Wednesday, December 10, 2003

In The Blink of an Eye

Here's a dark one from sunny Florida. Imagine it, if you will: A young woman, 27, wife to a man and mother to a six year old child, is out for her morning jog along a road running through an upscale neighborhood and past the La Cita Golf and Country Club in Titusville. As she passes the home of resident Hugh Brown, a huge, forty foot high magnolia tree in Brown's front yard uproots itself and falls on the woman, crushing her. She lay in the middle of the road, her body parallel to the trunk, which was six feet in circumference at its base. By the time they found her she was dead. Neither Mr. Brown nor his neighbors heard the tree fall, but someone eventually saw it and called the city to come clear it away. Meanwhile, the woman's husband called police after a couple hours to report her missing.

In fact, his call came in as police were arriving on the scene, summoned by city workers who had found the body.

We started cutting and pulling away the (tree) limbs and I saw the lady's legs sticking out," Titusville employee Rudolph Jordan said. Farrell appeared to be dead when he found her lying on her side in the road, dressed in black sweatpants, a gray sweatshirt and white tennis shoes, Jordan said.

"I was standing there. I was standing over her and didn't know it. I was dropping limbs, and I didn't know it. It was awful. I started to run off then I caught myself and tried to get her out of there," tree cutter Eddie Floyd said.

"We were watching them clean it up, and one of them said, 'Wait. Wait. Wait. There's somebody under here.' I couldn't believe it," neighbor Beverly Phillips said.

A police spokesman, Todd Hutchison, also gave his stunned opinion, of a more dispensational bent: "It was such a freak accident,'' he said. "Here we have all these knuckleheads robbing banks and committing burglaries and they're just fine. And, here's a woman who was getting up early and taking care of her health by running and a tree falls and kills her." And that's only the beginning of questions, isn't it, Mr. Hutchison? Wait till you try to go to sleep tonight.

And tree cutter Rudolph Jordan said: "It seemed like she tried to get away, but she couldn't get away fast enough."

But someone else was of the opinion that she never saw it coming.

Police said that family members were "out of their minds with grief."

Understandably. The woman's name was Amber Farrell, and this is what she looked like:

"She was a very beautiful girl, inside and out," said Alicia Wilson, a childhood friend of Farrell and owner of Alicia's Nail and Hair Salon, where Farrell worked. "Above everything, she was the most wonderful mother any daughter could ever ask for."

Farrell returned to work at the salon about four months ago after taking time off to care for her daughter, who is in the first grade, Wilson said.

Wow. And now she'll never know the fullness of her mother's love. They were just getting started.

I was thinking of titling this entry "Lightning only strikes once," or something along those lines, but it wouldn't even come close. We all know to come in from the storm. Once is all it takes, obviously. Furthermore, it strikes all the time all over the place, and kills many people every year, far more than are killed by falling trees. In fact, this may be the first I've heard of. Maybe it's like driving along a mountain road and getting buried by a rock slide. I don't think there were any signs along Rainey Road warning Amber to "Watch for Falling Trees." Maybe it's like slipping in the bathtub and cracking your head, fatally, on the metal spigot; or on the sidewalk and softening your skull against the concrete. No...we always feel like those events could have been avoided with just a little more care and foresight. I'm sure we can find something to approximate it, like being struck by a meteorite from space, but the fact that we have to imagine something with an astronomically large number to the nth power attached to the odds against it happening only reinforces the chaotic idiocy of it.

The world gives evidence of being well-ordered in its physical laws, but it's occasions like this that make us wonder if that chaos might not be the underlying truth, the real foundation, with order a mostly happy and most unlikely accident. Well, we can't believe in that and God as well. We have to choose.

I know that in our estrangement from God, whether saints or sinners, we are subject to all manner of calamity and quirks of nature, but this is senselessness incarnate. Jesus died to save us from sin, but sin has a human agent. We find justice in assigning blame. Who do we blame for this? It appears that from the beginning of time all the elements of physics were joined in a grand conspiracy to make that tree fall as Amber jogged by. If Christ's sacrifice can't save us from falling trees, then can we at least find redemptive worth in Amber's sacrifice? Maybe, but I don't see it. I don't see any good in it at all. I just see a little girl who's had her mother taken away when she needs her most. I'd like to know where the hell Amber's guardian angel was hiding out when she needed her most.

I'm not trying to be flippant. I'd like to know what to say to Amber's husband, because I sure don't know what I'd say to myself had it been my beloved beneath that tree.

Here's a link to the story. [the link has since gone dead]

Oh my dearest God! I pray for her and for her family.
I am somewhat numbed to the unpredictability of death because I have seen it far too aften in my profession. One day a baby is fine, the next the mom comes in and there is no heartbeat. Usually we have no explanation.
But a freak accident of this kind is truly on an order of magnitude greater.
I used to worry a lot that my husband would be killed by a freak accident of some kind in his work - electrocuted by a power surge or caught in a transmitter fire or crushed by a falling tree on one of the windy roads. He actually lost a fellow broadcast engineer to an on-the job incident. He used to worry that I would fall asleep on the way home from working a 12 or 16 hour night shift, as one of his friend's wife did. But I don't think that either of us would worry that something so seemingly random would happen to the one we love as happened in this story.
Posted by alicia email at December 10, 2003 06:58 AM

What a tragedy. Stories like this always tend me towards a belief that the physical laws of the universe were somehow altered due to the Fall of man. That the harshness of things like this wasn't intended.
Posted by tso email at December 10, 2003 10:26 AM

I'm with TSO on this one. I think the fall did more than effect us humans. I think it effected every single thing out there. Paradise was barred to us--and we won't be seeing it here. Cold comfort. No not even cold comfort--NO comfort at the point where this family is.
Stuff happens, and it breaks your heart....
Posted by Terry email at December 10, 2003 01:45 PM

Interesting thoughts from good people all. And you may be right. Probably are. Still, I can't hear myself telling her husband that his wife is dead because the fall of man altered the physical laws of the universe. I'm sure his reaction would be interesting. Further, I doubt that as a result of the fall the laws were altered, but more likely our protection against those laws was withdrawn. It may be that, in the absence of that primordial event, the angels' commission from God would have been to bear us up "lest we dash our foot against a stone." But no more. To re-work a phrase (and I'm not trying to be funny), now the trees fall on the just and the unjust alike.
If you really want to wrack your brains, tell me why Amber Farrell had to pay for something her first, irresponsibly selfish parents did so many countless generations ago. Why do I pray every night that my children will not have to suffer for the sins of their father?
Posted by William Luse email at December 11, 2003 04:11 AM

What Amber was instantaneously ushered into is so immeasurably superior to life on earth (no matter how sweet) that we cannot imagine it.
I can't know this, but PERHAPS there is someone in Amber's universe who needed to see that life does not always go according to plan. Maybe someone has been denying God--"we reap what we sow--I determine my own destiny."
(Just my feeble attempts to put some sort of spin on the inexplicable.)
Posted by KTC email at December 11, 2003 07:04 AM

I second KTC's remarks!
Posted by tso email at December 11, 2003 09:52 AM


I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled--
Some thousands--on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,--
Death is but one and comes but once,
And only nails the eyes.

There 's grief of want, and grief of cold,--
A sort they call 'despair;'
There 's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross,
Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own.

Emily Dickinson

Posted by Julie email at December 13, 2003 12:11 AM
Thank you, Julie.
Posted by William Luse email at December 13, 2003 01:58 AM
These comments are moronic. Fall of Man? Jesus is a fairy tale. Just because Mary came up with a quick story about god making her pregnant and her idiot cuckold husband bought it, doesn't mean we as a modern society should attribute any kind of random event to god's wrath as payback for other fairy tales of life's origin. It's sad that a child is left motherless but leave fairy tales out of it.
Posted by Al email at February 1, 2004 05:24 PM
I'm sure you have a better explanation, and that it will give great comfort to her family.
Posted by William Luse email at February 1, 2004 08:23 PM

Amber was my best friends sister. There is not a day or hour for that matter that goes by that we do not think about her. It is so hard to find an answer to why this has happened. Why Amber???? Why not someone else. She was one of the best people I knew. She was a wonderful mother, sister, daughter, and friend. She was always doing good for other people. She always put others first. She was the rock of her family, a very head strong girl. Amber had just returned to work, but spent years at home to care for her daughter and insure that she would be the young lady that she expected her to be. I just want all of you to pray for her family and friends. They need your prayers more than you can imagine.
Please pray for Heather, Amber's sister and best friend. They were closer than any siblings could be. If any of her family come across this please know I love all of you with all my heart. God puts people in our lives for a reason. Amber has touched my life in such a way. I will continue to pray for you all. I don't know my purpose in life but I only wish I could be the kind of person Amber was.
Posted by Genna email at October 28, 2004 10:33 AM
Bless you, Genna.
Posted by William Luse email at October 29, 2004 02:47 AM

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