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.
Gloria Keeney says
Carolyn, please accept these heart-felt sympathies for your loss. Thank you for putting into words another of life’s lessons for your readers. It takes so much more to reach out this way while you are still enveloped in the darkness of loss. It’s important for us to know these details surrounding the accident in order to absorb, if slowly, the knowledge that indeed :”Tragedy strikes and it’s nobody’s fault.” I pray that your faith brings you to a place of acceptance and eases your grief.
Judy Mackenzie says
Carolyn: I am so deeply sorry for your tragic loss. I too lost a close and dear friend a few years ago as suddenly. My heart goes out to you. Judy
Cynthia Martens says
Kate’s death is so seemly random, tragic, and in my mind cruel. There doesn’t seem to be any answers – only questions. But your blog is a good reminder that even when we make plans A, B, C, D, etc. that ultimately we are not in control. When we understand that it helps us accept the hard things in life – the bad, the ugly, and the unanswerable. But acknowledging that we are not in control also reminds us to give thanks for the blessings we may not notice because we’re too busy making plans. Cindy
I read your note describing your friend and fellow traveler, Kate. As I came to line ” On Thursday, she died,” I thought to myself that no, “on Thursday, she was set free”. On Thursday, you and her community experienced death but she is experiencing life. . . very hard to to receive, I know. You are grieving now but only for a little while. Some friends of Jesus did the same on two occasions (the death of Lazarus and the crucifixion) but in both instances their sorrow turned to joy. Someday your sorrow will be turned as well. I pray that you’ll rest at this time in the arms of the one who is now holding your Kate and that you’ll receive His whispers of reassurance about the mysteries of life and death that only He can speak knowledgeably about. My condolences to you as well as the family and Kate’s community of brothers and sisters. Much love to you all in and from Him who loves you all. Teresa
Louisa Weinrib says
Carolyn, you have my sympathy for the loss of your friend. I hope you are gaining some much needed tranquility both from your faith and from the cycles of nature you see in the beautiful Delaware wetlands. What happened to Kate is to me a perfect example of “when bad things happen to good people”, and maybe reading Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book will help you. A year ago I lost my 1st cousin in a freak accident; she is still sadly on my mind, but I have reached acceptance of what I can’t change, try to dwell on happy memories we shared, and stay in close contact with her surviving family. Louisa
Your words help me now also as I’m reeling from Kate’s accident & death. It’s so hard to even absorb. I believe Kate is at peace; we are the ones now suffering. Thank you Carolyn…E.
Beautifully written, Carolyn. As we find our way through these shaky first days without Kate, I am reminded of how blessed we are to have a community who helps us learn to receive and also let go–make plans and also accept the disruptions. Your words have opened my heart. Thank you.
Thank you to everyone who wrote such heartfelt comments. They touch my heart.