COLUMN: Just when we have a plan for our lives, it gets interrupted

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By John Lapp

Life happens...
The above statement has been repeated many times with different endings: “... when you’re waiting for something else” or “...when you’re making other plans.”
What matters at these times is “So what do I/we do now?”
Well, how do you respond when life happens?
Some have stated humorously: “just drop back 10 yards, and punt” or something similar to that.
I know that few of us who live in the Taylorsville area are unaware of the recent devastation that came upon us with the tornadoes that ripped through the area and Eastern Kentucky.
Although those residents receiving the worst damage woke up on that Friday morning, knowing that some bad weather was on the way, they were not mentally or emotionally prepared for the upcoming disaster that was about to happen in the next 12 to 18 hours.
Bringing it to a more personal level, how could I be prepared that on that Sunday, June 18, 1995 (Fathers Day), while enjoying a dinner with family and friends at a local restaurant, the meal would be dramatically interrupted? Lynn, my wife of 38 years, had a choking spell, left the restaurant, collapsed outside and within minutes the rescue personnel from the fire department said, “She is not breathing, she has no pulse.” Later it was stated in the hospital records that she had been “clinically dead” for four to five minutes.
As I recall, my thoughts were “this cannot be happening . . . we were just sitting there eating dinner . . . the emergency people must be wrong.”
(She had been told by a neurologist several years earlier “it is possible that someday you may choke to death.” The doctor had discovered that she had some early signs of the disease referred to as Muscular Dystrophy, although she had not been actually diagnosed with MD until after her hospitalization in 1995.)
By the way, she fully recovered from that episode, but has since had several repeat episodes, and although still living, is wheelchair assisted.
How, also, could the families and friends of the two Spencer County High School students who recently died in an automobile accident have been prepared for this tragedy? They, no doubt, had made plenty of plans for the lives of these two girls, yet these plans were interrupted on a major scale by this sad occurrence.
Actually, none of us can adequately prepare for these above mentioned things. Most of us have not had this level of trauma happen in our lives, but many today are subject to recent unemployment, an unplanned divorce, or marital separation, or loss of a meaningful friendship, or a serious illness.
What do we do, if anything? What can be done? How do we cope?
During times like these many people turn to God who is able to help them get through to some solutions, or at least some resolutions. Others, feeling utter exasperation, painful loss, sadness, express: “how could a loving God let something like this happen...why couldn’t he have prevented it?”
No one, by the way, should fault the person for feeling or expressing these deep emotions.
In other words, what would I feel, what would I say when in a similar situation? Maybe my deepest emotions would surface and I would be very angry at God, the doctor who “misdiagnosed” the illness that brought on the death, the company I worked for who just laid me off after so many years of faithful employment, or whatever else.
Now, since life has “happened,” I do know what it is like to have others care for me. Many friends, and family, of course, reached out to us at the time of my wife’s episode in 1995, and that continues to this day. In fact, after it became national news about the tornado activity in our area, we received several phone calls and emails from family and friends relating that they cared and had been praying for us. Those expressions were a form of “love in action” and were all very comforting to all of us.
Now, you were possibly looking for clear-cut answers to how to cope in times like these, and I can tell you honestly that I don’t have any that will fit each and every situation except to state that God is always available because he is a God of comfort. Maybe what I can do for others is state “I’m  praying for you that God will help take you through and ease your pain/loss.”
Maybe, I can offer something more tangible than only a prayer, like “is there anything else that you know I could be of some help at this time?” This may require some form of sacrifice, but go ahead, do it anyway, just do it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. They, in turn, may do the same thing, and nobody will do it.
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