This morning, I will be attending the funeral of Adam England, the young man who died after a car accident on Interstate 90 last week.
The Englands are acquaintances with my family. We don’t know each other well. But, by all accounts, Adam was a fantastic young man: fun and goofy, hardworking and sincere, faithful and true. His death is a tragedy – a young, promising life cut short far too soon.
I can’t stop thinking about his mother. How do you drive home from the hospital without your child? How do you go into his bedroom, open his closet and finger through the clothes you washed for him just days ago when the whole world stood before him? How do you touch his backpack, notebooks, phone – things he touched so recently you can see him, almost feel him doing it still – and yet he isn’t there?
I have had my father die young, when I was a teenager. I have touched and gone through his things and felt all the pain a child can feel at the loss of a parent. But I have never felt the pain of a parent losing a child, a mother losing her son. I cannot even imagine.
I believe there is more to life than just living it. I believe our spirits go on and families can be reunited in a life after this one. And, still, I weep for Adam’s family – for his father, sister, brother. But because I know what it is to love as a mother, I weep especially for her.
Adam’s death has made me re-evaluate some of the things I allow to take up space in my family’s bandwidth: sports, lessons, camps, parties, chores. All good things, no doubt. But in the grand scheme of things, what does it really matter?
My time with my kids is fleeting, and it is precious. What do I have them spending their time on? How do I communicate with them? Are there constant sticking points I am doggedly hanging onto (piano practice) but in reality should maybe just let go? Parents, what if, instead of signing up our kids for one more thing, we allowed ourselves the luxury of having nights together at home?
Coaches, what if, instead of holding practice for hours each day, you sent your team home early on occasion with a charge to teach a younger sibling a skill; to help a parent with making dinner; or to call a grandparent they don’t normally get to talk to?
Teachers, what if, instead of assigning that extra page of homework, you told your students their assignment for the night was to spend time talking with their parents, reaching out to an elderly neighbor or doing a small act of kindness that could make this world a better place?
A few years before my dad passed away, he was asked to give the eulogy at the funeral of a 2-year-old boy – the beloved youngest son of our dear friends – who had died in a car accident. On that sad day, he said, “I am firmly convinced that every life has a purpose, and, likewise, every death.
“We may not immediately recognize it, but there is good that comes from every misfortune. There is joy somewhere to counteract every sorrow. … Each one of us has some area in our life that could be improved. Just to make sure that this little boy has not died in vain, let us all look at ourselves and make some change for the better that we can credit to (him).”
I know I’m going to be making changes in the name of Adam England. Our time with our families is too precious and uncertain to allow it to get swallowed up in the giant machine that is the Way We Do Life in the 21st Century. Just because something is the way we’ve always done it doesn’t mean it’s the way it always has to be done. That’s what I learned this week. That’s what I hope to never forget.
Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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