Gone too young

A friend of mine lost his 17 year old daughter 2 days ago. She was driving home from a weekend with her boyfriend when she lost control of her car, ended up in the opposite lane and was hit straight on by an SUV. She died at the scene of the accident. She was just falling in love for the first time, had just had her first kiss, her first semester at college; her life was blooming.

It is so wild to reorient from the open seeming sky of young life to the definitiveness of death. The pictures we have of her will be the only pictures of her, her impressive accomplishments are now not foretelling of more to come, they are her greatest works in completion.

Returning from travel today, home to my parents and to this email with subject line “Memorial,” I am simply broken hearted and bereft on her parents behalf.

It’s easy to say that life is not fair in moments like these and yet it is also best not to try and glean spiritual lessons too early. Primarily loss is a destruction in our relational landscape; a horrible destruction that leaves burnt and smoldering rubble, shrapnel in seen and unseen places. Even when healed and integrated the loss of an intimate family member or friend will never completely disappear. Loss comes and rips the sky open like the night, revealing the paths of the stars to be endless and infinite tears falling. The world just changes one day.

Yet even with the certainty of the lived experiences of grief- the heaviness, sadness, anger, wildness, nothingness, emptiness, and the longing, I find myself humbled mostly by questions. If we were to be able to see the complexity of life from the perspective of God would such losses still seem unfair? As the world changes and shifts with time so too do our human landscapes yet in a timescale that we can see and relate to. Perhaps were we able to see in real time the crumbling of the mountains or the death of stars we would understand better when one of our stars dies.

How do we go back over what she had written, what she had done, how do we comb back through the annals of her life and recontextualize it all to be not an indicator of greatness to come, but actually her lifes’ work of greatness now in completion? How do parents survive such loss? I can’t even imagine how much they will miss her.

I met her about a year ago and it always startles me to go back to memories of someone alive after they’ve passed. The linearity of time seems to betray us in those moments, when we wish we could push through the veil of memory into that lived moment and tell them to be more careful driving that night, or even just to say that they have a year left and to make the most of it. It would have been redundant for such a brilliant and motivated young woman, but still I can’t stop myself from thinking back and looking for foreshadowing of what was to come, as though it were a movie.

Every time I’ve witnessed the passing of someone I am always led back to the truth that the meaning in it isn’t for me to see or figure out. And yet I do know that as much a betrayal as it seems it is actually the fulfillment of a promise from life made to each of us the moment we’re born. It may seem morose to say … but when we remember that we, like every other thing living and “non-living,” must participate in the cycles of existence, the reality of death must be something else in addition to sad. It must be the reminder of ultimate reality. It must be the liberation of matter back to the realm of possibility. There is a riddle in it that is just as connected to what we love as it is to what we fear.

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