Today I am not writing with my typical sarcastic, oddball style. Today I write with a heavy heart, but I needed to write nonetheless.
On Monday we received the unfathomable news that Rachel, the 11 year old daughter of our friends, was killed in a freak accident. She was swinging on a tree swing at their family’s farm, a place she adored, when the branch broke. I can’t even type the rest.
I haven’t stopped thinking about and mourning for this family since I heard the news that left me breathless and at a loss for words. It took the long car ride to the funeral this weekend to try to find them.
As humans, we are always seeking to find answers to help us make sense of the world. When I search for an answer of why this ever could have happened to such an amazing girl and her beautiful family, I come up empty. Frankly, I don’t think there ever could be an answer that would satisfy this heartbreaking question.
On our journey to southern Indiana, my husband and I listened to the audiobook of Bill Bryson’s, A Short History of Nearly Everything. In it he talks about the beginning of the universe, the atoms of which everything is made, evolution and the incomprehensible amount of time it took for us as humans to evolve to this point in history. As you take time to think about it and put it into perspective, it’s humbling to realize what a small flash our lives are in the history and space of the world.
But as I think about Rachel, and from listening to the beautiful, funny stories her parents shared at her funeral, I realized that she knew how to live life. She was full of adventure, tenacity, resilience, curiosity and so much love. She took on life full-tilt. My dad would have called her “‘lightning in a bottle” — infinite energy just waiting to escape and do amazing things. She was over-the-moon excited that the Boy Scouts were finally letting girls join, because Boy Scouts got to go on bigger, more exciting adventures than Girl Scouts.
Today I write not only to share the incredible soul our world has lost, but also the lessons I have learned and how we can continue Rachel’s legacy.
I have learned …
- I need to go on more adventures with my family. Rachel’s parents encouraged this in her and took Rachel and her brother on camping trips, hikes, new places and just let them explore. I need to do more of this by getting over my anxiety and hangups and just DO things. (Okay, maybe not roller skating again, but…)
- I need to let things go. So often I get wrapped up in the little things that I’m not enjoying the big picture. I need to put down my electronic devices, step away from the stupid stuff I get stuck in and just BE with my kids more often.
- I need to take more family pictures. As I looked at all the pictures displayed at the visitation, I realized we don’t have enough pictures of our kids and our family. Maybe if we actually went on more adventures, we could solve that problem. Maybe we don’t have enough pictures of memories because we haven’t been making enough of them.
Rachel’s aunt said something very important during the funeral. She knew that Rachel was going to be a woman who would make history, but that potential was taken far too soon. It is our job to make the difference in the world that Rachel won’t be able to. I’m not sure what that is at this very moment, but I’m going to try. I challenge you to do the same.
So as I grieve with our friends as they try to put together the pieces of their lives that have shattered and will never be whole again, I leave you with this reminder: hug your loved ones a little longer, read that extra story at bedtime, forgive more quickly, and live your life with purpose so that we can teach others to do the same. For maybe this will help Rachel’s light to shine on longer.