Since seventh grade, I have had a friend named Celia. For two weeks in seventh grade, we even “went together.” For those of you so far removed from junior high that you don’t recall that term, it meant that we talked on the phone a lot and went absolutely nowhere. Our friendship has endured long past those junior high phone calls, and though we don’t talk often, I consider her a friend to this day.
In high school, she dated a guy that I never got to know very well, but I always thought a lot of. Everyone seemed to like Chris, and I was no exception. He was always kind to me, and he always had a smile. He always seemed genuinely happy to see me… who doesn’t like being around those kind of people?
I last saw Chris several years ago when my wife and I attended a concert at a local church. He was playing drums that night, and I recognized him before the singer introduced her band. Afterwards, I walked up to him with Miranda, and his eyes lit up when he saw me. He recognized me before I said a word, and as I stuck out my hand to shake his, he took it, and then he put his arm around me to hug me. We talked briefly that night about the roads that the providential hand of God had led us down. We shook hands as said our goodbyes and wished one another well. Because of the nature of such encounters, we probably said something along the lines of how we would need to catch up again sometime.
We will… sometime.
Chris and his wife, another native of my hometown of Enterprise, Alabama, were on their way to church this past Friday evening. Their two children, two years apart like my own little girls, were sitting behind them in the minivan. They exited the freeway and came to a redlight. Patiently, they waited for the light to change so they could go on to church. As they sat at the redlight in their Mazda MPV, another vehicle exited the freeway and made its way down the ramp. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t see either the redlight or the minivan.
Due to the lack of skidmarks, police say he made no attempts to slow down and was probably doing between 60 and 70 miles per hour when he slammed into the Walls family van, knocking them through the major intersection and through a fence into a construction site.
I pray that the family was killed by the impact, because if they weren’t, officials say they would have been burnt alive. The gas tank exploded… and four lives were lost.
I know that Chris and his family have been worshipping in an incredible way this weekend, but many of us who knew them have been asking, “Why?”
I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know several things.
They were on their way to church. You know, of all times to go… that seems like a good one. What an incredible reminder to those that you leave behind of what is truly important to you! They weren’t going to a friend’s house, they weren’t going to a club, they weren’t going shopping… they were going to church.
They are remembered well. Already, I have heard from folks in several states. I have read blogs written by those that knew them, and I have read interviews with others. I know that we are always reluctant to say negative things about the dead, but this is not just a sense of propriety. Chris and Leah had a positive impact on others.
They were together. In a world where so many marriages and families fall apart, this family lived… and died… together.
For the friends and families left behind, I pray for comfort and peace. For Chris, his bride, and his children, I pray a joyous homecoming.
And for myself, my bride, and my two little ones… I pray for protection… and for a sense of urgency that will allow us to live tomorrow in the fullest manner possible.