In an Instant the World Can Change

Last week a woman I have known for many years was badly injured in an automobile accident on a familiar and much-used road. She did nothing wrong and was simply driving east on Route 20 in Wayland to get to a meeting. It was a beautiful, warm spring day.

The World Can Change

SunriseSuddenly she was involved in a three-car accident during which her car was struck and she was badly injured. The list of her injuries was so long and the damage so significant that it hurt me just to read it.

Last night, May 21, she succumbed to those injuries, leaving her family, friends and associates stunned and grieving.

How could this have happened? How could she be well and happily on her way one instant and broken the next?

In an instant, the world can change for us and for everyone around us. This post is not an obituary for Alorie Parkhill—that would be inappropriate. But I would like to address a couple of points.

A Valuable Woman

The Native American tribes of the southwest have the concept of a valuable man. This is someone important to the tribe, who contributes, leads, supports, and provides for his people.

In the hunting tribes, a valuable man is a good hunter who brings meat to his people. In the pastoral tribes he is the most experienced man, often the aged patriarch. His people obey him because his advice and warnings are important to their survival.

A valuable man is an enormous resource for the tribe. He is honored and respected for his accomplishments. The tribe has no greater honor.

Alorie was a valuable woman.

Member of the First Parish of Sudbury

First Parish of Sudbury, Rev. Marjorie Matty

First Parish of Sudbury

I knew her in the community of the First Parish of Sudbury. She was a member of First Parish for 48 years and I knew her for at least 32 of them. Alorie’s contributions to the parish were significant and will be enumerated, I’m sure, at her memorial service next month. What I saw was someone always willing to give her time and her effort to supporting the parish and its members.

She was smart, creative, articulate and always, always positive. Even when circumstances dampened her usual good spirits, she could find something positive to say or do. We sang in the choir together, although I joined only last year and she added her voice to the chorus for decades.

Some people are takers and some are givers, Alorie was a giver, a person who would always help. She was a valuable woman in any group, organization, or community fortunate enough to have her for a member.

Grateful for the Day

Many of us take for granted that the sun will rise on another day. That we will live to see our children and grandchildren grow, to spend another summer at the beach house, to attend a friend’s wedding, to see the next Olympics, to watch a movie coming out this weekend, to read the book that’s been sitting on the shelf.

None of that is guaranteed.

Be Grateful for Every DayWhen I meditate in the morning, the first thing I say is, “I am grateful for this gift of a new day and for the health and strength and energy to enjoy it.” Each day is a gift for all of us and none of us, regardless of age or health, can take one moment of the future for granted.

When Alorie rose last Friday to meet the day and go through her scheduled activities she had no inkling what was in store. None of us do. The man who struck her certainly did not. We don’t know why he lost control of his car because he died at the scene. At 80 he might have suffered an incapacitating event or simply pressed the wrong pedal. His world also changed abruptly and he likely caused great grief to his family.

As our minister, Rev. Dr. Marjorie Matty, said in her sermon last Sunday:

“Life can change in an instant, any event can push itself into our lives, which can cause us moments of shock, pain and deep concern. Our lives and bodies broken are in turmoil and just as quickly the process of healing begins yet again – leaving us forever changed. How do we live these tenuous lives never knowing what may cut us off and derail us from our mission? Are these significant sidetracks a wake up call, karma or just random mishaps?”

The World Can Change

The big question we all ask is “Why?” Why Alorie? Why such a valuable person? Why now? We don’t have any answers. We never know when the time for our exit will come.

Changes - Next ExitThe wisdom on which I rely says that we all have our own lessons to learn and we learn them when we are ready—or not. My lessons are not yours and yours are not mine. We all face the challenge of discovering our own lessons and finding the insight to get through them.

Despite the fears that attend such an accident—and such a grievous loss—we must continue to go out and engage in the world. We must find our lessons and address our challenges. We must make choices and overcome fear. We must be kind whenever we can because others around us may be suffering in ways we cannot imagine.

Above all, we should strive to become valuable people in our own right. When the time comes for each of us to meet that final instant when everything changes, we should want people to say of us what we are all thinking about Alorie now. She was kind and honest, positive and wise, She was a valuable woman.

We miss her now and will miss her at every meeting we attend, every event that goes on without her, every meal eaten with her chair empty, every note that is sung without her voice.

I have no more words.