I’m looking out from the deck of my beach house in Delaware at the wild wetlands behind, struggling to digest an enormous dumpling of grief.
A week ago today (on Saturday, July 23) my vibrant, fit, generous friend Kate fell off her bike in Rock Creek Park and woke up in the ICU of Washington Hospital Center, paralyzed from the neck down. Unable to speak but fully conscious, she could only blink yes or no.
On Thursday she died.
Kate was a leader in my faith community, and we’re all stunned. Any death is disorienting, but one so random and unexpected is especially hard to absorb.
One of my personal mottoes is “Plan ahead. Work your plan. But always have a Plan B. And C.” It’s a way to try to exert some control over the future.
Kate planned ahead. She wore a helmet. She was an experienced biker. Last Saturday she chose to ride early in the morning before the sun was too hot or the traffic too thick. She was riding on a bike path, not the street. But an obstruction in the path forced her (and other bikers) to go on the grass. She hit some kind of bump in the ground and it killed her.
At Tough Conversations we advocate planning ahead. We still think that’s important. But we all need the humility to recognize life is fragile. Sometimes we simply have to acknowledge that we’re not ultimately in charge. Our best plans can be swept away by a tsunami or a nuclear meltdown or a bike accident. Tragedy strikes and it’s nobody’s fault.
Sometimes simple acceptance is the only path to a measure of peace.