I was driving my youngest, Aurora, to pre-k this morning when she said, “Mama, I know why there are traffic lights.”
“You do?” I asked.
“It’s to keep people safe,” she replied. I agreed and discussed with her how it helps people take turns, know when to go, etc.
“But Daddy still died in a car wreck,” she said next. I hadn’t expected that comment. My breath caught and I could feel the all-too-familiar sensation of rubber bands encapsulating my heart.
I managed to keep my voice even; controlled. “Yes, honey, but he didn’t die because of traffic lights. There was a messed-up tire on the van he was in. The tire popped and the van started spinning, and then it crashed into one of those big semi-trucks. That’s why it crashed.”
“Mommy, were you driving the van?” Aurora asked. She didn’t sound upset by our conversation, she just wanted to understand.
“No, honey. I wasn’t with him. He was with some friends from church. They had spent the day at a place for people who don’t have homes in another town, called a homeless shelter. They were serving meals for people there so people would know Jesus loves them. Then the next day they went to have a fun day—riding roller coasters and water rides. They were on their way home from that when the car wreck happened. Mommy and Abbi were not with them.”
Aurora answered, “Oh, I didn’t know any of that. I just knew he died in a car wreck.”
I continued, “I went to the hospital he was at later that night and that’s when I found out he had died. The doctors and nurses had tried and tried to save him, but he was hurt too badly—so Jesus took him to heaven.”
“I hope that doesn’t happen to me,” she said.
“Well, God doesn’t tell us how long we have to live. But we don’t need to be afraid because He does love us very much and gives us everything we need. We don’t understand why Daddy died while he was still a young man, but—the Lord has continued to take good care of us since then. We’ve always had a place to live, food to eat, and people that love us, haven’t we?”
“Yes,” she replied cheerfully. We parked and I took her into school. There were no tears on my face—I’d suppressed the urge—though the rubber bands remained around my heart. My daughter was clingy leaving me, as if she could read that I was slightly off.
I drove away and came out to a park, needing to be in front of a body of water. I needed to sit in a wide open space, breathe in that air, and take in the view. I needed to be like the breeze rippling over the water, rustling through the trees; free, not restricted. I needed to shake off the death I felt settling on me again... the sensation of that night. As I sat and wrote all of this out with the wind in my hair I could feel the heaviness lift, little by little.
We are not meant to carry death inside. What releases it for me may not release it for others, but it is important that we not carry a festering rotting wound inside. It is important to seek healing.