grace of God I have been spared... thus far. May you find what you need.