As I wrote here last week, on the night of November 15, three girls who are juniors in high school and friends of my daughter, Annie, were in a serious head-on car accident. Sadly, the accident was caused by a teen driver who was in the wrong lane. Miraculously, the passengers in two of the cars were unhurt. As far as the girls who were in the car, in the wrong lane: the driver had to be cut out of the car and taken to the hospital where she stayed for a day or two, the front seat passenger got out of the car by herself, was checked out at the hospital and released; and the third passenger, Katie, was in the back seat. She is still in the hospital in a coma and has had surgeries to repair her pelvis and bladder.
I am so sad for the girls, their families and friends.
It would be easy to judge the 16-year-old driver who set these events in motion. I’m not going to do that. She is hurting enough. No one can punish her as harshly as she is punishing herself. One of her best friends is still in the hospital. Just like any mother, I want to shake this girl and say “what on earth were you thinking?” and then squeeze her and beg her to forgive herself. Don’t let this event define her but allow herself to learn from it and to teach others from her experience.
I pulled way too many stupid teenage driving tricks back in the ’80s to get too high and mighty about a horrible situation like this. When I was 16, I was driving to a volleyball game at Oregon City High School, to the south of Lake Oswego. I was confused about which ramp to take to get where I wanted to go. When I reached the end of the ramp and realized I was about to get on a freeway that I did not want to be on, I made a quick decision. What did I do? I turned the big old station wagon around and drove BACK DOWN the ramp, against traffic. I sure did! Nope, I wasn’t hit by a semi. There wasn’t another car in sight! I could go on and on about stupid things I’ve done behind the wheel of a car but I think I’ve made my point. My number hasn’t come up. Sometimes, that’s just how it goes.
So the poor driver of the car in the accident two weeks ago, could have made it back to her lane and gone on with the evening. But that’s not what happened. There was another car. It’s just how it goes.
My heart breaks everyday for Katie’s family. I think of her mother sitting next to her daughter’s hospital bed praying, begging for her to open her eyes, to be okay. I imagine her disbelief. This can’t be my daughter! This is NOT what was supposed to happen, don’t let this be happening. Last week, I was thinking about this while walking into the house after work and my breath caught in my chest. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I felt this horrible desperation. I don’t even know these people but I want to scream and shake somebody, fix this girl! Make this stop. Heal her and make her whole. She’s only 17.
The Power of Prayer. The POWER of PRAYER. I have heard those words plenty and typically scoffed at them. I was raised a Catholic and still practice the faith. I was taught to say my prayers at night, “Bless Annie and Brigid and Deren and Q and John and Katie and Molly, Matt and Sebastian and on and on.” I’ve prayed to not get in trouble. I’ve prayed to get a job or pass a test. I’ve prayed that he would like me or that I would get that new sweater.
But the Power of Prayer? I don’t know about that.
Years ago, a priest during mass asked parishioners to “pray for those in your family who have left their faith that they will return to the Church.” Or something like that. I thought to myself, “Or I could just go call whoever it is and say, ‘get back to church!” Who needs to pray when there are cell phones?
As I have aged, I have become more aware of my own helplessness. I can do what I can do. I can do my best to raise kind and responsible children. I can donate time and money and clothes and hope that it helps someone somewhere. But I am just me and I have learned I don’t have the power to fix everything as a younger, more foolish me once believed.
Over the past 10 days, I have learned the power of prayer. Of quiet, fervent, sincere prayer. I’m not the most regular church goer but I go. Last week I went to two rosaries and to Mass. I had Sunday’s Mass said for Katie and her family. What else can I do? These families don’t need casseroles or gift baskets or all the wine I can fit in my car, they need their girls to heal physically and emotionally.
I can pray.
I will renew you, so you can soar. Isaiah 40:29-31
I have never seen a spiritual outpouring like the one I have seen in the past 10 days. There is a Facebook page for Katie. There is a CaringBridge page. Say what you will about Facebook, but people are writing their hearts and prayers on that site. Words from friends and family and classmates and strangers pour in hourly. And that’s what can be done….hope, inspire, encourage. That’s all. There are people in Lake Oswego and Portland, all over Oregon and the West Coast, around the U.S. and around the world praying for Katie and the other two girls (I am not mentioning them by name because their names are not out in the public realm like Katie’s is and it’s not up to me to put them there.)
Every night, every morning, it seems almost always… I am praying and hoping she will be okay.
The doctors said that they have seen signs that Katie may be healing, coming back. There is hope!
Why do reminders have to be so harsh? I don’t often need to be reminded to be thankful. Sometimes I need perspective. I need to realize that what is an inconvenience is just that. It’s not the end of the world, it’s simply a hassle. Last night Derwood and I walked Mudd around the circle. The neighborhood was quiet, the sky clear and full of stars. It was cold but I had on gloves and a jacket. It was just a walk around the circle and I thought, “This is so easy, it’s so nice. I am so lucky.”
Here in the U.S. on Thursday people will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. A holiday, like so many here, that has lost its meaning to food and a day or two off work. I will do my best to remember all I have to be thankful for….I will have my children safe and warm and with me. I will know my loved ones are healthy and well-fed! I will be robustly grateful for God’s blessings and I will continue to pray that He will bless Katie and her family and all the families touched by this accident. Because that’s what I can do.