Momservation: Hug your kids today because tomorrow is not promised.
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I’m sorry, but I can’t joke around today.
Tragedy and heartache have descended upon our community. You pray that it will pass over you. You pray that God will keep your children and your family safe, simultaneously feeling guilty that it almost means you’re praying for someone else’s family to take the hit. So you throw out another prayer. Lord, keep all the children safe.
Her name is Natalie Giorgi and she was another family’s child. But she was one of our community’s children. Lost this last weekend to the devastation of her family, their heartache washes over all of us—a tidal wave of sorrow knocking those who knew her and loved her flat, those who informally knew her shocked and reeling from the blow, and those who didn’t sweeping up their children and holding them tighter, frightened that tragedy came so close to their shores.
We lost Natalie to a peanut allergy. One bite of a Rice Krispies treat with peanut butter in the frosting. Everyone did everything right to try and save her, including her father who is a doctor. But it wasn’t meant to be. Faith shaken because someone else’s prayer seemingly took priority.
It happened at a place that was supposed to hold only happy memories: Camp Sacramento. A place Our Lady of the Assumption families had been going since their children were little, eager to tack on another year of camaraderie and laughter, more commemorative pictures, a cherished summer tradition where families could safely have fun together.
“I will never go back,” said my friend who was there, haunted by what she witnessed. She is not only devastated by the loss of such a beautiful, delightful, newly-minted teenager, but that so many of Natalie’s young friends who were there at the campfire where treats were being served had to experience life’s harshest lesson so early: kids can die too.
It is a harsh reality I also learned as a child. My sister died when I was nearly 13 when she was electrocuted in a bathtub by a blow dryer. In an instant everything changes and you have a choice to hate God or trust him.
I pray now that the Giorgi family holds together strong and trusts Him despite the pain and agonizing sorrow that I know they’re going through. This unthinkable loss will either make them or break them. With their amazing OLA extended family circling the wagons around them, I have faith they will make it. We’re not all so fortunate—the loss of a child broke my family, but in time we rose from the ashes (I chronicle it in my upcoming spiritual memoir, AND A CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM: FROM UNTHINKABLE TRAGEDY TO UNEXPECTED FAITH).
If the Giorgi family can trust that a still meaningful life can be had without their precious child, twin and sibling…that they will be able to one day breath again without it hurting…one day wake up and not wish they didn’t…one day walk around and not hate the world for continuing…one day have the hole where their heart once was close and beat again…one day have color return to lives muted gray…they will all be better for it. Natalie’s short life and legacy here will best be honored by living and loving hard, living in the moment enjoying life’s sweet spots, and enjoying the journey despite its obstacles and hardships.
Trust me on this.
What rises from the ashes of such a horrible tragedy is perspective. For a chosen few, God replaces eyes that thought they saw the world for what it was for what it really is: an opportunity to appreciate what really matters. When what is most precious to you is taken—those you love—everything else that doesn’t matter gets stripped away: money, fancy clothes, the latest electronics, nice cars, the perfect house in the right neighborhood.
Things don’t matter. People matter.
God tries to give us perspective every day without taking what is most precious—when we hear, read and see all these horrible stories on the news He’s hoping it will remind us to truly value what really matters: our relationships with others. Because the only thing that matters in life is how we treat the souls that are here on this journey with us.
People give it lip service, but they don’t really live it.
All those families who were there at Camp Sac, who know Natalie and her twin Danielle, who’ve only heard of the Giorgis, or those from her community where tragedy came a little too close have by association been given a blessing in disguise: perspective. There are no near misses in life—they are warning shots from God over your bow. There are no coincidental relationships—everything is meant to be and everyone is tied together.
Are we still going to yell at our kids? Yes. Are we still going to get mad when they leave their wet towels on the floor? Yes. Are we going to get exasperated at their filthy rooms, unfinished homework, and forgotten P.E clothes? Yes. Are we going to still want to slap that smug look off their faces, whap that eye roll out of their heads, and yank those smart phones out of their hands? For sure.
But perspective means you take the bad with the good and you’re happy for it. It means you know there will be times when raising kids can seem to suck the very life out of you, but without kids would it really be much of a life? It means you muck through the everyday responsibilities that make you want to run away to a Jamaican nude beach where no one needs laundry done, because it’s what you do for those you love. It means you suffer through another whined “Mom” because what if you never heard it again? It means struggling through the lows because it makes the view from the highs that much more amazing. It means catching yourself focusing on all the negatives and looking instead for the sweet spots.
I’m not saying the Giorgi family suffered a wake-up call from God to change our perspectives—God loaned them an angel and asked them to take care of her for a little bit. I’m saying as bystanders to this devastation that instead of being just sad for them, or relieved for ourselves, we can honor Natalie’s memory by accepting the gift she has left behind for us: eyes that see with true perspective.
Meanwhile, it’s time to prop up the Giorgis with our thoughts, prayers, helping hands, love, and support until they are strong enough to stand on their own again. There are Giorgis in every community. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to make us value what is truly important: people and our relationships with each other. Right now what’s important is for the community to wrap its arms around this family and each other to stand strong to weather this horrible loss. There are three other children in that family who still have bright futures ahead of them. Let’s pray that they will do amazing things with their new eyes.
That we all will.
In my death I give to you
Memories that will light your way
Sometimes only death has eyes
That see what you miss every day
With my death I leave for you
A space for your destiny to fill
Don’t hold me here in the past
My release is God’s will
Because of my death you will know
For what purpose it is you live
I brought out the best in you
That you were meant to give
Only my death can be a birth
Of your soul that’s been lost inside
If I were to stay here on earth
I couldn’t be your guide.
Kelli Silveira Wheeler
3/4/96 (Written with my new perspective in memory of my sister, Sommar, who died 11 days before her 7th birthday)