Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Very Sad Day

Sometimes, after a trip, there's a period where you sort of ease back to your regular life and routine. You remember what it's like to make your own coffee, and make your own bed, and somehow cook supper for your family while simultaneously washing a load of clothes, cleaning out the pantry, catching up with your husband, and tending to a little one's skinned knee. Somehow, eventually, the routine takes over, and vacation mode dissipates, and life as normal resumes over a period of a few hours, or a day, or two days. It just happens.

But sometimes life just smacks you in the face with the right hook of reality. That happened to me this morning around 1 AM.

It's funny how when bad things happen, your brain jumps into some kind of "life highlight" mode - and suddenly events or conversations that seemed inconsequential two or five or fifteen years ago take on a whole new meaning, develop a whole new relevance, almost as if God was somehow preparing you and the people around you - in the middle of a seemingly insignificant moment - for what's down the road. It's not quite like a big flashing's more like a little metal plaque, attached to an old tree or a fence, that gently prepares you for the fact that there might be a little bit of a curve ahead, or a slight detour, or a bump in the road that you weren't necessarily expecting.

When I was in college, one of the first forever friends who crossed my path was Elise. And one of the most memorable parts of Elise's time in college - and something I talked about briefly in the post I just linked to - is that when we were freshmen, she fell head over heels for a guy named Paul. He fell right back. 'Bout near fell over, in fact. I have never seen two people more perfect for each other, and like I told Elise just a few minutes ago, Paul has loved her totally and completely from the moment he met her.

Elise and P-Dub, as everybody calls him, have been sort of a touchstone couple for the rest of us. They were the first of our friends to get married, the first to buy a house, the first to have a baby. They have been fiercely, wildly, and unashamedly devoted to each other for almost 20 years. They have three beautiful boys, and they have parented with intention and devotion. I know that the adjective is inadequate, but there's something so special about Elise and Paul's relationship, about the way they've approached their marriage and their family. AND they're hysterical, which is always a plus in my book. Funny is good.

One night when E. and I were sophomores at State, we were sitting on a couch in the back hall of the sorority house where we lived. Sorority house living was NOT for E., by the way, who needed a little bit more "personal space" than living with 39 other girls afforded, but we had us some mighty fine conversations on that little Queen Anne settee, long after the other girls had gone to sleep.

On that particular night, I was telling E. about a tragic situation my cousin had recently faced, and I will never, ever forget how deeply moved she was by the story. Huge tears streamed down her face, and as we talked about what had happened, she looked at me and said, "I do not know what I would do if something happened to Paul. I cannot imagine it." For some reason the intensity with which she said that has stayed with me...I guess because I knew that she meant it from the deepest part of her heart, and I think it surprised me a little bit to see such a fierce level of love from someone my own age.

About ten years later, during a beach trip to Paul's parents' condo, Elise and I were walking down the beach, a few feet behind some of our other friends. I mentioned how fortunate we all were, how blessed we'd all been, because up to that point none of us had experienced any real tragedy. No one was divorced, no one was sick, everyone's children and spouses were healthy. I said, "You know, it's strange, really, that none of us have had to deal with anything earth-shattering." And Elise, never missing a step, kind of squinted at me and said, "Yeah, that's true. But it's bound to happen. You know it'll happen. Don't you think? Eventually?"

Both of those conversations have played in my head since a little before 1 this morning - over and over again. It's weird to me that I remember them so vividly - and borderline ironic in light of the last 24 hours.

Last night, at the place they're visiting on vacation, Paul was involved in a freak accident that I won't even attempt to describe - I'm too scared I'll get something wrong or misrepresent what happened - but the bottom line is that he was airlifted to a hospital, and put on a ventilator, and suddenly Elise finds herself smack dab in the middle of her worst nightmare. Paul's condition is unchanged since last night - the doctors compare his head injury to something a person might experience in a high-impact car crash. It's pretty grim.

I'll be gone for a few days so that my friends and I can be where Elise needs us, when she needs us. I know I've written over and over again about how special my friends are to me, and I'm telling you - when hard times hit, our group rallies. It's an almost unthinking loyalty that we have for each other - and it's one of the biggest blessings in all of our lives. So if you think about it, pray for our safe travel and that we would be a comfort to our sweet friend and her family...that we would know what to say in the middle of a situation where words alone will never be enough.

And here's what we ALL know for sure: God is Sovereign. None of this is a surprise to Him...He knew that He would allow this accident before Paul was even born. Elise finds comfort in that - she and Paul are both believers - and she says that she can feel people's prayers surrounding her. So please, when her situation comes to mind, pray. For her, for her boys, and for her husband. Prayer has been her consistent request all day long. The next 36 hours are going to be very critical...and Elise is going to need discernment and wisdom and God's perfect peace more than ever. I know she will be so grateful for your prayers.

I'll keep y'all posted.

Update: Earlier tonight, Paul went home to be with the Lord. Please keep Elise and her sweet boys in your prayers.


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