Friday, January 5, 2007

Holidays, Tragedies and Resolutions

I'm Donna Hatch, pre-published author of many full-length novels, wife of 19 years, mother of six children ranging in ages of 17 to 4, member of "Romance Writers of America" and "American Night Writers Association." I have two manuscripts, a Regency Romance and a Fantasy Romance, (No, I don't mean fantasy as in erotica, I mean fantasy as in magic and stuff), that have been chosen as finalists in two writing contests. It is my hope that finaling will lead to publication for one or both.

The holidays have been a bitter-sweet event this year for our family. My seventeen-year-old nephew, Jacob, and my daughter’s fifteen-year-old friend, Stephanie, were out riding ATV’s down a country road - without helmets and with both of them on the same ATV; both big no-no’s. Another teen riding along beside them (or possibly racing them) wiped out and Jacob swerved to avoid him. Both Jacob and Stephanie were thrown and suffered major injuries, numerous broken bones, and severe head trauma. Both were air-lifted to a hospital in the nearest city. Stephanie never regained consciousness and there was absolutely no brain activity. She died moments after being taken off of life support. Jacob is making slow progress, but will never be the same, both because of his injuries and his emotional trauma.

You may ask; why the depressing story?

My answer; for several reasons, but mostly because I want to share what I have learned from this experience.

First, the practical; never, ever think you are to smart, or too isolated, or too lucky to ignore safety recommendations.
If Jacob and Stephanie hadn’t both been riding on the same ATV, they might not have wiped out as badly, and she would not have been thrown as far. If they had worn helmets, their injuries would not have been fatal in her case, or as severe in his.

Second; never look for someone to blame for your problems.
We must not blame people. I feared that others would blame Jacob for Stephanie’s injuries and death. During one of his more lucid moments, Jacob told Stephanie’s mother that he was sorry and that he never meant to hurt her daughter. She never once thought to accuse him, or hold him responsible for the accident. She assured him she holds him blameless. Their family has been loving and sympathetic to Jacob and his family.
We must not blame God. He is not responsible for trials and we are weak and foolish to blame Him. There was a quote at Stephanie’s funeral that said something like this, and I paraphrase; “Sometimes God calms the storm to soothe the child. Sometimes He lets the storm rage, and comforts the child.” Protecting us from all trails will not help us grow. Trials are a part of mortality, and only He knows what is needed to help us grow into the people we are meant to be.

Third; live our life each day so that if we are suddenly called home, we will be worthy to go there.
Never, ever put off repentance until tomorrow; we may not live in mortality that long. It is a lie that “only the good die young”; the bad and the in-between die too. It is only the good that we mourn so deeply, miss them so much, feel the tragedy so poignantly.

Fourth; Immerse yourself in service to your fellow man.
It is by serving others that we can hope to be worthy of God’s Grace to save us. Everyone who loved Stephanie remembers her friendliness, her willingness to serve, and how she loved and included everyone.

Fifth; Write your thoughts in your journal.
Much of Stephanie’s life would have been lost if she didn’t record her experiences in her journal. She recorded embarrassing moments, sweet moments, spiritual moments, goals, dreams, hopes. Many of those were unknown to her family.

Sixth; We are not in charge.
Thinking we are the masters of our own destiny is arrogant. All it takes is an act of nature such as a storm or an earthquake to remind us how small we really are. Or a death of a loved one. Wouldn’t you rather trust an experienced, all-knowing, all-powerful guide to bring you safely through the wilderness, than just someone who claims they know the way, or who tells you to “do what feels right?” Only when we take God’s hand and let Him guide us can we hope to know where we are going and how we can get there. It is His plan. Not ours. And truly, that is the source of all comfort.

Seventh; hug your loved ones.
Never lose an opportunity to express love or appreciation. Read your child that extra story she requests, rather than just rush her off to bed so you can finally have time to do what you want (like write, in my case). Stay up late to listen to a teen who suddenly wants to talk even though you need to get up early the next morning. Call your elderly parent who forgets what he’s already told you and tells you the same things over and over again. Be there for your loved ones. Let them know you love them by speaking their language. Life is short. Don’t waste those moments with the ones who matter most.

During this time of resolutions of losing weight, getting in shape, or finishing that project, make a resolution to do something that really, truly MATTERS.

Happy New Year.
Donna

6 comments:

  1. Bitter-sweet holidays, indeed!

    Donna, thank you for sharing the insights you have taken from this tragedy. They are well worth remembering.

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  2. Donna,
    Thank you for sharing these important thoughts. I had a discussion earlier today about being grateful for experiences that give us the knowledge we have today...and find ourselves frequently calling upon that knowledge to help others. We don't always enjoy the learning process, but it is a joy when we recognize the purpose and discover how much we can give to others as a result.
    I'm sorry your family is experiencing this great challenge. Jacob is in my prayers.

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  3. Dear Donna,
    Your post hits home with me. Last winter my 29 year old son, Curtis, was accosted in a dark alley. He was struck in the back of the head with a large piece of concrete. He was in a coma for 8 days. He was in the hospital for a month.

    Curtis had a head injury and had to learn how to do everything again: talk, eat, walk, go to the bathroom.... It was a scary time in my life, and I relied on Heavenly Father to get me through it all.

    Praise Heavenly Father for Curtis healing so quickly. He still has terrible headaches and a memory problem, but he no longer drinks or goes to bars. He said "God saved me, Mom. I don't know why but He did."

    I think He saved Curt because Curt wasn't strong enough to leave that kind of life behind. Sometimes Heavenly Father has to get our attention the hard way.

    My prayers are with you, your family and Stephanie's family and friends.

    Blessings, Deb

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  4. Donna, I was touched by your resolve to find something good out of these tragic experiences. I'm so sorry about the loss of your granddaughter and the change in your nephew's life. I am better because you shared what happened and your insights. Rene

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  5. If there is one thing I've learned through adversity...it's that we MUST trust in our Heavenly Father. We can go back and "what if" ourselves to death, but it doesn't change the now. Instead of "what if" I like to say "what now". Moving forward takes so much faith at times, especially when tragedy strikes. I once told one of my wayward children that I would suffer anything the Lord sees fit to throw my way if to show my children that I will trust in Him, not matter what.

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  6. Donna,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I suppose everybody has at sometime or other had to deal with adversity of this kind and had to wrestle with feelings. I liked your list of what you've gleaned from this tragedy.

    According to what I was told in a Shakespeare class, a tragedy is not merely a very sad tale. It can be called tragic only when a person of high standing and/or potential falls because of an inherant flaw or choice made by himself.

    Your nephew and the girl did have a tragic accident, as you poimted out. But it is from tragedies that we learn faster and better.

    I'm remembering the 3:am call I got from a doctor saying my coed daughter was in the Panguich hospital with a broken arm and the boy with her was dead. That was way back n 1980, and we learned about the same lessoms you did. I felt like I was acting in a soap opera before it was over.

    I think I'll make it one of my resolutions to write it.

    Thanks again for the inspiration.
    Anna

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