Of course, I was impatient as the traffic inched forward, wondering about the delay, but as soon as I saw the mangled, empty vehicles and the fire truck, my heart changed. I prayed the Hail Mary, asking our Mother to pray for those involved, as I cried.
Later that afternoon while waiting for my oldest to get out of school, my daughter told me about a death penalty case the teacher and students had discussed in school while on the topic of legalism. A teenage girl had swerved in her car one night and hit a mother and her child in another vehicle, killing both.
I was confused as to how this related to the death penalty until Ana explained that the police were able to prove by a text the girl had sent before the crash and by the swerve marks from her vehicle that she had fully intended to hit another car that night. In the text to a boyfriend with whom she had just broken up, she stated that intent.
Then I understood. While speaking to my daughter about this crime, I expressed my firm belief that it was indeed murder. Whether murder was the girl's intention, only God knows. In explaining my feelings to Ana, I told her that I have very low tolerance for anyone who deliberately endangers others while driving a vehicle, particularly in deciding to drive drunk or under the influence of any substance that impairs judgment.
When my son got in the car, he saw that I was upset and asked what we had been discussing.
"The death penalty."
"I'm against the death penalty."
Then began a guessing game. I guessed he felt so, because death penalty appeals cost the state millions. No. I then suggested it was because people were wrongly convicted. No, though that was acknowledged to be a very good reason.
"I'm against the death penalty, because if people spend the rest of their lives in prison, they have more time to come to God."
I heartily agreed with that.
I used to feel that every person in prison who cried, "I've found Jesus!" was scamming. I used to believe the death penalty should be speedily administered.
Now I find that I do believe conversion is possible in a jail cell and that I hope people have enough time to convert.
I was in prison, and you visited me. Matthew 25:37
It was then that my emotions overtook me again as I spoke about the motorcyclist who died after he hit our minivan more than three years ago. It was bound to come up after the wreck I had seen and the discussion with my daughter about a deadly, devastating crash.
As I sobbed, I explained that that was why I was so upset about the motorcyclist's death. Based on what authorities said he allegedly had on his vehicle and in his bloodstream, I don't know where he was in life when he died. I know it isn't my business, but it caused me much grief in the months afterward. If he had only stopped at an earlier intersection when he rear-ended a woman's car and tipped his bike, accepting any consequences for whatever substances could be found on his person. She had asked if he was okay and offered to call the police, but he sped away.
He then hit our van and later died. He wasn't wearing a helmet.
It's a little strange that I still cry sometimes about this stranger's death these few years later. My family doesn't understand it.
My husband reminded me that evening when my eyes were mostly dry, though red and puffy, that I know nothing about that man's life. Perhaps he was a decent person or a troubled soul or someone who treated others very poorly. I cannot know.
It's similar to what a friend told me soon after: perhaps he might have done more harm to someone else if he had not hit our van that day.
I cannot speak on the subject. For months after that accident I prayed for the motorcyclist's soul, and I prayed for his family. That was all I could do with what I felt, offer it up for someone's good.
Because God brought good out of that experience for me. As I explained to my kids during our emotional discussion, I never was angry with God that I got hurt that day. If anything, I was too profoundly grateful that my children were safe to be angry. I felt strongly then, and I feel passionately now, that God's angels wrapped my children up in His protection. And I thank God. I thank God.
And my injuries were meant for my good. God taught me compassion, gratitude and empathy through that painful experience. In my life I have always felt guilty. Why am I so blessed when others suffer so terribly? I was given a little suffering that day - though not comparable to what so many in this world experience - and God turned it into good, into charity.
This is the meaning of suffering in part for me, that we use it for another's good if we can. This is why women who have had abortions lead support groups for others who have experienced its spiritual, emotional and mental agony. This is why former prostitutes hit the streets to rescue other girls; only they can truly understand and evangelize. This is why parents who have lost children to terminal illness set up foundations in their honor to research and fight disease.
And though it is perhaps little by comparison, I prayed.