Tragedy and Learning

I am thinking of a child today, one I never had the pleasure of knowing, but who has forever changed the relationship I have with my children.  Last weekend, he was tragically killed when struck by a golf-cart-like vehicle during a Boy Scouts outing at a state park.   His unresponding body was taken away by ambulance, but everyone already knew the painful truth — he had not survived the accident.  It was a freak accident that could have happened to any one of our children.

My tennis team captain and her son were there as it unfolded, she being the one to call 911.  I learned every detail of the event as she retold the story to me earlier this week.  Nearly all of the tennis team knew the family personally, my partner’s twin son and daughter were his best friends.

Today, services are being held and loved ones are saying their final goodbyes to a 5th grader.  I am sending love and prayers for his family and all of the friends who miss him so, for the poor woman driving the cart whose life is forever changed by being perfectly in the wrong place at perfectly the wrong time.

I am also considering my own children, how precious life is, how we as parents work to turn tragedy into knowledge, hoping to prevent a recurrence.

Boys being boys, one — pulling away from a cajoling friend between two cars in a parking lot — thoughtlessly jumped backward, just beyond the back bumpers of the cars, just enough to meet up with a vehicle passing at the exact moment.  A split second was all it took.  Being struck by a slow-moving cart wasn’t the cause of his fatal injury; his head’s violent contact with the ground sealed his fate.  The child’s face frozen in a signature smirk, his friends poked and urged him to get up and quit goofing off already.   They had no idea that he (most likely) was already dead.

There is no easy way to tell a story like that to four young children — one of which is the same age as the deceased — but it’s a parent’s job to review and teach, especially when it’s the “hard stuff.” Going to the whiteboard, recounting the steps leading up to the incident, the kids could clearly see how a seemingly innocuous series of events could lead to such a tragic outcome.  We all have a renewed respect of the vehicle’s place in the road and why Mom and Dad are always so vigilant when it comes to parking lots and child safety.  In a wide open space with a lot of parked cars, it’s easy to let your guard down.

On Monday, my teammates needed the distraction from the weekend.  A regularly scheduled doubles league match, Terminetters were the first place team going in, but understandably, we lost all four lines.  My partner, whose son and daughter knew the child directly, had a particularly hard time playing; there was simply no fight left in us to claim a victory. Immediately following the match she broke down and wept.

“I lost one of my children this weekend!” she sobbed into my shoulder.  “How could this happen?”

I embraced her in a full-body hug, the comforting, protecting, motherly kind.  My grieving can wait for another time, once the freshness of the event has worn off.

But for the time being, I will love and enjoy life just a bit stronger than usual.

16 thoughts on “Tragedy and Learning

  1. Such a sad, sad event but you were wise and strong to set aside your grief for a time and offer such comfort as you could. This post brought bright tears to my eyes. Tragedies are awful times but they can remind us to love even deeper and cherish life even more than before, as you concluded so eloquently. Thank you for this heartfelt post. ~Gina

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  2. A similar tragedy occured here on base with a small child while my husband was out at sea. There are no words. No words. It makes you hug your child a little harder, I find I stare at him a little longer and shower him with kisses more since he got back. I call my family members more frequently. The sunsets are more golden. Coffee tastes better. The small things don’t seem so significant all of a sudden. Life and each other are all that matter, not the steak sauce I spilled in the floor that splattered all over the wall. I didn’t even get mad like I normally would. Give those babies of yours extra good-night kisses tonight.

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  3. That is so sad. My thoughts go to the boy’s family and friends. It is good to be able to use a tragedy like this for learning but also always to allow that freak accidents will happen and kids will always goof about. Striking the balance between caution and risk-taking is the real challenge we face as parents, I think.

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  4. Shannon,
    This, indeed, brought tears to my eyes as I think of the family and friends involved, as well as my own children the same age. I also think about the driver who’s life is forever changed. May we all learn something from this tragedy- I know I will.

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  5. Oh this is horrible… There are14 kids living on our short two block street. All of us adults constantly worry over these kids as they play on and near the street. Its these kinds of stories that remind us WHY we worry….

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