Monday, October 18, 2010

Caramel Apples and Tissue Paper Life

I stood in the midway at the North Carolina State Fair, head spinning.
Was it the Tilt-a-Whirl that had my stomach churning, whipping me and Sam in blurry loops and twirls as we steeled ourselves against each other, laughing and screaming at the same time?

Or it might have been something else. Leftover terror and panic and joy spun up together, still reverberating, vibrating in the core of my heart, 2 1/2 days later.

Just Wednesday night I was driving through the dark on a road I've never traveled before, searching for the car that backed out of my driveway just a few hours earlier.
I was chatting with my neighbor when he pulled out onto the street.
I'd mouthed, "Love you."
"You too," Ben nodded and waved goodbye.

Then a few hours later, Sarah sat beside me in the passenger seat as I drove, squinting through the darkness for a glint of his white car.
"Should I call Daddy?"
No, It was almost 3 AM in France. He couldn't do anything from his hotel room except stew and worry. Ben had made it clear on a stranger's phone that he and Ellison made it out okay. Might as well let Todd sleep until it's over.

"Is that it?" I say, scanning the edge of a farmer's field.
"No," she said. "I don't think that's a car."
It wasn't. It was white paint on a cinder block shed.
My brain conjured up the screeching, the explosion as the roof hit the asphalt, the crunching, glass breaking.
I searched the darkness, praying.

Then we saw it, first only the policeman's blue light in the distance.
There was the car, upside down on the road, shattered glass around it, blue glitter as the police light turned. The two figures standing by the guardrail in the darkness.
Two beautiful figures.

Thank you, God.
They crawled out. They were fine.
Thank you, God.

It's so strange how life happens.
One day, everything is ordinary. I'm doing laundry, making banana pudding.
Sarah comes home for fall break. We pack for the trip to Raleigh. Ben is going to stay home and work on college applications, and I'm giving a talk at the beloved church of my childhood. Everything is ordinary.

The title of my talk comes to mind and I have to laugh a little.
Bumping into Jesus: Surprise Encounters with the God of Wonders
It was about meeting God through the least of these, children and the poor, the homeless and the sick. But Bumping into Jesus? Not yet, God! Lets keep the boy's feet on the earth right now.
Let's put my 18 year old son in a little box on my coffee table. Keep him safe. Open the lid now and then and say hello.

One day, everything is normal. And then the next, my child and his sweet girlfriend crawl out of his upside down car, on a highway in the middle of nowhere.

Life feels tissue paper thin.

Someone tells me how lucky we are and I say yes, yes, yes.
Someone tells me God saved him, and I say yes, thank you, God. But then I think of Gordon.

Gordon had beautiful olive skin and dark hair. I was his babysitter when he was small. He and his little brother liked to play spaceship. We'd take off our shoes and stand in the shower stall for take off. He'd do the countdown and we'd take off!
By my senior year in high school he was in 6th grade, and I remember how much he loved to make kids in the youth group laugh. I went to college, got married, and moved away, but one day my mom called me about Gordon. He was killed in an accident his freshman year at UNC. Time stopped for his family. Their foursome became three.

God didn't save Gordon.
Did God really save Ben? I don't know. My inclination today is no.

I have a hard time believing in a God who decides to save one and not another.
But I do believe in God, with everything I have.
My God surrounds us with his love, helps us hobble through this life, helps us run through it, dance through it. Helps us puzzle our way through the mystery of it all.
I don't have to understand everything, but I'm grateful. So very grateful.

I stand in the midway, and I see my feet on the asphalt. Sarah's feet, Sam's, my mom's and my dad's. I'm thankful for Ben's feet on the ground back home, and Ellison's feet on the ground where she is, and my husband's feet in Paris.

I smell the polish sausage and the deep fried twinkies, and I hear the barker guess the age of the teenage girl clutching the giant pink elephant, and I feel like quite the lucky lady.
I'm loved and in love.

I send much love to you!

Photo by grrrrl, creative commons


Roxane B. Salonen said... story, your beautiful rendition of this, the fragility of life that I feel too, though not quite so dramatically. But I feel it coming on the horizon, sooner than I'm ready. I know it's coming...something big, drama, huge issues that result from our being open to this bustling family; a family that is sure to experience its share of heartache. A family that already has, but is not yet done living and experiencing and growing and suffering and loving. Thanks for putting it so beautifully.

Jane said...

Becky -

P. told me about the accident so I thought of you many times last week. Glad to hear everyone was OK. If you ever need anything - don't hesitate to call us, we can and will even take care of slobbery dogs!


lotusgirl said...

Alright. I have tears in my eyes. I'm so glad that Ben and Ellison are safe. Beautifully told.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Terrifying. I'm glad he's safe. God has his hand on him. Now, the great part will be to learn why! What's planned next for him that this experience has prepared him to encounter?

n. davis rosback said...

i is very strange to me how life happens.

Laura said...

I feel the impact of this story. Sometimes, time stops. I think these deep inhalations are the times when God is closest of all. It never makes sense. I agree. Or does it?

Together We Save said...

So glad he is safe!

Laura said...

Oh, Becky. I read this with one hand over my mouth and a huge lump in my throat.

You're right -- we don't have to understand. So thankful.

Thanks for sharing the moment with us.

steve said...

give that boy a hug from me.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Thanks, y'all, so much.
We're all quite exhausted at the moment--and still working on the asthma thing too with a new doc and a marathon appointment today. Things will get better!

Dawn said...

So thankful to read that everyone was ok. And so thankful to read what you said about God and why he chooses to 'save' some lives and not others. I've come across this often and it's such a difficult thing to explain. Thank you!

Angie Muresan said...

Oh Becky, what a post. I am so happy that your son is safe. Life is so fragile that every day alive and healthy is a blessing. Sending love and hugs to you.

Sharon said...

Lots of hugs, Becky, as you breathe somewhat normally again. I'm grateful that they are safe!

You say it better than I can, because sometimes I just want to say (shout?) "Leave God out of it!" when people want to give God credit for the save, on the one hand, and then want to give God some kind of strange motives for "taking" someone by orchestrating the tragic outcome.

And yet God is always in it, in the love, wherever that is found, in the life, on both sides of the grave, and in our awareness. You made me think again about these paradoxes. I give thanks in an extra-deep way this morning for life itself.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

This is so well written. I don't know if God saved your son or not. I do believe God has a plan for our lives. If His plans have your son in them, I guess he did save him in my mind.

Amy Sullivan said...

Yes, life is tissue paper thin. Two high schoolers in a neighboring county were killed this past weekend. My heart aches for those young lives taken with so much left to live, and my heart rejoices for your son and his girlfriend.

Tissue paper thin, yes.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Really, thank you for your thoughts and all the hugs across the miles. I'm sending one back to you!

Natalie said...

I share your gratitude, relief.
The world can change in a moment.
I am glad yours is safe.

Kat said...

Oh that is just so scary. Life does feel tissue paper thin at times, doesn't it? I fight that thought from crippling me at times.

I am so glad they are okay. Thank God.

In the past week three teenagers from my town were killed in two seperate car accidents. Just devastating.

So glad they are both safe.

Silicon Valley Diva said...

Thank heavens your son and his girlfriend are okay!
I am so glad they escaped unscathed.

So sorry to hear that your childhood friend wasn't so lucky :-(.

Daricia said...

just catching up with your blog, becky. (should i call you that? i usually say rebecca.). anyway, it is wonderful that everyone is well and that you are weathering the stress okay. i agree with you about god saving some and not others, though. that sort of thinking makes it much harder for those whose loved ones do not survive, doesnt it. i am so glad you write. it is like unwrapping a present whenever i come here.

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh my goodness ... I just read your current post for today, and had to go searching for what happened to Ben. My heart just about stopped beating ... every parent's worst fear. I am SO thankful he and his girlfriend made it out OK ... so, so very thankful.

c h a n t i l e said...

Oh my goodness! I am SO grateful they were alright! I remember the feeling I had when my brother was in an accident, how I felt waiting to know if he was ok. I truly know how God's hands are in our lives--especially when you see the cars loved ones have crawled out of.

So sorry to only be reading this now, I've been gone and haven't had internet, and am trying to catch up. I am so glad to read that everything is ok, but I will still send my prayers gratitude for their safety, even though it's weeks later!