Friday, September 11, 2015
On Wednesday afternoon, in a parked car with a sleeping three year old, waiting for my big boys to come bounding out of school, I got a text from a neighbor.
"Did you hear about Kerry?"
I replied, "No. What?"
My neighbor and I quickly exchanged texts, her telling me that one of our great neighbors, the organist in our church, and one of the happiest and most amazingly talented women I've ever known, had died. She had been hiking, alone, her 60th hike of the summer, and though no details were known, she fell off a landing about 300 feet. She had been missing all night, and her body was recovered around Noon in a deep and treacherous ravine.
I was in shock. This was not only a woman whom I admired, but we had moved into the neighborhood at the same time. In fact, she and her family had plans to buy our house, but we bought it first, and they purchased another home in the neighborhood. I was her visiting teacher for a year and a half, and just on Sunday, she led the music for the primary children.
My heart was broken. The news was just starting to pour in, the neighborhood just starting to mobilize, and my heart was broken for her and her family. She was only 43. She has a son on a mission and two adoring daughters, not to mention a devout husband whom I know loved her more than anything.
The sadness I felt caught me a little off guard and I was full of questions. Why her? Why now? What happened? Was she in pain and scared? How can I help? What can I do?
Muddled and distracted, I made it through the rest of my day and evening, waiting for the opportunity to talk to Ross about it before we went to sleep that night. Then, I lost it a little. Kerry wasn't that much older than me, just a few years. She was such an experienced and prepared hiker - we had had many talks about all the hiking adventures she'd been on over the years. I just sobbed with pain in my heart for her and her family.
In fact, I said to Ross that I believe, before we are born, that we agree to trials and tribulations. Now, I doubt we pull them out of a hat, but I really feel that in our communication with God, we say, "Yes. I will take on diabetes. I will fight cancer. I will lose a loved one. I will die." I wonder if, when Kerry got to heaven, she said, "What a minute! Seriously! I said I'd do this? What about my family!"
But then again, maybe she didn't. Maybe she knew. The news reports say that, as she was ascending her final climb, the investigators believe that she lost her footing, hit her head and tumbled down to where her body was discovered. The rescue crew also told her family, it was reported, that she had a look of calm and peace on her face. She did die doing something that was her everything. I know that she hiked several times a week, when the weather and seasons allowed, and she passed away on the final hike of a summer of hiking. It was her 60th hike, and her hardest. She accomplished the goal she had set, and that goal took her life.
There is a sad sense of peace that comes from such a thing.
Through such sadness though, there is always hope. As sad as I've been, this week, I know where she is. I know she's okay. I know that she was greeted with open arms by loved ones and that they comforted her. I know that she did, on earth, what she was meant to do and even though it's tragic, it was her plan. I know that her family, though they are going to have to wait, will see her and be with her again.
I haven't been a part (and let's face it, I'm not really a part of anything, just a person who had a significant enough connection to a woman that my feelings are justified) of such a tragedy before. It's given me the opportunity to reflect this week on my life, my children, my husband. I'm a lucky girl, living a lucky life. There is so much out there to be grateful for, to appreciate, to live for. We don't know when our time is coming, but I sure hope that I use my time, however long it may be, wisely and in the right ways, serving the right people.
I also hope, that when my time has come, that I maybe, ever so slightly, touched the life of someone, even briefly, as my friend Kerry touched mine.