There but for the grace of God…

I’m not really a religious person. Meaning, growing up my family didn’t regularly attend any religious institution and now as an adult, things don’t look too differently. Except that we did recently become members of a certain religious institution — but mostly to get our daughter into preschool, so not sure it really counts.

With that said, I am no atheist. I have no idea what exactly is out there but I believe in SOMETHING.

Which brings me to the title of this post.  A friend of mine and I were once discussing the incredibly hard lives of people in third world countries and how it’s not like we’ve done anything special to be born in the United States. Why are some so unfortunate to be born in such poverty and doomed to a life of starvation and struggle and others born in a country filled with an abundancy of resources? And we said “There but for the grace of God.”

I’ve mostly used this expression on a global scale when discussing massive destitution. But, lately, I think about this much more on a personal level. And yesterday, it slapped me right in the face.

I read a certain blog daily. I’ve been reading it for months now.  And while it’s not the first time I’ve asked myself why something so unfair would happen, I think also having a little girl whom I love more than life itself, it’s hit closer to home. I imagine the pain of such a loss and it makes me question so much and leaves me asking WHY? Why do such awful things happen? Why do parents lose children they adore? Why do parents take their own children’s lives? Why does anything bad EVER happen to a child?

This past 4th of July weekend, we were having a lovely time with my parents up in the Sierras – beautiful Northern California country. Ellie was having a fabulous time playing in the pool, taking walks in neighborhoods (as opposed to city streets), watching the birds, and experiencing perhaps a little more freedom than usual. Country freedom.

Yesterday my Mom and I took Ellie to run some errands with us and we decided that since she was being such a good girl and it was so hot, that we’d take her for a rare ice cream treat at a real old-fashioned ice cream parlor. They have things like that up in the country. After we parked, Ellie held her Nana’s hand as she crossed the street but was happy to break free once she was on the sidewalk again. Sadly, the ice cream parlor was closed due to the holiday weekend which was a big bummer since we were leaving last night but Ellie didn’t really seem to mind — or understand (which means I really need to take her out for treats more often.)

Anyhow, we decided we’d just head home at that point so we crossed the single lane street again to walk back to our car, Nana holding Ellie’s hand once again, and once again, Ellie being eager to break free once we got back on the sidewalk. She was standing by my side as I opened the back door for her to get into her car seat and then all of a sudden, without warning, Ellie took off. She ran behind our Subaru and another parked car and right INTO the street as a car was coming.  It all happened so fast that I couldn’t catch her. As fast as my reflexes are, her 2 1/2 year old legs were faster. And, as fast as she was running, everything suddenly stopped and moved in slow motion. I could see the top of her head as she darted into the road and the car coming from the left. I was too focused on her to even see if a car was coming from the right but I prayed there wasn’t. And then I screamed her name at the top of my lungs – a shriek that she has never heard. Simultaneously, a woman from across the road started screaming as well to alert traffic and probably because as a Mom with her own kids in tow, she knew that it takes a village.

Ellie froze in the street as did the car and I swooped her up unscathed, my heart still in my throat. She immediately put her head on my shoulder and I could tell she was afraid. Afraid at what she’d done and afraid at how loudly I screamed. But, she was OK.

Needless to say, there were many discussions of how we never ever run into the road for the next few hours. I’m not sure she fully got it but she definitely got that she did something wrong that should not be repeated.

For the rest of the night, I couldn’t get that image out of my head. The image of the top of her blonde head darting into the street between the cars and feeling so grateful that all turned out OK — shaken but grateful. And then I asked, why was I so lucky?  Why was my child spared in that moment when other darting children are not so lucky? 

It’s that expression again — There but for the grace of God — and it could not have rung truer yesterday.

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4 Responses to “There but for the grace of God…”

  1. My mother always said, “There but for the Grace of G-d go I,” and the experience with Ellie on Sunday just points up again how in a second your whole life can be changed–forever.

    As Jen says, no one knows why some live in squalor, misery and pain and others dont. Since I believe we choose our “challenges” in order to learn from them, I think some people’s lives are meant to be difficult in order that the next may be easier as they rise in wisdom. However, that being said, it does not diminish my gratitude for my life, my children and grand children and for the escape from a close call on Sunday.

    Some things are just unknowable. So, we soldier on, doing our best and trying to live in right spirit with the world. Jennifer is an example of that “right spirit” and I am, as always, impressed with her loving heart and growing wisdom.

  2. What a terrifying experience. My heart was in my throat just reading it. I’m so glad she’s okay.

  3. Being a single dad I have been raising my three sons alone for over 12 yrs now, my youngest was only 5 weeks old when we began our journey as the family we now are. I experienced the sheer terror you did with Ellie on a few occasions in similar fashion and boys being boys they continue to scare the @#&* out of me with their antics lol
    Parenthood… beautiful one minute, terrifying the next… Laughs children should really come with warning labels… chuckles…
    Blessings to you and yours and thank you for sharing your journey…

    … Chris …

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