A sheriff came to my door the other day.
I watched, dust cloth in hand, as he casually pulled down the narrow street, slowed, and maneuvered his vehicle into my crowded driveway.
In those halting moments I watched, incredulous, while my heart took inventory of where my children were.
One, on the train to a Red Sox game.
The second, visiting relatives in another state.
The third, getting hours for drivers ed.
I watched, frozen, as he got out of the cruiser and adjusted his sunglasses, prayingprayingpraying Jesus let them be okay, let them be okay, let them be okay.
By the time I forced my feet to the front door, my eyes had filled and I stood trembling, waiting to hear if (again) the future I thought I knew would be exchanged for one that I had never asked for, never expected, never wanted.
The trooper’s puzzled expression softened as I blurted out the explanation, that last time, a year and an eternity ago, when police showed up at my door.
What is the legal limit on grief?
How much is too much, how long too long, how deep too deep?
Because the thing about grief is you never know what might trigger. When opening the wrong drawer can cause collapse or a credit card offer addressed to your lost boy, despair.
How do you not frighten the youngest when he finally arrives home, whole, and you rush to embrace him, sobbing?
I was just driving, Mom, forthelove.
No. Such. Thing.
Because he was there, that other day, mowing the lawn when the police came and everything changed forever.
Sometimes – most of the time – always – all you can do is grab hold of the hem of Jesus’s robe and whisper truth over yourself.
He is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Be strong and very courageous for I am with you.
Be still and know that I am God.
Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
These promises fortify when our collective hearts hurt and give us strength for the moments that catch us off guard.
Because the thing is – and here is something I can barely admit – it could have been – the accident – it could have been so much worse.
You see, when my son crashed his car into a tree, he was beyond the legal limit.
There is nothing I can say that will change this sad truth, but not saying it when maybe, just maybe, it might keep you or your son or your friend or your brother from similar tragedy seems the height of irresponsibility.
How I wish I could go back to that day and remind him of all the times I told him Iwillcomegetyounoquestionsasked just pleasepleasepleaseplease don’t get behind the wheel when you’ve had too much to drink.
When the police came to the house to tell me there had been an accident, they weren’t sure at first who the driver was, and for a fleeting moment I thought, perhaps, it wasn’t him.
Imagine, though (speaking of wishes) wanting the dead driver to be somebody else’s son.
How could I – ?
I could not. I can not.
Instead, the one miraculous thing about that day is that even when it turns out he had driven close to 40 miles at speeds too terrible to contemplate, not one other person was harmed. He had been alone in his folly, and God protected the other motorists from his reckless choice.
I am thankful for that.
What my son did is irrevocable. I cannot change it, though it forever changed me.
We cannot control how other people hurt themselves, or us, or those that we love.
As I struggle to find the grace to live within these new boundaries that God has placed around me, I wonder how many people I have hurt with my own carelessness or intent.
All I can do, all any of us can do, is approach His throne, sometimes running, sometimes just barely crawling, confident that there is mercy and grace there for all of this messy broken, these jagged edges.
My son did not wake up that fateful day and think today I am going to die.
But because he knew Jesus, because, from a young age, he had grabbed hold of that merciful hem, those of us left behind can be free from the kind of crushing grief that is, in itself, a kind of living death.
It’s the kind of freedom that covers and enables and empowers us – to forgive and ask for forgiveness, to live focused on the next world while still having stumbly feet in this one, to have the kind of longsuffering love that is forgetful and patient and kind.
To caution others, for the time is always shorter than we think, but it’s never too late to celebrate your independence day.
Luckily, the sheriff that came to my door this past week was simply looking for the previous owner, some other legal matter.
There is the robe.