God, they say, never gives a person more than he can handle. 

But sometimes I wonder. I wonder a lot, frankly, and often while skimming the news headlines. 

Breaking news, when you get right down to it, is little more than a compilation of terrible moments. Emerging news has a way of bringing on the horror in slow, excruciating increments; each development adding hideous new layers to the dawning nightmare. 

In Clinton over the weekend, the horror unfurled by ghastly degrees. 

There has been a bad accident, it was reported Sunday morning, and someone might be dead. Actually, several were dead, according to the next report, and it appeared that at least some of them were children. 

As it turned out, ALL of the dead were kids, and the news just got worse as newer information was teased out of the chaos. 

As always, my mind wanders, not so much to the dead themselves, but to the people they leave behind. That’s where the stories really become hard to bear. That’s when you find yourself questioning the old adage about God, and wondering over the limits of a heartbreak a single person can possibly bear. 

Out of the wreckage on that Clinton back road came the devastating personal details that brought the bigger picture into hideous focus. 

Two of the dead were sisters, we learned, 12 and 14 years old. Their names were Ashlin and Emily, and in one terrible moment Sunday morning, some stranger had to deliver the crushing blow to their mother. 

My mind rebels against imagining that kind of scene, but sooner or later, you have to try to fathom what that moment is like. How does a young mother absorb information that horrific when her world was safe and sane just moments before that stranger came knocking? 

How does the mind not split open like a roasted chestnut upon hearing such crushing news? How does the heart not explode into a thousand tormented fragments? 

As it is with news of this nature, the more you learn, the more hellish it becomes. 

“I’m trying to raise money for my friend who lost both of her daughters,” wrote a friend of the mom on a fundraiser page. “She became a single mother to two daughters and one son a little over a year ago when her husband passed away. This morning she was told that both of her daughters had passed away in an accident that was only one mile from her house.” 

God won’t give a person more than he can handle, the old adage states. But sometimes you wonder, don’t you? The mother of the two lost girls surely wonders that, herself. So must the family of the third victim, a 15-year-old boy who was just a fun-loving high school kid before he got into that car.

A few months earlier and miles down the road in Litchfield, there was horror of a similar sort visited upon a 9-year-old girl named Caitlyn Trudeau. 

Red-headed, bespectacled and happy, appeared Caitlyn in her pictures, but now she has her own terrible moment to carry around, as well. 

That moment came on an early evening in mid-November as she was waiting for her parents to pick her up at a friend’s house. All must have seemed sane and good as she waited that November night, but her parents never came. Instead, someone in Caitlyn’s world had to tell the girl that both of her parents were dead because a driver veered into their lane, smashing into the family truck and killing the two people young Caitlyn most loved and depended on. 

I imagine that scene, as well, even though I want more than anything not to. How do you tell a 9-year-old kid that her parents have been obliterated – have been wiped from her world forever because of someone else’s bad decision? How do you prepare a child of that age for the world-sized changes coming her way? 

Our thoughts and prayers are with these people, we tell them, because what else can you say in the face of horror that monstrous?

The young mother in Clinton will find a way forward, I guess, as will the 9-year-old in Litchfield. Folks have a way of rising above even the most unimaginable pain and suffering. People are tough; always have been. Which, if I’m to be fair, does lend some credence to that old adage about God and whether or not he has his thumbs on the scales when he’s doling it out. 

I’ve always wondered why breaking news is so popular among readers when the bulk of that news is devastatingly sad – who wants to read about someone else’s terrible moments when we have so much to contend with in our own lives? 

But maybe that’s the very thing that draws us to it. When we read about a stranger’s plight to endure the unendurable – the lost loves, shattered dreams and despair so deep we can hardly fathom it – it forces us to examine our own lives and the seemingly transient nature of all of our happiness. 

Joy is fragile, we begin to see. In an instant, any one of us could lose the things we love the most. All it takes is one bad decision, one wrong turn, one patch of ice on a dark stretch of road. 

How would you manage if that grim-faced stranger came knocking on your door with catastrophic news? How would I manage if that door was mine? 

There’s another old proverb that fits here: There but for the grace of God go I. 

It isn’t much fun to think about, brother, but it’s worth keeping in mind. Misfortune is handed out so randomly at times that to those who suffer its wrath it must feel like some horribly cruel, cosmic lottery. 

Terrible moments happen all the time. I guess the best we can do is to duck and cover and hope they miss us. Keep your fingers crossed, your heart hopeful and your eyes on those you cherish.

We’re all players in that lottery whether we know it or not. May good fortune ride with you today.


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