Tuesday, June 05, 2007

no words

I wanted to post the joyful story of our Disneyland adventure before sitting down and writing out this one. Truth is, I've gone back and forth, wondering if I should even blog about this subject at all, but since it's been weighing heavily on my mind since late last week, I'll go ahead and share it here. Warning, though: If you don't particularly want to learn of someone else's tragedy, I suggest skipping this one.

I got a call last Friday, just hours before we were to head home from Southern California, that a local family was involved in a horrendous accident in which three of their four children perished. They were also in SoCal at the time, not terribly far from where we were enjoying ourselves without a care. Now, I understand that this is a tragedy of nearly unthinkable proportions no matter where it happens, but when I say "local," I'm talking about a town that's not even a town, and that can't be found on most major maps. I believe we're called an "incorporated area," though the homesteaders and a well-known wagon party were here at least as early as they were in Flagstaff to the east of us. The enrollment at our little local school - once a one-room schoolhouse next to the railroad tracks - is up in recent years: I think they had just over a hundred kids this year, from Kindergarten through eighth grade.

Two of the children killed were students at the school.

A few weeks ago, our community came together for a spaghetti feast/Bingo night benefitting a much-loved employee at the school who is battling a serious illness. She was the first person I met there when I was still debating whether to homeschool or not, and her warmth and obvious love for the students was one of the things that convinced me that maybe public school wouldn't be so bad for our son.

I remember looking around the gym that night a few weeks ago, paper plate in hand, and agreeing with one of the cafeteria ladies who, with tears in her eyes, said something about what a special community we had. I remember thinking how hard it was to believe that someone we all knew so well was battling something life-threatening. I remember laughing with friends that night, all of us keeping an eye on each others' children to make sure they didn't fall off the bleachers or get too wild. We also watched those kids because most people around here seem to understand that life doesn't get much better than that. We cheer for those kids at games. We marvel at how fast they grow from year to year ("Seems like I saw your daughter just yesterday, getting on the school bus, and she was just a little girl. Now look at her!"). We open our doors to those kids when a family's at wit's end and needs extra help - or when the parents are just delayed in town.

Today was the last day of school, and no one knew quite how it would go, since everyone is still reeling from last Friday's news. It was debated whether the traditional Field Day - the tug-of-war, the basketballs-balanced-on-plungers relay, the barbeque - should be cancelled. It wasn't, and that was a good thing. Because despite the unthinkable enormity of what has happened here, those kids still need to be kids. They need to mark the end of another school year not just with tears and confusion, but with laughter, with the kind of joyous celebration of the start of summer at which schoolchildren excel. So, against the nearby backdrop of the growing memorial of flowers and teddy bears and posters of the three children's faces framed by notes upon notes from all the people who loved them, our kids laughed, and played, and leaned back against that rope as hard as they could until the other team collapsed, also laughing, onto the sand.

Another benefit dinner/Bingo night is planned for tomorrow in the gym, and it looks like the memorial service will be held at the end of this week, also at the school. This seems fitting, not just because the school is pretty much the central meeting place of our little "incorporated area" in the pines (the mercantile comes in a distant second). Mostly, it's fitting because the final farewell for those three children will happen where the heart and soul of our community - those hundred or so students - spend much of their vibrant young lives on this mountain.

There is a time for everything...a time to weep and a time to laugh...a time to mourn and a time to dance....
~Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

"Life is short. Shorter for some than for others."
~Augustus McCrae from Lonesome Dove

So, I suppose this post is mis-titled. I suppose there really are words that can be used to describe, to wonder, to grieve. It's just that they seem wholly inadequate for the task of comprehending how quickly life can change, how quickly this present world can matter not one bit, and how there had better be something else we cling to with all our hearts and with all our souls and with all our minds and with all our strength, if hope is to prevail.


  1. Thank you, Nicole, for saying what has been in my heart. I knew that once the shock was over that you would say it all so beautifully! You truly are a remarkable woman and priceless friend... love you

  2. That kind of tragedy puts a mark on your soul. I am greatful that you have such a wonderful community that can come together and support one another during this time.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  3. How awful.

    We can lose it all so quickly. I thank God everyday for what i have because I know that.

    This family will be needing a lot of love and support for a long time. At least it sounds like your community can do that for them.