My Facebook post showed only remnants of my unusual breakfast — a peanut butter and grape jelly “Uncrustable” sandwich — my luggage, and words about frustrated travel plans.
“Life is fragile and strange,” a friend commented. It was true enough then, but the observation would haunt me over the next days.
The past 24 hours had felt fragile and strange indeed. I’d delayed my participation in my daughter’s senior trip to sing at a funeral, and though I had no regrets, the next hours would remind me how powerless we can sometimes feel.
It started with a canceled flight, followed by a day at the airport waiting for a second chance, mechanical malfunction, and ultimately another cancelation and retreat home in defeat.
The next morning, I drove in the dark in a wild, windy storm, returning to the airport drenched but determined to claim a single seat that had opened on an early flight out. But what should have been a humdrum pass through security proved otherwise. The dampness had set off the alarm, and I was forced to endure two demoralizing frisks. Tears began seeping out; I just wanted to join my family.
Finally, the plane lifted, but extreme turbulence caused some passengers to vomit, the rest of us, to exchange frightened glances. Even prayer didn’t soothe my frayed nerves.
“Life is fragile and strange.” Those words had me bound now, and stayed with me through the whole horrific ride, and well into the next few days in Las Vegas, a city most “fragile and strange.”
Even during our incredible trip to the Grand Canyon our last full day in the Southwest, as I breathed in one of the world’s seven natural wonders, the fragility and strangeness of life lingered.
Once home, news of a young soccer team in Thailand trapped inside a cave gripped my thoughts. What a “fragile and strange” situation. I prayed tenaciously for their safe return to their carefree lives.
And when a friend from California sent a text that her 18-year-old son had been found unresponsive, the source inexplicable, and was being monitored in an induced coma, “fragile and strange” clung desperately through her panicked words and request for prayer.
The queasiness that had begun on the bumpy plane ride persisted for days. My insides felt jumbled; the fragility, the strangeness of life had made God feel mysteriously distant.
But in the next hours, news of thanksgiving began coming, of the whole team saved and my friend’s son’s recovery.
“We are not sure if this is a miracle, a science or what,” read the update on the Thai Navy SEALS’ Facebook page. “All the 13 Wild Boars are out of the cave.” I’ll never eat an Uncrustable again without pondering the fragile, strange nature of life. But with those words, I’ll add, “and beautiful.” For God’s hand, even when seemingly distant, remains close, and despite life’s confusion and suffering, the ultimate happy end is ever in sight.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week or so after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on July 21, 2018.]