Friday, June 25, 2010

Great Sadness

You are time-traveling back to Wednesday, and this is a downer, but one of the things I try to do here, is PROCESS, and so here, on my birthday, there is something I need to process before I can really get past and enjoy tomorrow's (yesterday to you) little party. You see, my little community has been hit with a tragedy.

The Event

On Monday in Virginia, three teenage girls and their mother, visiting Virginia for A Future Nationals Field Hockey Try Out were victims of a horrible string of circumstances. Some unknown obstacle (probably another car) caused a Toyata Corolla, driven by a 20 year old young man, to veer into their lane. The driver of the family SUV, age fifteen, probably had never encountered such a driving obstacle. It's not her fault—nobody expects somebody to drive into their car. She then veered off the road and the car flipped over several times, landing on its hood. The mother and youngest daughter were killed. The fifteen year old driver has a punctured lung and a broken arm, and her fourteen year old sister has a hurt foot. The driver of the other car has minor injuries, and whatever bastard STARTED the string of events drove off, probably entirely unaware of the devastation left in his/her wake.

The Connection

This family is from Ann Arbor. The older two daughters attended middle school and have played softball with mine. Their dad assistant coached next to my husband for three years until his skilled daughters decided to play on travel teams... or switch to field hockey. The middle daughter is my daughter's age and though they are not particularly close, they are friendly, and have many common friends.

I just can't imagine the devastation this family has been submerged in. This dad has just lost his wife and youngest child, and now faces single-parenting two teenaged girls, who are undoubtedly feeling all shades of grief, guilt, devastation... The family is a long time Ann Arbor family, so are interconnected every way we turn. They have cousins, best friends, teachers. Everybody is grieving.

Grieving Middle Schoolers

Some people have more practice at grieving than others. There is a Facebook page dedicated to giving love and support. I would NEVER try to tell someone how to feel, or in the midst of crisis, correct how they try to help—or discount what they need to think to feel better. But middle school girls are unequivocally bad at this. They say things like “Everything happens for a reason.” Now a belief system might support this, but when somebody is grieving, it is possibly the most unhelpful thing that can be said... LATER, if something good has come (though in this case I can't see how) THEN it can be said. There is a lot of 'God wanted her to be an angel'. Makes God seem pretty darned selfish, if you believe this, but... it is the coping of 12 year olds. I just wish I could filter it, as I don't think they know what helps them might hurt others.

I don't think anything can be done, but I can definitely see some need for families to have pets and great grandparents, so they get practice with grief before a young life is stolen far too young.

My daughter was very quiet much of yesterday, but last night we ran some errands together and she finally opened up. She is amazing—her empathy is clear. Her concerns legitimate—not that there are illegitimate concerns, but sometimes she leans toward drama—not now. But she is a little older than these classmates of the young girl killed, and we have some practice with death at our house. She clearly feels the worst for the girl who was driving—the idea of being in a position of blaming ones self for the death of family members, even when it WASN'T her fault—she can see how the processing might go that way—she can see how she would feel if it were her.

My Wonderful Community
I learned about this first through a fellow writer mom whose kids went to grade school with the family, so I have watched from early. I just want to say, I am awed. This community where I so often say reality never comes sure knows how to pull together in a crisis.

The facebook group I mentioned has 1200 members. In two days. It was started by a friend of one of the girls—not sure which girl, but it has spread like wildfire. Yesterday (Tuesday, since you are time traveling) there was an email from the middle school principal... a gathering at the middle school for the elementary, middle and high school communities... cards and letters collected, grief shared, counselors on hand. School's out, but the crisis centers on these school communities and they came through. The texting system, the phoning system, the facebook system. Nobody is alone.

None of this helps the family, particularly—except that they don't need to ever have the painful encounters of nobody knowing. They may be overwhelmed with the outpouring—their lawn is covered in flowers, a banner of sorrow, letters... but those girls will never have to say to some unknowing person, “didn't you know?”

I was ten when my dad died, and this is not trivial. Not having to explain to a classmate, 'my dad died in a car crash last summer' might have saved me a lot of awkwardness my 5th grade year. It's not much, but it helps.

The outpouring of support is amazing. I only hope somehow it turns into a reasonable flow. I fear it may be too much at once, or peter out when it's still needed. I wish for this family to find healing, but I know how long that takes to even begin. And so, whatever your belief system, if you could just send a little love to a broken family from Michigan, I know it would help.


Rayna M. Iyer said...

Poor you, Tami. To have this welling up inside you, and keeping it under wraps till today.
It is a tragedy, there is no other way to describe it, and I feel especially sorry for the girl who was driving- she must be feeling miserable!

And Thing One is a wise woman. You and Mr. Tart her brought her up really well, and can be proud of her.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Oh my gosh I'm so sorry to hear this. It must also delve into feelings like, 'What if it were my daughter?'. I can only imagine how this has affected you. My thoughts are with you and the father and two teenage daughters. So sorry. xoxo

TreeX said...

*will hold his tongue and just wish the family strength*

Old Kitty said...

How sad!:-(

My deepest condolences to the family for such a tragic loss. I hope the community continues to pull together and unite in grief and support.

I'm very sorry to hear about the loss of your dad at such a tender age.

Take care

Watery Tart said...

Natasha- yeah, I was a little weepy Tuesday and Wednesday--I definitely needed to process it, and made the birthday a little... I don't know--seemed gratuitous or something to even think about celebrating. And yes--Thing 1 is very sweet--sometimes wish we could turn that on at HOME, but she has a good heart.

Thank you, Jessica- Definitely appreciated!

JOris, I know you're thinking about the driving, but I do want to point out it is NEW drivers, not YOUNG drivers--that 20 year old man was very probably a new driver too (based on some other info on him) and he's older.

OK--thanks so much, for the family and about my dad. That particular tragedy defined me for a long time, but it was 34 years ago, so I am far more philosophical about it now.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What a terrible tragedy.
People always try to say helpful things, but it's not what's said that matters, it's just being there. Like you, I hope people are there for this family long after the initial shock of this incident has worn off. That is when they will need the support most.

Will Burke said...

The poor driver; she'll be tolt a milliot times that it isn't her fault, and still won't believe it for years.

Jan Morrison said...

I will remember the family, both living and dead, in my practice today. Death comes without warning and this is indeed a sweet life we have. Hard to leave it or conjure such a thing. lots of love to you dear mama of wonderful kids...

LTM said...

(nothing sounds right) Third attempt: my heart goes out to you guys and this poor family. I can't imagine the heartache they feel (and the girl driving). I just can't imagine. You're all in my prayers~ :o( *hug*

Watery Tart said...

Thank you so much everyone.

Alex-you're exactly right--presence--so that somebody is there when the grieving are finally ready to process, is really the greatest comfort.

Will-it's really true--I wish there was some way to change that, but I think it just talke a really long time.

Thank you, Jan--it is a sweet life, but there are certainly these moments that are just about unbearable.

Leigh-you got the words right--no worries, but it's true... hard to find them sometimes.

Deb and Barbara said...

Have no words. Thinking of the family, of you, and of your stricken community. Sending love.

Rissa said...

Aww, Tamkini--That is horrible. Shocking news like that is never easy, especially when dealing with young ones. My arms are wrapped around you and your family.

The worst part will be the trolls on the news site the article will have been posted. One of our teacher's was killed this year when she was ejected from her car after being hit by a woman talking on her phone. The comments that were left there for her family and the students to see were so aboslutely disgusting---sometimes people can be so heartless. I hope their tragedy is treated better, but the internet is a harsh place.

Mason Canyon said...

This is a great tragedy and a reminder of just how precious our time together is. I'll be keeping that family in my thoughts and prayers.

Thoughts in Progress

Watery Tart said...

Barbara and Mason--thanks so much for the warm thoughts and prayers.

Rissa-I REALLY do hope there is sensitivity. Everything I've seen so far has been well-intended, if sometimes misguided, but I can sure see how things might get mean spirited, and I can see how--even if the adults know not to look, the teens aren't really equipt to avoid stuff.

Megan Bostic said...

Such a tragedy. I echo your daughter's sentiments about the driver. Hopefully she will be able to see that there was nothing she could do to prevent the accident and move on.

Such an event can rock a community, but also bring them together in surprising ways.

Helen Ginger said...

What a tragedy. It's great that the community has pulled together. I hope the driver's friends will keep an eye on her. My guess is she will feel tremendous guilt for surviving. Definitely no reason for the guilt but it will still be there and could be overwhelming. (I'm no psychologist, just concerned.)

Dawn said...

What a horrible tragedy. I am so sorry :-( My thoughts are with you and your community.

arlee bird said...

This is one of those things that is so difficult to understand and sad to hear. I've never had a tragedy of this magnitude in my life and others have had far greater tragedies than this. I guess our tendency is to gauge things from our personal perspectives, but there is something that goes far beyond our personal or community perspectives that are a mystery to us. God knows but I guess He wants us to figure it all out for ourselves somehow. That probably doesn't help this family right now, but time heals and it's in the hands of others to provide what comfort they can and for the individuals to try to make something positive come out of it all.

It's a tough situation that I would never want to have to face.

Tossing It Out

Creepy Query Girl said...

Oh man. What a tragic story. My heart goes out to that poor family.

Erica Mitchell-Spickard said...

Terribly tragic story :( and I'm glad you feel you can process here and share things so they don't bottle and fester. A similar story happened to a family I knew in college, and there was such a huge outpouring for them and they really did appreciate it, but I remember the sister saying to me, "sometimes it's nice when people say nothing at all, but I know there here." I knew more clearly what she meant when my grandmother passed. There were times that quiet support helped. My heart goes out to the family, your community and to your family of course <3

Cruella Collett said...

It is absolutely awful how tragedy can strike so randomly. My thoughts go both to the family, the community and to you for having something like this bring back painful memories.


Watery Tart said...

Thank you SO MUCH, everyone! You guys are all really fabulous.

It IS nice to see the community pulling together. I just learned from my boss there is even a local organization for helping kids cope with the death of a parent, so that is helpful, too.

And I love being able to process here. I've journaled most of my life, but when it is written and then sits stagnant, it just doesn't do the same thing as sending it OUT THERE. I guess the energy that comes back bouys me or something, and I happen to BELIEVE that part of it gets to the family, too.

Helena said...

My heart goes out to the family and to the young innocent driver who is carrying a heavy burden she doesn't deserve. And peace to your own family and your good daughter.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Tami, I know exactly what you mean by wishing Thing One would show a bit of that at home, but she is a daughter, and you are her mother. 'nuff said.
She is a wonderful woman, and while it can be hard to manage her sometimes, you should know you can always count on her. More important than just sweetness.

Talli Roland said...

This is terrible, Hart. I'm so sorry to hear this, and I hope that everyone in your wonderful community gets through this alright - it certianly sounds like they're all pulling together.

Helen Ginger said...

I've been thinking about this tragedy and how it will forever impact the family. I can't even imagine how I would have held up. It's wonderful that you're bringing it to our attention.

(On a smaller note, I gave you an award today - )

Ellie said...

(((hugs))) I feel sorry for all involved!
So sad to hear about your Dad; 5th grade my Dad had a heartache. A friend at school told me; I hadn't been told the details, just he was in the hospital, when I woke up that morning to go to school. My parents later said, they were going to explain, just they didn't think it would be discussed at school. One never knows the magnitude of words and how far and deep they spread. I am sorry for your loss and the
anguish... I am sorry for everyone involved in this senseless tragedy. There is no comfort, in words! The only comfort will be later, when their unique memories bring them together. Memories and photos are all we have, when someone dies... Time doesn't heal, it just makes coping, less raw, less painful.

Slushpile Slut said...

Goodness how horrible Hart! My thoughts and prayers go out to this poor family and to your daughter and yourself as you attempt to internalize this pain and move forward. Big hug for you.