There’s a scene in a Tim O’Brien’s book Going After Cacciato in which the characters — a group of soldiers — are successfully making their way through the forest when they literally fall into a hole in the ground. And in the blink of an eye, they were lost. 

That scene came to mind this week when our next door neighbors lost their son in a tragic car accident. This is a family that functions on 100-miles-an-hour. Soccer practices. Two kids in college. Full-time jobs. Career mom and dad. And all of a sudden, their normal became anything but. 

To be honest: I never met their son. I’d only seen him outside, working on his car, or in the backyard, playing with our dog Basil. And I only had a handful of casual how-do-you-do conversations with the parents. Still, this tragedy shook me in a strange way. It shook me in that way that makes me look to my left, then to my right, and to make sure I’m living the way I should. For years, I was handcuffed by a family tragedy that occurred when I was 15. The handcuffs then turned into a sort of grace that calmed me when confronted with life’s boogeymen. And in the last year or so, I’ve sped my life up to my own 100 miles an hour — just like my neighbors and so many others. 

I detest when people try to explain life’s tragedies as “part of life’s plan.” I’ve never thought that God uses people as pawns in order to force those of us still here to put ourselves on some sort of course correction. Foolish. But these tragedies certainly cause me to audit what I’m doing. 

Just like O’Brien’s soldiers, I want to find a path out of those holes in the ground. In his story, it required that they “fall back up.”