Rumination IV – Today Is The Day (A Day Late)

(Originally posted to facebook on January 30, 2013)

I’ll confess that I suffer from “anniversary syndrome”.

I’m a bit nostalgic to start with, but anniversaries always stimulate my nostalgic tendencies. I’m not just talking about wedding anniversaries here, but anniversaries of all sorts of things: births, deaths, graduations, promotions, relationships, stupid things I’ve done, good times, and bad times. Each one brings a certain remembrance of the experience back then.

These memories can be triggered by a smell: freshly-mown grass in the summer; leaves burning in the fall; or the smell of flowers in the spring. Or a visual cue: changing leaves in the fall; snow in the air in winter; or trees blowing in the wind on a blustery spring day. Or even just a vague, experiential sense: the electricity in the air before an approaching thunderstorm; the feel of a cold, damp, winter afternoon; or the cool, crisp air of fall.

But many times, it’s the calendar that brings the reminder. Our wedding anniversary. A family member’s birthday. The day that my Mom passed away. The date that I started my job, soon to be 32 years ago … Or yesterday, January 29th.

For those that have known my family for a while, January 29th may ring a bell. It’s two weeks, to the day, after my son Riley’s birthday. It’s the anniversary of the day that his life – and that of many others – was changed forever.

January 29, 1999 was the day that some sort of aneurysm in Riley’s brain ruptured. It’s the day that we almost lost him. It’s the day that my family’s path through life was forever altered. The anniversary of that date is a day of remembering tragedy, but also of celebrating life.

You see, we almost lost Riley on that date … but we didn’t.

God didn’t take him home to Heaven back then. He’s allowed us to keep Riley here with us a few more years – fourteen and counting. And, while the anniversary of that date is a sad day, remembering what might have been had there been no aneurysm, it’s also a day when we count our blessings and thank God for opening our eyes to what He had planned for us.

He showed us that He wasn’t through with my oldest boy. He showed us that He had big plans for Riley, our family, our church, and our little corner of the world. It’s been a roller coaster ride, but it’s a wonderful thing to be an instrument In the hands of Almighty God.

So, when yesterday rolled around, it was another day of remembering all of those events and the lessons we’ve learned from them. But, unlike previous years, the memories didn’t come until very late in the day. And for a very specific reason.

First, a brief summary of the first two weeks of Riley’s life to help set the stage:

Riley was born on January 15th.

On January 21st, a powerful line of thunderstorms blew through the state, spawning tornadoes all across Central Arkansas. One even skipped through the campus at my place of work, taking out the power. I spent the better part of the next week scrambling around trying to keep computers up and running without commercial power.

The fact that we had a new baby at home was no big deal, almost routine. After all, Riley was Number Three.

Then, on on the very cold night of January 29th, it happened. Riley started having seizures and the journey began.

Now, back to yesterday:

When a very powerful line of storms began marching across Arkansas yesterday, I didn’t really think much about it – at least not from an anniversary point of view – not even when the National Weather Service put virtually all of Arkansas under a tornado watch. (Sounds a little like the week after Riley was born, doesn’t it …)

My oldest daughter, Kylie, was a little frustrated with me because I wouldn’t let her drive across town to a Senior High Basketball game, due to the approaching weather. (As it turned out, they had to cancel the boy’s game and hunker down when the power went out.)

A dear friend, Melissa Leverett and her daughter, Caroline, stopped by to pick up our younger daughter, Kathleen, to take her with them to play practice at school. The weather was just moving in and it had started to rain.

A few minutes after they left, the home phone rang and the caller ID showed that it was Kathleen. Hmmm. She must have forgotten something, I thought. I picked up the phone at the same time as my wife, Michelle.

It was the call that every parent fears:

“Mom, we’ve been in an accident. I’m OK, but Ms. Lev and Caroline are hurt, I think. Everybody is walking around. We’re all standing on the side of the road.” She was about a mile down the main thoroughfare from our house.

Michelle and I were up and out of the house in seconds. We hadn’t moved that fast since we scrambled to get Riley to the hospital that night fourteen years ago.

Everyone involved in the accident was OK, but anyone who’s been through an airbag deployment can tell you that it’s no picnic (been there, done that – June 20, 2006). It feels like a baseball bat across your chest, while breathing the exhaust plume from a Saturn V rocket.

Kathleen was in the back seat and took her share of the impact via seatbelt.

Turns out that another car pulled right out in front of them in the rain. Ms. Lev had no where to go. She slammed into the other car, the airbags deployed, and the car came to rest at a curb, just before going into a ditch.

Ms. Lev’s car is totaled, I’m certain, but all three passengers walked away. Yes, there are bumps, bruises, and sore muscles. It’ll be a slow-moving week for all of them. But all three are alive. And for that, we give God all the praise.

It was while I was standing in the rain, watching the sky light up around me, hearing the resulting thunder, and ultimately, the tornado sirens that followed, that it started to come to me.

I almost lost one of my children last night – January 29, 2013. Just as I had almost lost another of my children fourteen years earlier – on January 29, 1999. Yet, both are alive today – January 30, 2013.

God isn’t finished with them yet. They still have work to do in His Kingdom.In fact, God isn’t finished with any of the folks who were in either car last night.

God uses Ms. Lev to make a positive impact in the lives of her high school students every day – and He will keep doing so. He uses Caroline as a positive influence in our church Youth Group – and He will keep doing so. He uses Kathleen to touch lives (especially mine) every day – and He will keep doing so.

Yes, it was a near tragedy last night and it scares the living daylights out of me to think about what might have happened. However, those things didn’t happen and I still have my wonderful daughter and two very dear friends today.

As we often say: Things can be replaced. People can’t.

Every day that we draw breath is an opportunity for us to be what God calls us to be. The fact that we’re given another day means that He’s not finished with us yet.

So make the most of every day. Live for Him. Hug your family. Tell your friends you love them. Perform a random act of kindness.

In short, use what’s been given to you to make a difference.

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