I got a call from my old friend Rachel the other day. We were buddies in college and roommates in our 20’s. While arranging a time to grab lunch, she said,
“You heard about Marla, right?”
Marla was another friend of ours from college.
“No? What about her?”
There was this long pause and my heart just sank.
“She died,” she said. “She was hit by a truck after dropping her daughters off at school. She was killed instantly.”
OH MY GOD!
I stopped in my tracks and just stood on Wabash with my phone at my ear.
I hadn’t talked to Marla in years. The last time I saw her I remember she and her husband came over for dinner, along with Rachel and her husband, and we all cooked pesto pizza and watched “The Long Kiss Goodnight” with Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson.
“I can’t believe this happened,” I said to Rachel. “How could this happen?!”
Marla and her husband Dave lived in Valparaiso with their two daughters. Marla had just dropped off cupcakes to her daughters’ school before a truck ran a red light and killed her.
I write a lot about spirituality, and “you are where you’re supposed to be in every moment,” blah blah blah… but I just can’t imagine Marla was supposed to be killed by a truck.
This is bullshit, God!
So why do bad things happen to good people? I posed this question recently to a woman 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. Dr. Mary Neal is an orthopedic surgeon who was dead for fourteen minutes and says she was literally “kicked out” of Heaven. Apparently God told her she had to come back and tell her story. She was in town for a talk at Evanston Hospital in April and I tried to pitch her for a column. There was no interest in print so I interviewed her for WGN radio instead.
Since then she’s been on The Today Show and Fox News 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 definitely don’t understand it. But I will hope that a gift can come out of this.. somehow. While reading this blog post written by Marla’s husband Dave, I was reminded of Marla’s big heart. Her talent. Her artwork.
This is so unfair!
So tell those you love how much you love them while you still can. And try to find the blessings in the chaos, I guess. Even when it’s hard.
And today, it’s really fucking hard, dammit!