Ascension : News From The Grotto - Thought Of The Week
Submitted by The Islander (Nathan Prince) 24.01.2008 (Article Archived on 07.02.2008)
Last week we received the sad news that Ollie O’Dean, who worked on the US Base for many years, had passed away in St. Helena.
Last week we received the sad news that Ollie O’Dean, who worked on the US Base for many years, had passed away in St. Helena. To many, our fondest memories of Ollie will be of him standing under the tree, over a blazing barbecue, cooking up our meals on “steak night”. To his family and friends, we offer our deepest condolences.
Also last weekend, I received the sad news from my home province of New Brunswick of an horrific motor vehicle crash near the small city of Bathurst. A van returning with the members of the high school boy’s basketball team skidded on an icy road and was struck by a tractor trailer, only five minutes from where the parents waited. Eight of the twelve occupants were killed. The casualties included seven boys, aged fifteen to seventeen, and the wife of the coach driver, a teacher at another local school. The coach driver, his daughter and two players survived. New Brunswick is a small province, both in size and population, and has always had the atmosphere of an extended community, so this tragedy has saddened the entire province.
When a tragedy like this occurs, we always ask “how could it happen”? How could God allow these families and this community to suffer such a devastating loss? Most of the boys were making plans for graduation and further education. All were bright young men, about to embark on their adventures as adults. And now, a town has buried a beloved teacher, and seven of its future leaders.
I’ve been following the story on the internet, and through emails home. A tragedy like this brings people together. High schools across the country have honoured the victims, sending condolences and wearing the school colours in remembrance of “the boys in red”. Condolences have poured in from civic leaders, the Prime Minister and the Pope.
We have no answer to our question, how can this happen? I personally don’t believe that there is an answer, only lessons to be learned. I don’t believe that God is like the ultimate chess-master, and we are pawns on a board. I believe that life is to be lived, and our circumstances are created by ourselves, and the fate of the world around us. Some we can control, some we cannot. I was told once by a very religious person when discussing an exceptionally painful situation in my life that God gives us these trials to test us. While I respect this person’s beliefs, I personally disagree. I don’t believe that God is the architect of tragedies, how could He be? I believe God is a loving God and it is He who gives us the strength to cope with these tragedies. That is simply my faith in a nutshell.
And so the lessons we learn are many and varied. One is that we never know how long we have to share our lives with others, or them with us. We have it in our own power to be happy, or not. It is largely a choice that we make. Of course, everyone will experience sadness in their lives, some more than others, but our happiness is up to us. All of the eulogies mentioned how happy these boys were, some outgoing, some quiet, but all happy. They were living life to its fullest, and participating in a sport they enjoyed.
Another lesson is the old cliché, live every day as if it is your last, because for most, we will never know when that is. Live so that you will be remembered for your goodness, your smile, and most of all, your heart. As they say, when you get to the gates of heaven, you won’t be judged on the size of your house, but for how many people you welcomed into it. Our possessions will not matter, the memories that others have of us, will. So make good memories that will live on long after your physical presence has gone.
At the funeral for the seven boys, one eulogist quoted from the late author Henry Van Dyke. I think it is a beautiful summation of the concept of time, and love. “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity”. So gather the people you love and let them never forget what they mean to you.
For those who will live eternally in the hearts of those who loved them, Ollie O’Dean and Nathan Cleland, Justin Cormier, Daniel Hains, Javier Acevido, Codey Branch, Nick Quinn, Nicholas Kelly, and Elizabeth Lord, may you rest in peace. May your families and friends know that for you, as for the families of those grieving the loss of loved ones everywhere, people care, people are praying for you, and may you never feel alone.
God bless us one and all.