16 years ago tomorrow my 19 year old daughter and two of her friends were killed by a driver who had been drinking. Though Anna and her friends had been driving responsibly, traveling the speed limit, wearing their seat belts, and switching drivers every two hours, they could not protect themselves against this unseen attacker. The force of the impact tore the aorta from Anna’s heart and she bled out in minutes. Hit nearly head on, the car stopped moving, but her internal organs continued to travel through her body at 65 miles per hour. Two others survived the crash physically, though that doesn’t end of the consequences for them. It was not an accident.
The dreaded anniversary comes again, tomorrow. It doesn’t have the anguish of those early years. There is no use in rage at the coupons in my mailbox for St. Patrick’s Day beverages or the decorations that pubs will use to profit their business. I don’t mind the green cloverleaf cookies anymore. I don’t fantasize about letting the air out of the tires of every car in the nearby bar. Not much, anyway. There’s no emotion in the thought that the police should just break the legs on the spot of every drunk driver they stop. (It would keep them off the road for a few months, anyway.) I am just sad and disappointed in world so given over to cruelty, hate, violence, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and the selfishness that sets my desire to drive home over the well-being of every other person on or near the road. Though I have done it, years ago, as a stupid young adult. Now I know the price.
Lives are precious. It’s not enough to say that life is precious; lives are precious. Our stories. Our gifts. Our loves. Our contributions to the world. Our care of one another. Our triumph over pains. Our courage in adversity. Our desire to dance or sing or play in the dirt. Our hopes and dreams. Our fears and sorrows. That whole complex reality that is a life. It all matters.
The lives of others should matter to us. All others. We are again watching images of starving children on television. We are still watching images of cities turned to rubble. We are still hearing voices of white supremacy and hate. We are still watching callousness of heart as lives are treated as unimportant. The lives of blacks. Of refugees. Of ‘illegals’. Of the people of Nice out for a walk on a summer’s evening, or the revelers at a nightclub in Orlando. The callousness of the human heart burdens me. How is it we can beat children, force young girls into prostitution, curse our neighbors, scurry through red lights, dump toxins, deny truth, believe lies.
The world needs more young girls with daisies in their hair, not fewer. They matter. The world needs more young women dancing jazz and ballet. The world needs more young women like Anna who taught adolescent boys the joy of baking cookies. The world needs more song, more beauty, more joy. We need to treasure lives. All lives.