(A quick warning: This is a long one. 'nuf said.)
You know, growing up my Dad was a real worrier. He'd worry about everything. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, we received a number of phone calls in the middle of the night, and every time my Dad would firmly believe that someone must have been killed, or maimed or something of the sort. Every time it turned out to be something far less serious then he imagined. So I learned an interesting response. When the phone rings in the middle of the night, my first response is to think it's a tragedy for about 10 seconds, and then to reassure myself that it never is as bad as I imagine it could be...
For the first time ever, I was very, very wrong.
About 2 weeks ago now, I was woken to the sound of the phone ringing at 1:30am. It startled me, as although calls at this hour are not unheard of for us, they are rather uncommon. I stumbled out and answered it to hear an unfamiliar voice on the end of the phone.
"Hello, this is **** ****. Is that Justin?" (name omitted)
Although I knew him, I had no idea who this man was at this point, but I confirmed that he was speaking to right person.
"Look, there's been a terrible car accident. I'm sorry, but [your mother-in-law] has been killed. Is [your wife] there? I'll need to speak to her."
There is not words to describe the human response to learning information such as this. I knew straight away that my wife would shortly be an emotional wreck, even though right at this point she was standing behind me wondering what on earth was going on, and I felt the helplessness of being unable to protect her from that. I felt a horrible sense of the suddenness of what had happened, along with an awareness that I really knew very little about the circumstances at all. The only thing I could do was respond with disbelief. Once my wife learned the news also, she responded the same. "No... that can't be true... No...." I don't know why our first response to grief is denial. It's a very strange feeling to know something for sure, and yet be completely unable to accept it to be truth.
My wife has said that nothing can prepare you for circumstances like these. We knew there would be grief and sadness, but no one tells you that within a few short days you have to make a million decisions that affect the lives of others as much as they affect you. These decisions have to be made in an emotional state of extreme instability and usually need to be discussed with people who are as much of a wreck as you are. There's tension, and confusion, and a bunch of other things you wouldn't think would be part of dealing with a car crash.
Death is pure evil, it really is. People were never supposed to die. And yet here we are, having to deal with it. The more people you love, the more you will have to say goodbye to.
So hey, here's some positive. My mother-in-law had a relationship with God like no one I've ever seen. She longed to be with God, and to be made whole again. She spoke regularly of her desire to be in heaven, and how she would like to be remembered when she was gone. There were 400+ people at her funeral, and many others all over the world who wished they could have been there. Just this morning we received a call from relatives we didn't even know we had to tell us how sorry they were. It turns out they live in Ohio in the US, and had been corresponding via email daily with my mother-in-law over the past 4 years. My wife's 3rd cousins, I believe they are. Crazy. I can only hope that when my time comes, and I get called home, I can leave behind a legacy like that. She was a little eccentric and had her hang-ups, but she served God with all her heart and EVERYONE who knows her would say that. Not just her close church buddies, but EVERYONE. It's a challenge for me, I tell you...
I wish I could say this was the end of the story, and that people were moving on and life was getting better from here out, but unfortunately since the crash, Rachel's step-father who is in intensive care has yet to emerge from his coma, and there are questions starting to be asked about his potential for recovery. His 13-year old son is with my sister-in-law, his sister, who is doing a fantastic job of looking after him, but may not cope so well with becoming the instant "mother" of a teenager. Who would cope well with that? We just don't know which way this is likely to head, and what is likely to happen. But we pray constantly, and believe that God will work all for good. What else can we do?
I tried to find a picture of the car in an online newspaper, but all I could find was this article in a Queensland newspaper. Maybe I'll scan the picture we have later and accompany it with a full description of what happened. If you remove the human element, crash scene investigation is an interesting science. The crash investigator was fantastic in providing us with any and all information we felt we needed to get some sort of reality and/or closure into the situation, and as a result I now have a multitude of facts and factors in my head that make up the practicality of why things are the way they are. It's funny what you feel you need to know to make yourself feel better.
I don't know how much I can say about the other driver, as there's a coronial inquest which will most likely end with a court case and charges being laid. I'm not angry at him. I can't really explain why right now, as I've been reading about the legal implications of blogging, and I'm just not sure what I can say. Suffice to say that he'll have to live with the fact that he lived, and she died, and I think that will be punishment enough. My wife has asked to speak with him, as she wants to make sure he knows the weight of his actions, and also to let him know that her mum would have wanted him to know that Jesus loves him and will readily forgive him. That's just the kind of person my mother-in-law was.
Well, things must go back to normal now. It's crazy, as it feels like it's been a decade since I was last at work, even though it's only been a fortnight. I'm different, and so is the world. I mean, it changes every day, but some days affect my reality more then others. Life and death, hey. It's all too much for me...
STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!