In case you’ve been living under a rock, a tragic thing happened to actress Molly Glynn a couple of weeks ago. She and her husband Joe Foust were riding bikes in a forest preserve when a storm came through, knocking down a tree that killed Molly.
I found out after the accident that Molly used to have a fear of riding bikes, having gotten hit by a car when she was younger, so Joe promised to only take Molly on paths where cars weren’t allowed. Joe and Molly rode bikes more than most, loving every minute of it.
So the person who conquered her fears of riding a bike gets killed by a tree while riding her bike.
What’s the deal, God??
I went to college with Joe, and while I only met Molly a few times, she was genuine and loving. When her organs were donated to give life to others, Joe said “Her heart was so big, I’m surprised it fit in anyone else’s body.”
A few days after Molly’s death, I was told of another terrible accident– my friend Lisa got hit by a cab in the Loop that was going 35 miles an hour. She was knocked clear out of her shoes, landing flat on her back in the road. One would think after such a blow, that she too would have died. While emotionally, Lisa’s a bit rattled, she escaped the accident with only a few bruises.
So why does one story end in tragedy, while the other seems miraculous?
I’ve interviewed a lot of spiritual folks who claim to have answers to some of life’s biggest head-scratchers. I had to go back into my “woo-woo” rolodex to gain some wisdom after these two back-to-back incidents. The story that seemed to help the most was this blog post that I wrote a couple of years ago when I found out my college friend Marla was killed by a truck after dropping her daughters off at school.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
In that blog post, I wrote about a woman I interviewed named Dr. Mary Neal who not only died in a kayaking accident and came back to life to talk about it, but she also had to bury her son when he was just 19. Since then she’s been on “The Today Show”, CNN, and every network you can think of talking about her brush with death and her book “To Heaven and Back”.
“I’m a pragmatist!” She told me. “I couldn’t make this stuff up if someone put a gun to my head.”
And then she said something I will never forget:
“I can’t tell you how many times over the last 13 years where something terrible has happened where someone says ‘Isn’t that terrible about that boating accident?’ and I think ‘No actually, it was a great gift.’”
“A tragedy is a great gift?” I asked.
“If you think about ‘bad’ things – think about Jesus – he was betrayed, he was arrested, he was beaten, humiliated, and he was killed. That’s bad. By all accounts we should look at that and say ‘That’s the most horrible thing you can imagine.’ But look what came of it. For more than 2000 years people are remembering his story and using it to heal and love. So can you look at that and say it was horrible, but I look at the affect it had on the last 2000 years and it’s incredible. He brought a covenant of love. You can look at every bad thing that happened and almost always there are incredibly good things that come of it. You know change doesn’t happen when things are easy. Change happens when things aren’t easy and when you are pushed. So I would say there is no such thing as good and bad. It just is. And we may not understand it.”
I’m not sure I can get to the place where I’m thinking, “There’s no such thing as good and bad.” I see bad things happening every day through the text alerts from this job – death, fires, accidents where a friend’s wife gets killed by a tree. All these things seem pretty bad from my lens.
But I’m trying to do the best I can to embrace Dr. Mary Neal’s philosophy – because even with all that is bad, we have miracles too. My friend Lisa escaping with only a bruise after being plowed down by a cab is indeed a miracle.
One thing I do know is this — these incidents were wake-up calls. Life is too short to spend any time with people who don’t appreciate you or treat you with respect. Get rid of those people you loathe and hold onto those that you love, because you never know when that person you just talked to will no longer be there to answer the phone.
And as Joe said on his Facebook feed, “Be kind. Love hard. Remember.”