Some stories leave a reader short of breath, muscles stiffened, dreading to turn the page because of the unavoidable outcome of the narrative arc. Katherine Clark’s story began on a routine Friday, volunteering at her son’s school. However, when she rounded the playground equipment in a schoolyard game of tag, one of the children bounded into the air from above and crashed into her head. She landed on the ground, paralyzed from the neck down, and Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope is her memoir of that collision and of her faithful response in the re-telling of it.
Because of the Fall
What followed that day in 2009 for Katherine, her husband, and her young children was a journey of why’s in which they also learned to trust God in the dark, even when answers did not come. As they waited for healing of Katherine’s crushed and lacerated spinal cord, they found the truth of C.S. Lewis’s words:
“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
And in the case of the Clark family, God’s best was pretty painful. Although forty days of intense physical therapy and rehabilitation enabled Katherine to come home on her feet with a cane, her life was forever changed. Even today, nine years after the accident, she experiences difficulty in walking, muscle spasticity, balance issues, and continual nerve pain throughout her body.
Grieving, but not Depressed
The Clarks learned that grief is “the faithful response to loss.” (211) In excerpts from Care Page posts that were written during Katherine’s hospitalization, John Clark (Katherine’s husband) shared the family’s story of laughter and tears. Their grief over all that was lost with the accident was tempered by hope and gratitude, “the sense that God [was] not only near, but that He [was] doing something mighty and altogether lovely in [their] midst.”
The faithful response of the local church was key to this tenacity and “faithful response” within grief, and it was heartwarming to read about all the many ways in which the Body of Christ showed up for that young family:
- A friend posted Bible verses in Katherine’s hospital room;
- Meals were delivered to the hospital each day so Katherine and John could have a family dinnertime with their children;
- Evening visitors were asked to wait until 6:15 to protect their family time;
- Friends and family volunteered to stay with the children after John tucked them into bed so he could return to the hospital for some treasured time alone together.
The loving attention of God’s people and their prayers helped the Clarks to see beyond the pain and suffering to God’s redemptive purpose in it, to deal with their children’s sorrow, and to praise and grieve together.
Two Pervasive Responses to Grief
- If grief is seen as an unwelcome interloper, we’re quick to put a Romans 8:28 band aid on it instead of giving our attention to lament. Jesus models a right response to the death of Lazarus, for even though He was going to turn death on its head, he wept genuine tears and entered into grief with His friends.
- If grief becomes a way of life, indulged at every opportunity, we reject healing and become content in sadness. Jesus’ question of the man at the pool of Bethesda (“Do you want to be healed?”) could be rhetorical, but probably not! Although it is true that we spend our days on this planet living in shadow, Katherine challenges readers to remember that our “darkness cannot overcome the light.” (127)
The transcendent truth that emerges from the story of Where I End is that we are asked to carry the weight of our story for the benefit of others who also have a holy history that requires their attention and acceptance. Although everyone will not be asked to experience quadripelegia, the miracle and the mess of each life reveals the power of God to carry us through pain and to sustain us through darkness. Even those events which could never in a million years be described as good, can be used to produce good in the hands of a God who knows us and loves us and is able to redeem our stories.
Many thanks to Moody Publishers for providing this copy of the book.
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