Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fourth of July, part 1...or, One Country's Birthday is Another Man's Death

"A 19-year-old man who was hospitalized after nearly drowning at Blue Lake Park, died early Saturday morning." By NICK BRADSHAW, kgw.com Staff
I really don't know what to say about this. I don't have anything spiritually or personally profound ready to pour out onto the page. I just feel that it needs to be mentioned. Something tells me that when you go through something traumatic, you ought not to ignore it and pretend it didn't happen. So by completing the Fourth of July blog with this tragedy (or starting it, depending on when you've started reading), I might be helping myself to process it, but I might also be honoring what was a real life, and not something on the news that I might take for granted.

It was like a scene from Jaws, when Brody sees what he thinks is a shark and yells at everyone to get out of the water. They are so strict at Blue Lake Park about kids polluting the water, we joked that someone must have had a little bodily-functions problem. I think I sometimes refuse to see the obvious because I just don't want the unthinkable to be happening. It didn't take long for the heavy reality to roll onto shore like a fog, blanketing the huge crowd that watched and waited. Park workers and police dove in fully clothed...down, up for air, down again. We just stood there praying and waiting, praying and waiting. My struggles with the purpose and good of prayer stood there beside me, and I just ignored it, praying anything and everything, just in case.
Are they sure there was somebody down there? They weren't finding anything! A Channel 8 helicoptor joined us in gawking at the scene, searching for presumptions to make. I am just a bystander; I don't know anything about this person, their spiritual beliefs, their family situation, what events preceded this suspense. Was it a man or a woman? How old were they? I wanted to qualify this person's life somehow, so I could know what to feel: disappointed at the prospect of their death, hopeful for their rescue, at peace about where they were going if they didn't make it...
It occurred to me that someone there had to be waiting with more expectation than the rest of us. It was easy to find the small huddle of folks crying, hugging, watching the search from the beach. So I prayed for them. I played with Micah who only knew there was a ball to throw, and Morgen who wanted to throw a frisbee with mommy. We escorted our oldest two a little further into the realities of life, and prayed with them for the victim, their family and friends. I felt completely helpless in the great big universe that God runs. It was happening, time was ticking, fragile life was expiring before my very eyes; I couldn't even use the CPR training I had completed just days before. I could feel God's presence, but there was no reason for me to be there. It was a very awkward silence.
But in that silence, my heart broke. I wanted to cry, but I stood sentry, waiting for God to unfold the story. It didn't matter, really, if I was there or not, if I had any information at all about the victim and family. This was a human creation, just like me, that God loved. End of story. It didn't matter what neighborhood he lived in, whether his parents were divorced, if he had been intoxicated, what color he was. All the details we wait for the news to spill to comfort us from the emotions of the unthinkable weren't there. God alone was in charge, and we were mere witnesses.
I'm a little bit appalled now, looking back, at my own thoughts and the conversations I overheard at the park. Even the news story seems a trite and brief epitaph to a situation that was so totally out of our control and beyond our understanding. As people, we have a responsibility to search, rescue, transport to better service, and otherwise do everything we can to save each other's lives without knowing anything deeper than the body. But to play God by labeling the situation, putting a completely impalpable circumstance into words to comfort our own selves, is...well, inappropriate and completely selfish. How often do we take it upon ourselves to qualify the news we hear, "oh, I'm ok with that freak's death, they had it coming! ....ooo, what a shame about that family's tragedy..." That's how it's spun. And I wonder if I'm ok with the fact that God's deep knowledge of and love for me is so much bigger than the world's sad ability to deal with reality....

2 comments:

Sarah said...

dang. that's crazy.


(and sorry, i've totally been blog-stalking you.)

Laura Mo said...

I really appreciate your take on what we saw that day...

Keep writing...