Devastation defines regular day from the rest

Our lives were changed forever last Thursday. Like everyone else who got up that morning when the alarm went off, I believed it was going to be just another in the long string of non-descript days that comprise the average life. But that was not meant to be. Not for me and family.

As I fixed breakfast, goaded kids into the shower, washed dishes and packed lunches, I was too busy to know fatal trouble was brewing along with the coffee. And if I thought my kids’ missing the bus that morning and my having to drive cross-country in pajamas to catch it at another stop was the day’s worst episode, I was proven wrong.

About the time I arrived back home and resumed organizing what I naively assumed was my own day was when the cataclysmic family event occurred 25 miles west of us, to another person who had probably thought his day was simply unfolding like normal.

I was three hours into my work day when my cell phone lit up with “Unknown Caller.” No biggie, as I’m frequently barraged with nuisance calls, including those from an especially persistent telemarketer last week, trying to get me to switch satellite TV and Internet providers. Likely a better deal, but not last week, when I was putting the final touches on the annual alumni reunion and scholarship banquet. I’d deal with it later.

Unknown Caller left a voicemail. Hmm. A sheriff deputy needed to meet with me soon. My mind raced in a hundred directions, from wondering if he were a process server, to which of my kids had done what. Trouble headed my way. Great! Business as usual was blown up.

Then two deputies awkwardly showed up in my office. “We regret to inform you that your ex-husband was killed in an automobile accident this morning on his way to work.” I was speechless with shock.

Just before 7 AM, Neale had been westbound on P Avenue in Kalamazoo County when a northbound truck on 25th street blew through a stop sign hidden by a blown-down tree branch and broad-sided his truck. The truck rolled and he died instantly, they told me.

I was strangely comforted by “instantly,” compared to what followed: notification of his mother, siblings and children. I went to my children’s school with great trepidation and intimate personal knowledge their lives would be forever changed the moment they received the news. The term gut-wrenching can’t even do it justice.

Had anyone kept score, they’d know that over the past half-dozen years, my family has gone through extended Hell, beginning with my grant-funded job abruptly ending, followed by my mother’s diagnosed cognitive decline, my children’s step-father leaving us, the private school I later worked at closing and the firing from my next job (with its grueling commute) the same week my daughter ended up having a near-fatal stroke and open heart surgery at age 13. Two months later, my kids’ grandfather suffered a massive heart-attack and died before their eyes as my son and his dad futilely performed CPR. And now my kids’ dad is suddenly and freakishly taken from them.

Even a seasoned country song writer wouldn’t touch this stuff with a 10-foot pole! However, comedian Dennis Leary nailed it with his song, “Life’s Gonna Suck When You Grow Up.”

I’m at loss for positive direction just yet. So I keep it simple: encircle my kids with love and prayer and lean on the support of God, family and friends. Eventually, I’ll get to WWJD, but I’m pretty stuck in WTF right now. Did someone enter me in a physical, mental, spiritual, financial tough-man contest and not tell me?!

My suggestion is that if there are unspoken words and undone deeds you’re unconsciously putting off until later, you consciously re-think that. There’s no guaranteed “later” in our lives. A lyrical reminder comes from former Burlington resident Gloria (Sickel) Gaither of Gaither gospel music fame, “We Have This Moment Today:

We have this moment to hold in our hands
And to touch as it slips
Through our fingers like sand
Yesterday’s gone
And tomorrow may never come
But we have this moment today.”


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jeannieunbottled
    May 31, 2017 @ 10:23:27

    That’s pretty terrible, Kristie. I’m really sorry this has happened. — Wilma


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