Monday, February 18, 2008


Today we learned of a tragedy. While watching the noon news, I heard a sad story of a brother and sister who were killed in a car accident. They were only children. I heard the reporter say the names of the children. She mispronounced the last name, but it was similar to a family we know. The camera panned over to the wrecked car and I saw a familiar vehicle. The family was the Claus family. We bought our house almost 8 years ago from them. Through our neighbors across the street, who moved a few months ago, we came to be friends with them. We saw eachother quite a bit in the summer when we would all congregate to swim at our neighbors pool. Laurie, the mom, was driving in a rural area in the next town over. For whatever reason, she made a left hand turn at an intersection and turned right into the path of an oncoming 18 wheeler. Both of her children were killed instantly. Tori, their daughter, was just 7, and Chris, their son was 11. The kids were super sweet and well behaved children. Their parents were very involved and very loving to them. My kids would swim with them several days a week, all summer long. Tori, and my niece, Madyson, were only a week apart in age. A few summers ago, their regular sitter went on vacation, and I watched them for a few weeks. I had no problem at all with them, and they were so respectful and nice. Chris loved this house and told his parents all the time that when he was an adult, he was going to buy this house from us and move back in. He had great memories in this little house. His old bedroom now belongs to our Noah.

When I first heard the news story, because of the last name being mispronounced, I was still in denial that it could be the same family. I called Mary Ellen, our former next door neighbor. She would know, I thought. I got ahold of her right away on her cell. I said, "mary ellen...did Laurie get in an accident this morning?" She said, "Yes, she did. We are driving to Rochester from Corning as we speak. We don't know where they have taken her and the kids, though. Have you heard anything?" I didn't know what to tell her except the truth. I said, (and getting choked up while telling her), "I don't know how to tell you this, but the news is reporting that both kids died in the accident. I'm so sorry!" She said, "no!". We hung up with eachother. After checking the news website I learned Laurie was taken to the hospital in Batavia. I called Mary Ellen back and got her husband Fred. I told him which hospital laurie was taken to. He thanked me and said they would head there right away. They were still driving to Rochester at this point. Fred and Mary Ellen, who are in their 60's, were not only best friends with Laurie and Eric, but were parent figures to them both as well, since Laurie and Eric are in their 40's. Tori and Chris called them Grandma and Grandpa. They spent holidays together, and when Mary Ellen and Fred's son got married, Chris and Tori were in the wedding party. They are extremely close.

Mary Ellen called me tonight at 6:00 pm. She was back in Corning once again. She and Fred gave Laurie and Eric some much needed personal time alone to process their emotions. She said Laurie does not even remember making the turn and has no idea what happened. The kids were killed instantly. Eric was called about the accident and driven by his brother to the hospital. Laurie was treated and released for minor injuries, but had to be sedated because of the emotional trauma. Neither of them are handling losing both their children well. Can you imagine? I cannot. My heart breaks for them. They are really good people. I am concerned most for Laurie as she was the driver. Over and over this afternoon I have prayed to God that He would comfort them and give them His peace. They are not saved. I cannot imagine going through this period, but especially not without God in my life. Mary Ellen's reason for the call was to thank me for letting her know about the kids and letting them know which hospital Laurie was in. I didn't know what to say. She was thankful to have confirmed by me what she suspected, that the kids were gone. She wanted to know that before seeing Laurie and Eric. It was very hard for them, she said, to go back to the house they all shared. Eric spent time with his son's body, but was not able to see his daughter. The Dr's would not allow him to. My heart just aches for these parents. Their family was wiped out in an instant.

Rylee and Maddy both cried at hearing the news. Their friends were gone. I was proud of Rylee when she told Maddy, "Its OK Maddy, one day we'll see them again in heaven!" She's right, of course. In the meantime, I'm trying to get past the numbness, shock and grief. My kids lost their little friends, and I feel, even if just a portion, the pain of our friends. Matt and I both cried over the loss. But, we also sought our kids out and gave them long hugs and reminded them about how much we love them. I prayed to God to not allow me to take any risks when I drive. I don't want to ever have to go through the sort of pain our friends are going through. Jesus, be ever so close to our friends...

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