This past weekend, it was the screaming that caught my attention while I was finishing our youngest daughters preparation for ballet class. From the back of the ballet school’s dressing room, I could hear the calling of my name. Upon my emerging into the waiting room, I saw little ballerinas facing the oversized glass window. Our daughter Grace held her hand up towards her face and appeared to be in shock. I bolted outside when I caught the words–girl and struck by a car. The few moms that had been prepping their daughters for class and their teacher leaned behind the bumpers of parked cars. We all stood gazing upon the surreal scene of a young student of about eleven or twelve, laying on the asphalt in her pink tights and black leotard while someone held her still. A woman across the street–clung to a man and covered her eyes. Her sobbing lead me to conclude that she was this child’s mother. Hot tears filled my eyes while I stood frozen under an awning on the sidewalk. I felt so helpless. A cluster of her fellow classmates looked upon the scene snickering, analyzing, and almost justifying their friends demise. I could feel my face getting warm enough to evaporate most of the wetness away on my eyelids and I shut my gaping mouth only after running through the comments inside my head first. The last thing this girl needed was cold staring criticism–I’m pretty sure that she won’t run between the cars and into the street again. She will stop the next time her mother hollers for her and she will look both ways before crossing any road in the future.
I couldn’t stand next to the preteens any longer and made may way back into the waiting room. The ambulance was on the scene and lingered behind my daughter’s silhouette. Grace felt stiff with tension under my arms and tears streaked the face of a ballerina next to me. She sobbed as if the injured girl was her sibling. My hand on her shoulder must have calmed her enough to answer my questions. This young lady was triggered by the memories of her cousins slow recovery and brain damage from a careless driver who struck him while riding his bike. She grieved as if the accident happened the day before and she empathized with her friends uncertain future in a way that still makes my heart heavy with ache.
I have to ask, why do some live their lives as if they are above calamity and why do others live with gratefulness for every second they have breath? Why do some laugh at the pain of others and some empathize with such care that they forget about themselves in situations similar to this? I believe that most of us who’ve experienced the fragility of life or relationships choose to value moments with others as gifts. We’ve seen the flip side. We remember what walking around in the valley of the shadow of death feels like. We know true loss. We remember often that we are not promised tomorrow or the next hour for that matter. We place a high value on the brevity of our days and carry a burden that today matters.
Life can feel so hard at times. I too have grieved for those in my life who have passed away, relationships, and gifts that I held for only a season. My youngest sister died at the age of nineteen, my dad in his early fifties, and my Aunt Judy in her early forties. For me, loss has also taken the form of a precious foster-son who we put back into the care of a drug addicted father, the releasing of close friends after multiple moves, the loss of jobs, the loss of health, and the loss of dreams.
While I can relate to those of you who have walked in these familiar shoes, I want you to know that by God’s grace, I have also chosen to put down my tissue box in an effort to live as if each day is my last. I’ll be honest, living in this mindful way takes something that I don’t believe I’ve got a perfect handle on yet but it remains my goal. My prayer today is that we’ll be re-inspired to ask God for help on this. Every minute counts–every moment has a purpose in His story and maybe the next time we see a ballerina, drive through a crowded parking lot, or witness someone struggling to just make it through the day–we’ll be reminded. Yes, maybe we’ll be reminded to slow down, pay attention, and love like tomorrow may never come.