Living: Thirty Years After Tragedy


Today I am on a beach in Barbados.

Today I am nearly three thousand miles from home.  Far from the pastures and wheat fields of Oklahoma.  Far from the country dirt roads.  Far from the environment containing every element of the tragedy that changed life forever. 

I’m far away, but the memories are close with me.

The memories of what happened thirty years ago this April 27th day.  

Today my eyes squint from the bright beautiful sunlight.  Thirty years ago my eyes were squinting from the cloud of dust stinging them.

Today my body feels the gentle warmth of the sun.  Thirty years ago my body felt the consuming heat of flames burning it.

Today I lay on the beach holding my husband’s comforting hand.  Thirty years ago I laid on a road, holding the comforting hand of a stranger telling me everything would be okay.


How could everything be okay?

Jon and I were riding our motorcycle back home from visiting friends.  We were farther from home than allowed; moreover, we were out on the dirt roads.  But never could anyone imagine us colliding with a truck head on. 

Jon couldn’t see.  We traveled in the dust stirred from the truck in front of us.  Jon made small swerves to the left and the right, to the left and the right, to the left and the right.  I placed my left cheek against his back; my hands clasped together as my arms were wrapped tightly around his waist.  We should have stopped.  We should have waited for the dust to settle.  One decision thirty years ago would have changed every day since.  But we didn’t stop.  Jon made his last swerve to the left and we hit an oncoming truck.  Our bodies flew.  A fire ignited. 

Tragedy marked our lives April 27th 1988.  And one thing I’ve learned about tragedy is it never goes away. 

So many things may pass with time, but not tragedy.  Had it just been an accident we would have waited.  Waited for the repairs to be made, waited for the broken things to heal, waited for the present to fade into distant memories of the past. 

But this. 

This wasn’t just an accident.  This was tragedy.  Rendering a graveside of a nine-year-old boy and burn scars of a seven-year-old girl. Those aren’t memories allowed to fade.  Those are reminders.  Everyday reminders of what happened this April 27th day of 1988. 

Today, I’m on a beach in Barbados.  Today life feels serene, peaceful and beautiful with a hint of luxury and indulgence.  Still yet, people stare.  They try not to, but they notice me.  They see my scarred body knowing something happened, but having the faintest consideration that it happened this very day, thirty years ago.  They have no idea the loss was far greater than my body. The loss was my brother.  My brother I still love and long to remember from thirty years past—the only place I have him until we see one another again in eternity.

It’s a past I think about every single day.  Not just today on the thirty-year anniversary.  The memories are etched into my flesh.  Evidence I’ve carried every day since, and every day to come until this life is done.

However, these scars aren’t symbols of loss but of hope. 

The scars tell a story of incredible darkness followed by an overwhelmingly beautiful light. This story isn’t one about forgetting, moving on, putting it behind me.  Sometimes we simply don’t get that option.  This story is about living to the fullest in the midst of the most empty.  April 27th 1988 will never be put in the past.  That day was part of the day I got married, the day I had my children. That day has been a part of every single monumental day as well as the uneventful day-to-day moments.

With every single sunrise I am reminded of this great loss and God’s magnificent love in light of it.  He took the most tragic and transformed it into something good.

Only He could do that.

And He loves you enough to do the same.

I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.  Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:  The faithful love of the Lord never ends!  His mercies never cease.  Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!” Lamentations 3:20-24 NLT

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