There were times that day when I remember wondering if three minutes would ever pass.
Now it’s been three years.
Three years since my youngest daughter’s longboarding accident, which left her with a traumatic brain injury, a fractured skull along the entire left side of her head, and a long six months of recovery and rehab.
This post is not just to relive the awful events of that day, and the following months. If you’re interested, you can read more about how it felt at that time in the blog posts I’ve already written about it, Angels With Beating Hearts, Soundtrack to a Brain Injury, and Real Power. No, this post is only to thank our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for His grace and mercy. He could have taken her that day, but he didn’t. As humans, we’re not entitled to know just why He gave her back to us. We can surmise that it was for the Camp Timberline teenagers into whom she poured her life the following summer. Or maybe it was the faculty, staff and students at the cosmetology school she attended, where she daily brought the light of Christ into a very dark place. Perhaps it was for the awesome young man she married, to give him the lifetime partner that he knew she would be, even before the accident.
I could go on. But those are just some of the people she’s influenced for Christ these past three years. And she’s only 22.
No, my most painful memories of those first few hours after the accident don’t even involve my daughter or my own family.
In the ICU, a type of bond develops between families who have loved ones there. That happened for me and another dad, whose daughter was brought in at about the same time as mine. His daughter also had traumatic injuries, which she received while riding on the back of a motorcycle that crashed while going entirely too fast.
When I first met him, he was friendly, concerned but not devastated, and willing to talk briefly about what happened. However, each time we talked, his countenance grew darker, and his conversation more clipped. Perhaps it was just my perception, but as the hours passed, he even appeared to stand with more of a stoop. The last time we visited, his only words to me were these: “Do you know the only thing motorcycles are good for? Organ donors.”
Within a few hours, he and his family were gone. We never heard the ultimate outcome, but it’s easy to guess how his ordeal ended.
My family celebrates God’s goodness and mercy today because we have a healthy, whole daughter who is still with us. But it’s also easy to understand the question of the dad who loses his daughter under similar circumstances. Is God still good?
My wife and I faced the same question when our oldest son was born with Down syndrome, more than 28 years ago. Why didn’t God choose to give us a “normal” son?
The answer, as always, is one of perspective. Until we decided that God’s plans for our lives were more important than the plans we had made, it seemed unfair and unjust that we were bringing home a disabled son, when everyone else in that maternity ward was bringing home a healthy baby, or so we thought. I can see how that dad in the ICU could feel exactly the same way about his badly injured daughter.
But once we surrendered our lives, and the life of our son, to God’s will, God’s goodness began to become clear to us, in spite of what had just happened. We met so many wonderful people who also had disabled kids. We watched God transform my wife and I from people who were able to love only those who were like us, into people who can love others no matter their appearance, abilities, or social stature. And we had the privilege — and I do mean the privilege — of raising a wonderful son who has blossomed into an amazing young man.
I don’t want to minimize the loss of the dad I met in the ICU, or suggest that anyone’s death is for the good. What I am saying, though, is that by surrendering everything to God, even your own children, He opens eyes to see the good things that happened because of the tragedy.
Many of the Bible’s oldest stories – Joseph and Job come to mind first – address this same theme. Job suffered greatly, losing all of his children, his material possessions, and even his health. And still, he was able to say, “Though he slay me, still I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15) I want to have faith like that.
Sometimes bad things happen to us. And yet, as Joseph told his brothers when he was reunited with them years after they had sold him into slavery, God takes the bad and uses it for good. (Genesis 50:20)
For those who accept Christ, Jesus makes all things new. (2 Cor. 5:17)
These are hard lessons for a dad to learn for the first time when he’s just lost a child. Better to accept Jesus as Savior now, before the storm hits, so that when tragedy strikes, your heart is settled.
# # #
By the way, my daughter who had the accident is the brunette in the picture at the top of this post, second from the right. And this picture was taken a little more than a month after her injury, during her first trip away from home after leaving the hospital. In fact, if she had turned around, you would see that her face still bore the effects of her injuries. A full recovery was still months away.
God is so good.