Each year as the holidays roll around, I find myself thinking about a friend who, just before Christmas, marks the anniversary of his teenage son’s death in an auto accident. I remember with great clarity sitting in his office one afternoon while he told me the entire story. I hadn’t asked for the details, had only again told him that I hoped he was doing well. But, without introduction, he began, and I listened in that uncomfortable way that enfolds you when faced with someone’s intense grief and pain.
His son and his best friend had spent the night at the home of another family. They left in their cars at the same time in the morning, traveling together until one turned left and the other turned right. Shortly after turning, his son lost control of his car, ran off the road, hit a tree and was killed instantly. Moments later, the best friend also wrecked, was knocked unconscious and trapped in his overturned truck, which began to burn. However, when others arrived on the scene, he was found away from the truck, still unconscious and critically injured. But he was alive, and survived. He doesn’t know how he got out of the truck, and emergency personnel couldn’t explain how he could have escaped due to his injuries.
This still grieving father is convinced that his son, who had died just an instant before, saved his friend as a final act of compassion. He believes this deeply and takes comfort in this fact. And I have no reason to dispute him because I have come to believe there are things in this world that defy rational explanation.
As I rose to leave, he came from behind his desk and hugged me, which was surprising since we had only known each other a short time and mainly in a business setting. He told me the most important thing he had learned from his son’s death is that there is nothing certain in this life, and that each day we should hug the people close to us and tell them that we love them. Because, as he learned in the most horrible way possible, the day may come when you cannot do it. Continue reading