I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:1-3
Last month, Santiago de Compostela was getting ready for its biggest holiday. July 25 celebrates the apostle James, for whom the city was named and for whom the Cathedral was built. Every year on July 24, the city puts on a light show and fireworks at the Cathedral.
July 24 is also our wedding anniversary. This year, Nate and I went out for a nice dinner and planned to go to the Cathedral afterward to celebrate with the rest of the town.
We didn't know it, but while we ate, a train derailed right outside Santiago. After dinner we walked to the Cathedral and immediately noticed how empty the square was and how much trash was on the ground. A teammate texted us about the derailment and said the city had cancelled all festivities. We went home and turned on the news, and quickly realized this was huge. We, along with the rest of Santiago and Spain, nosedived into grief and shock. Even though no one on our team knew any of the passengers, like everyone else, our hearts broke for them, their families, and the driver of the train.
The next day, July 25, we had already planned to visit our friends at their beach rental for the day. So we tore ourselves away from the TV news and drove to see them. We spent a lot of time discussing the train crash. But we also got to celebrate life on earth - we swam, explored the area, and ate a lot of great food together. To be surrounded by so much natural beauty and to spend time with some of our closest friends in Spain was peaceful and helped begin our “climb” out of grief and shock.
The next two days were a mix of reading the news, being with the kids, and trying to get work done. The train crash weighed heavily on our minds, but again, as we didn't know anyone on board, our grief was not nearly anything like that of those who lost family members. We emailed some key people and offered our practical assistance should there be any who needed help after the accident, but otherwise things were quiet.
On Sunday we went to church, and I was reminded of how important it is to praise God in the midst of tragedy. We prayed for those still in the hospital and the families of those who had died. We also worshipped the Lord through song and eventually my heart was affirming once again that God is real, God is solid, and God is faithful to give us peace and strength even when we're in the middle of horrible circumstances. It was restorative, and it was another step in our gradual climb.
Someone wise once said, "Don't forget in the darkness what you learned in the light." In some ways we feel removed from this tragedy because we didn’t know anyone personally involved. The time is coming, though, when another tragedy, illness, or death will hit closer to home. I'll have to remember then that after the nosedive into grief the Lord will lead me on small climbs, one by one, back to tasting joy again.