On Saturday, I got a message from my dear friend, asking me to call her as soon as possible. I could tell, just from the tone of her voice, that something was terribly wrong. I almost didn’t want to call her back, but I did.
She told me that four boys, all football players from our former high school, had died in a car crash. The news was shocking and tragic, but what it made it worse, is that I know the family of one of the boys.
A long time ago, I had met the boys mother when I was a bus girl at a restaurant where she was working as a waitress. As it turned out, she lived across the street from a girl that I was not only good friends with, but who would also become the woman’s go to babysitter and surrogate little sister, my friend an only child, the woman, having no sisters of her own.
I remember the mother when she was just newly married and when she had her first child. I was even at an impromptu baby shower for her. After we no longer worked together, I continued to see her somewhat frequently, often accompanying my friend when she babysat, sometimes, standing in for her when she couldn’t make it, and sometimes, just stopping by to say hi.
Lives change, friendships change, and we got older. While my friend remained close to the family, with them even throwing her a baby shower when, years later, she became pregnant with her first child, I’ve maybe seen the family a handful of times in the last ten years or so, out and about, when I was home visiting.
I grew up in a small town. My high school combined three small towns. It’s a tight community, where for better or worse, everybody knows everybody. This family is no exception, everyone knows them. The boys play sports, the father was a fireman, as was his father and brother, in a nearby town, his mother, a teacher at a local school. They are part of a community. In times of crisis, coming from a small town can be the only silver lining in a very dark sky.
I’ve been following the story online, reading as the tragedy unfolded, as the families mourn, as the high school and town mourns, as the nation mourns for these four boys who had their whole promising lives in front of them. I read, with chills, their mother’s haphazard comments, a grieving mother’s attempt to characterize her son. I can hear her voice. I can see her face. My heart breaks for her.
I feel so bad for any parent who loses their child, any family that loses a child. It’s not the natural order of things. It’s not how it’s suppose to happen. But I feel especially bad for this woman, because I know her, because I once sat in her house while her boys slept peacefully in the next room.
And then, of course, I think of my own boys.
There’s no way to make sense of this tragedy. The scary truth is that life involves a lot of luck. Why one mother can momentarily turn her back and nothing happen, while another’s child wanders in the street to get hit by a car, why ten kids can pile into the back of a pick-up without so much as a scratch and another falls to his death, why one child grows up healthy and strong, while another develops cancer and dies, why some people walk away from accidents unscathed, and others never walk away, is a cruel mystery, and so very unfair to those that have lost loved ones.