Anna at the Redwoods_201603161043_0001After teeth had been brushed and a story read, after prayers had been said and goodnight kisses given, I would blow softly into Anna’s ears: once to blow out bad dreams, and then again to blow in good dreams.

I got up in the early hours this morning thinking about that sweet and simple ritual when the girls were little. I wasn’t troubled by dreams, but by memories. Tomorrow, March 17th, it will be 15 years since Brandon Hurst went to a restaurant after work with his coworkers. Then they shared rides to a tavern in downtown Springfield, Illinois. Brandon left his car at the restaurant. The story would have had a different outcome if he had taken his car. But then it would have been someone else’s child in danger. No one would have been injured if he had taken a cab. Or if he had chosen not to drink.

But he found someone to take him back to his car and let him get in, though he vomited in the parking lot from the alcohol he had imbibed. From the restaurant, it was a short distance to the freeway that my daughter and her friends were traveling. They were coming from college in Minnesota and heading to New Orleans to volunteer in a grade school during spring break. They would have spent the night at Sally’s home, rather than driving straight through. They were switching drivers every two hours. They were traveling the speed limit. They were all wearing their seatbelts. But when Brandon left the restaurant parking lot and turned toward the freeway, he either drove up the wrong side of the divided road or, when he reached the freeway, drove over the median in order to go down the off-ramp and head up the freeway on the wrong side. He did not hear the drivers honking at him, desperately trying to get his attention as he zoomed up the freeway. Driving upwards of 80, he sideswiped a guardrail where the freeway curved northward. Had he been able to process what was happening, he could have driven across the grass to reach the correct side of the freeway; there was no median divider.

I can’t continue the story. Hopelessness halts me. You can see the tragedy that looms. I saw the crime scene. I saw the crime scene photos. Three children were killed. One critically injured, another seriously. They were college sophomores. Anna was 19.

Brandon broke his ankles.

The Episcopal Bishop testified at his sentencing hearing that the purpose of prison was to prompt repentance and protect society, so there was no point in sending Brandon to prison because he was really, really sorry and would never do it again. I was ashamed for him, for such pitiful thinking. I was ashamed for the church. I wrote him every year for a while, but he never acknowledged my letters.

My bank – of all things, my bank! – is holding a St. Patrick’s Day party. They have invited me each of the two times I have been there recently. The first time I smiled and took the flyer. The second time I explained why I would not be in attendance.

There is no public transportation to my bank. I doubt people would take a taxi to a bank function. So whoever comes will drink and drive home. Even the most responsible partier will have impaired judgment and reaction times.

I understand why we are freaked by the Zika Virus. I understand why we will marshal great resources to conquer that disease. I also understand why we will do little as a society to stop drinking and driving – but I don’t understand.

Anyway. I wish it would have worked at 5:00 a.m. this morning to have someone gently blow in my ears so I could sleep.


About dkbonde

Pastor, Los Altos Lutheran Church
This entry was posted in Grief, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Sleepless

  1. Karissa Williams says:

    David…as always, I remember you and your family in my prayers today. So many things I’d like to tell you about the past 15 years…perhaps one day we’ll cross paths again. Be well. Go in peace. KW

  2. amross50 says:

    Dear Pastor Bonde, I weep for you in your sorrow. You are right in every word written here. Alcohol is a scourge in our country that we don’t want to face. A neighbor of ours just was arrested this week driving drunk with her son and his friend in the back seat. She is the city manager of a small Tennessee town. So terrifying! I will remember you in my prayers, especially tomorrow. “Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ behind me….” St. Patrick


    thinking about you … I can’t even imagine. So beautifully written..I hope you don’t mind if I share with a few of my girlfriends. XX

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Lynda Alexander says:

    I am so sorry. There are just no words….I cannot fathom your sorrow, your grief. But know that you have people who do care. Lynda

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