When I have had a rough day at work I have occasionally,
by Godís grace, learned a little about my wifeís. It is a good
reality check, leaving me ashamed of whatever piddling problem I let
ruin my mood.
My beloved is a medical social worker and has seen about
everything life and the human will can inflict. Though she now
works in the relative calm of an outpatient clinic she spent years
in emergency rooms, cancer wards and pediatric units, places most of
us face only at our worst moments. She has the God-given gift of
working strangers through their darkest times while keeping her own
sanity, and the crush of the dayís traumas rarely make it past our
But once, years ago, while working in an emergency
room, she left a terse message that she would be late. She got home
after midnight, shaken, saying only that there had been a bad
accident. The ethics of her profession allowed no more and I have
learned not to ask, but as rattled as she was I knew it must have
It was. According to newspaper reports a car driven by
a repeat drunk driver crossed the center line of a local highway and
hit another car head-on. It was dark and the woman had been driving
with her lights off. I donít recall her blood alcohol content but
the car reportedly reeked of it.
In the other vehicle was a family of four, including two
small children. The driver, if memory serves, was the motherís
boyfriend and also under the influence. He, the mother, and a young
child were dead on the scene; a 3-year-old boy made it to the
hospital but died later. The only survivor, the woman who had
crossed the line in more ways than one, was horribly injured but
lived. She was eventually tried, convicted, and sentenced to 15
years in prison.
As the social worker on duty my wife would have had to
locate and notify the families of both the woman and the dying
3-year-old. She would have seen their injuries. She would have
comforted the families and prayed with them. She would have helped
as much as anyone could. I know, truly know, she would have been a
And I know she came home and wept. We stayed up for
hours, her unable to sleep and me unable to do anything but comfort
her without knowing exactly why.
Though my wife never can, I had almost forgotten until
today, when a member of my church spoke during the service about her
life and journey to faith.
Her mother was in prison, she said, a longtime alcoholic
who had driven drunk one too many times. She had killed an entire
family, leaving her own teenaged children to be raised by their
As recognition set in I looked at my wife, who sat
motionless and pale. The young woman at the pulpit had sworn not to
follow her motherís footsteps but had, a legacy suffered by many
children of alcoholics and addicts. Fortunately her battle ended in
recovery rather than tragedy and she will soon marry a fine young
After the service my wife told her she had been there
and had been praying for the children. The woman assumed she meant
the crash victims; my wife said no. They were gone. My wife prayed
for the victims who lived, including a child she never met, a child
who became the young woman who stood before her astonished.
Maybe all things donít happen for a reason but some do.
I know that as much as I know anything. And I hope, we hope, one
young victim feels a little less pain from guilt she did not earn
and shame she does not deserve.