Eighteen is Too Young

Posted on | July 31, 2014 | No Comments

A week ago, a story hit the news here in Macon that sent me back to a place I’ll never forget.

If you’ve been here for a while, you know that when I was 18 I lost a 17 year old friend in a terrible accident. And you probably remember that I blamed myself for that loss for a very, very long time. That was many, many years ago but I can remember it like it was yesterday, although the pain now is less like knives and more of a dull, broken heart-song for the innocence I lost that night.  Late last week a headline flashed across my phone that took my breath away… a 17 year old girl was killed in a one car automobile accident. The car was driven by her 18 year old boy friend.

Immediately, I felt my heart catch in my chest and my first instinct was to run full speed, not towards the parents of the girl who died, but towards the other parents; the parents of the boy who lived. Those parents who also lost their child in the accident. Those parents who, unlike hers, took their son home from the hospital only to probably find that he was not their son anymore… not the one they knew just last week.

It is for that family that my heart breaks because I have been a part of that family. I have lived in those walls, watched those minutes and hours tick by. I can not fathom the hurt of losing a child the way that young woman’s mother has. I can not bear to let myself feel that horror… but I have lived through horror, too. I have lived those moments when you wake in the morning and think for just one brief second that everything is okay… that everything is just as it was only to have the very breath of you ripped away when you realize it isn’t the same…. when you realize it will never be the same. I have lived that moment, at 18, when you go from being invincible to very, very small and inexplicably alive when you just know… you just 100% know that you aren’t supposed to be.

I have lived through knowing that the wrong person lived, that the wrong person died.

At eighteen, I believed the wrong person who lived was me.

At eighteen, I watched my parents struggle to mend a heart they couldn’t touch. I watched as my mother tried to stitch my heart back together with the weight of her worry and concern, watched as my father tried to glue my tattered soul with his harsh and rasping words of love. I know what it is like to be broken by all of the “what ifs.”

Eighteen is too young to die, yes.

But eighteen is also too young to feel responsible for death.

And so this morning, I said a silent prayer, not for the family of that young girl… though they need all the love and prayers anyone can muster. My prayers, instead, were for the eighteen year old who lived… prayers that he would own his life for what it is: a gift, even if it’s one he doesn’t think he wants. I prayed that he would know it wasn’t his responsibility… that not one single one of us holds the power of life and death in our hands. I prayed for his parents; that they can find the strength to sit beside their son as he grieves, to intertwine their hearts with his as he heals… even as he rebels against the healing… even as he rails against God and the universe and yes, of course, against them. I prayed they find the strength to let him be angry and sad and mortified by his life… by the sheer unworthiness he may feel in every breath he takes. I prayed he would remember that being broken is not the end, even when it feels like it… and that there is life after heartache, even when it seems unfair. I prayed he would find the courage to weep and strangle out  words into the universe that THIS IS NOT FAIR… because those words just can’t be kept inside. Those words just shouldn’t be kept inside. Not when you’re broken. Not when you’re eighteen.

Mostly, though, I prayed for his parents, that they would find the strength to hold him together… the way my parents held me… even as he struggles to break apart.

 

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    Spilled Milk (and Other Atrocities) by Law Momma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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