When Grace Breaks Us

When Grace Breaks Us February 2, 2014


6-year-old Anna Dieter-Eckerdt and 11-year-old Abigail Robinson

Grace is terrifying. It is the cast aside bloodied bandages of grave clothes. It is a tomb sealed off, so hot and stuffy that it takes your breath away.  It is despair, the ever-present shadow of death encroaching. It is the beggar’s desire for a drink of cool water receiving a sip of bitters instead.

Grace is harsh. It is a hard fever that takes a person to the brink of delirium and then yanks them sideways to the cold concrete floor of a meat locker. It is the cries of the mothers who labored all the boys of Bethlehem to their slaughter.

Grace is the pile of leaves where a horrified father bent over the broken bodies of his two young daughters. The sisters, dead now, had been laughing and playing only moments before, posing for the camera their father focused.

He’d left them there, girls giggling, buried in that pile of gold and red parchment, while he ran into the house to put away the camera. He’d heard the hum of the engine as the driver of a car swerved into that pile of pleasure that hid his daughters from clear sight.

She, the driver, a child herself, felt the thud but did not stop, did not check to see was it a rock, a tree limb? Once home, her brother hopped on his bike and rode the block back to see what had caused the bump. There he found a father wailing, a mother, distraught, her babies a heap of broken bones and bloodied leaves.

The driver, disbelieving, was too scared to admit that she had been the careless one who had unwittingly killed precious children. She did what Adam did and tried to hide her wrongdoing. That she was an immigrant’s child, brought into her adopted country too young to have a say in the matter, only heightened her fears.

But grace is relentless, ruthless. It will find us out. We cannot hide from it. Not anywhere.  Not a one of us.

Our girls lived a love-drenched life, the family said. Then they asked the courts to not punish the driver harshly. She didn’t mean to harm our girls. We know that. She will live with this the rest of her life. We don’t want to see her life ruined, too. So, please, sir, don’t judge her harshly. We don’t. We forgive her. Truly we do. We ask that the courts do the same.

May it be as you say, the judge ruled. Three years probation and community service. Grace be to you. Go and live a life worthy of the memory of our girls, the grieving mother pleaded. We wish you no ill-will.

Then they wept, openly, all of them.

Grace binds us together in bloodied grave-clothes, teaching us that it is in our deepest brokenness that we find our greatest strength.

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  • AFRoger

    Yesterday for my worship folder, I used a photo taken in the Sellwood area of Portland. Behind a gate of metal bars is a passageway titled “The Pathway.” Beneath the title is a quote attributed to Mark Twain: “Forgiveness is the fragrance the flower leaves on the heel of the one who crushed it.” The story you write about was the focus of my message. Forgiveness was the only possible way to transform an event of tragic and irreparable losses into something else. Forgiveness has the power to win a future very different from the one following unforgiveness. It is the difference between life and death. Forgiveness is resurrection following death.
    The young driver is not a free woman today, and she may never have the chance to do her probation and community service. She remains in county jail on immigration hold and may very likely be deported from the only home she has really ever known. Grace has been given but so much more is still needed. After all, the 19-year-old driver has a family and friends too. Her boyfriend is serving time for evidence tampering and hindering an investigation. He has a family too. All in this story are anguished.
    No one came away from this with a fist-pumping victory, buoyed by the fact that “justice was done.” Grace works where justice never can. Thank God it does. Without it, we are all hopeless. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

    • Yes, I was aware that she is being held on an immigration hold. And to add even further to the story, a friend wrote to tell me that a friend of hers has been having Bible Study with the young gal while she’s imprisoned. I wish the immigration hold was fixable. I think the best way to redeem this is for her to have a shot at living in a way that honors those poor babies. I am not surprised Roger that you and I came to some of the same thoughts about this tragedy. Blessings.

  • What a tragedy. I’ve seen my children lifted away in a Life Flight helo and have to chase to the hospital to see if they were ok (they’re fine again) in and it makes my cry again to read this.