Our little community was rocked seven months ago by the deaths of five local teenagers, who drowned in a 20-foot-deep pond when their car left the icy road in the early morning hours near Black Canyon Dam. When the dive team finally located the car in the murky, cold water, they found the seminary-bound teens with their scriptures open in their laps. All were taken to the local hospital, but none revived.
The shockwave from this incident has been far-reaching and long-felt. The five were from just two families in the rural community of Sweet, and with their deaths, each family had lost half of its children. We mourned for and with the families, and for ourselves and a future without the promising talents of five vivacious, good kids who by every account were excellent examples to their peers and assets to every community and organization to which they belonged. When I pass the bend in the road that their car missed that February morning, their names and faces rush at me — the impossibly smiling, beautifully warm images that have burned into my brain collide with the icy strangling dread that presses my parent heart. Oh, God, don’t make me look. Don’t let me feel.
I didn’t attend the funerals. I didn’t attend Stake Conference when one of the mothers spoke. I tried to push the sorrow and fear away by clutching my own babies tight, memorizing anew how their voices sound, how their feet are shaped, the warm softness of their little necks. The unthinkable can happen. It does happen. Oh, God, don’t make me look.
Tonight I looked. I attended a dinner at which the mother of three of the teens spoke. Once the matriarch of a thriving brood of eight, she lost her 2 1/2-year old daughter in a construction accident, and then her three eldest four years later. “How do you get through it?” people ask. “You do because you must,” she replies. She spoke to us about our paramount role as parents, as teachers and caretakers of souls to whom we owe our best efforts. She reminded us that disciplining and teaching our children begins with our own self-discipline; too often our inconsistency and laziness promotes the very behaviors that we punish our children for. She expressed her gratitude for the growth and lessons she has gained because of her devastating losses, as she testified of a loving God who does not withhold the pains of mortality from us, but Who can teach us even through soul-wringing desolation that we are loved. God trusts and allows us to seek and find our way by recalibrating ourselves in response to both the miraculous and the wrenching.
Tragedy and triumph have both had a place in my life. But it is in the mundanity of everyday living that the lessons of extraordinary events reveal themselves: How well have I learned to give and receive love? How does my parenting reveal the Divine Parents to my children? What in my relationship with my husband speaks of forgiveness, loyalty, joy? Am I more willing to look?