sudden death

It is true that bad things often happen to good people and tragic occurrences make their way to the rectory doorstep on a regular basis. One that comes to mind is that on a blazing hot day in August I received a call from the Westfield police informing me that a twenty two year old woman had been killed instantly on the New York Thruway. She lost control of her car and went off the roadway and the car apparently turned over and over crushing her to death. When the officers pried open the car doors they also found a dead cat. They made the assumption that somehow the cat either jumped on her lap or somehow distracted her and she lost control of the car. I did not know it then but she was on her way to meet her parents in Westfield and they were going to Martha’s Vineyard for a weeks’ vacation.

Approaching the home of her parents I could feel the knot in my stomach. There are few griefs in this world that compare with the loss of a child, especially a sudden death. It was blazing hot and as I rang the doorbell the woman’s mother answered and was actually pleased to see me. She initially thought that this was perhaps a census visitation. The perception vanished almost immediately as I conveyed what had happened. Like all parents she said “are you sure? Maybe it is a mistake, I spoke to her this morning”. Denial has such power in moments ice this because the mind and heart are overwhelmed.

We sat in the living room awaiting the arrival of the father who would soon be home from his position in New York. His train home was to coincide with the arrival of his daughter, and once refreshed they would start on their much anticipated vacation. The mother keep staring out the window and spotting her husband raced to the front door. He was coming up the walk with his jacket over his arms and was smiling at his wife. She blurted out” Janie has been killed in an accident.” He literally collapsed on the lawn and when he gained his composure he repeated the same questions that his wife had offered “are you sure? maybe it was a mistake.  “There are no words that make the pain go away but family and friends share the burden by their presence and love.

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