Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Grieving for Nehemiah

Kole Norris                     Nehemiah Pratt

I don’t know how it happened that my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA was extended the privilege, but she is the one who named her nephew “Nehemiah.” 

 On Sunday, September 13, 2020, at a little after 8 PM, Nehemiah Pratt, and his friend and roommate Kole Norris, were killed in a traffic accident in High Point, North Carolina. Their car was struck by another car on the city streets. Police estimate the other vehicle was traveling 80 – 100 mph. 

 According to the news article, both Nehemiah and Kole were 18 years old. I’m pretty sure Nehemiah had just turned 19, and from the little I can find about Kole, he might have been a bit older as well, but one thing is true: death came too soon. 

 Don’t try to make sense out of this one. It doesn’t MAKE sense. As far as I am able to determine, Kole and Nehemiah weren’t doing anything wrong. They weren’t engaging in any reckless conduct. They just happened to be at an intersection when another person’s reckless behavior cost them their lives. 

 And all the people who loved Kole are now in pain, and all the people who loved Nehemiah are in pain, and there is no making sense out of it. 
We get no sense of peace by pointing fingers at the driver or passengers in the other car. This was not a planned act of aggression. Nobody meant for Nehemiah and Kole to die; it just happened. 

 So, what do we do with this big, gaping wound in our lives? 

Right now, immediately, we grieve over the loss. 
We grieve for these two young men, and for all the experiences they will never have. 
We grieve for ourselves, who are left on this planet in sorrow and pain and emptiness. 
We grieve for each other, because there are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, and cousins, and each of us has suffered a great loss, through no fault of our own. 
So, first, we grieve. 

That’s going to take a long time. 
It will take some much longer than others. Right now, for those closest to these two young men, it seems that the grief is overwhelming, and that there will never be any more happiness and peace. That’s not true, by the way, but it seems to be true at the moment. 
In the old days, a full year was dedicated to the grieving process, and I find value in that. 
For some, it might not take as long, and for some, it will take longer; but, a year is a good place to start.
Then what? 

 Then, we start trying to make some sense out of this. Then, we start asking “WHY?” 
 Not now! It’s far too early to be asking ‘why’ now, because we MUST allow the pain to teach us the truth of our loss. 
 And it’s also too early to be asking ‘why’ because these ARE senseless deaths. Trying to find meaning NOW will only cause us more pain; unnecessary pain; unhelpful pain. 

 Even so, we can prepare ourselves for that question. 

We MUST understand that when the time comes around, that there are (at least) TWO different interpretations on the question “WHY?” 

The first interpretation of the question “Why did Kole and Nehemiah die” is “What was the cause of Kole and Nehemiah’s death?” 
Let me give you some very important information: we already know how to answer that question, and it does not satisfy the pain in our souls one bit. 
 What was the cause of Kole and Nehemiah’s death? Somebody else was driving 80-100 miles per hour on city streets, and they lost control, and ran into them. 
 Absolutely true. Absolutely useless. Yes, at first, we look for all the details, trying to understand, but it’s a losing proposition. The answer to that interpretation of the question NEVER satisfies. 

 It’s the second interpretation of the question that matters. 

The second interpretation of the question “Why did Kole and Nehemiah die” is “What does the death of Kole and Nehemiah MEAN?” Or, “What is the SIGNIFICANCE of their deaths?” 
Please, please, please do NOT try to answer that right away! If you do, you are liable to get stuck with some silly religious talk about how God needed His special angels, or the unseen plan, or something New Age and goofy. I don’t think anybody ever got blessed by those answers. In fact, every time I’ve heard that bit about God wanting His special angels, I thought, “GREAT. You just gave this person a reason to be mad at God.” 
There are stories about the ancient Greek/Roman/Celtic/Norse gods acting that way, but not the God of the Bible. 

 But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an answer to that question. 
There IS an answer to that question. 
And you are going to have to find that for yourself. How are you going to know you found it? 

It’s by the way you complete this sentence, in three months, or six months, or a year or two: 
“Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I __________________________.” 
And that’s what their death will mean. You find it that way, and, you get to DECIDE what goes in the blank:
 “Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I will never love another person as long as I live.” And then, that will be what their deaths mean. 
 “Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I will make sure that I never leave home without telling my family that I love them.” And then, that will be what their deaths mean. 
“Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I now volunteer to work with people who have been incarcerated for reckless driving.” And then, THAT will be what their deaths mean. 

And, as you might guess, it might change over time; it might mean more than one thing. 

But, this is the ONLY part where you are in control. 
None of us can control the past, and we only have the most feeble grasp on the present and future, but we DO have the ability to control how we will respond. 

 I’m not there yet. I have some more grieving to do, by myself and with others. 

But, based on the little bit I know about these two young men, I have a glimmer of what I WANT to choose. 

I want to believe that my wife was inspired by God, when she named him Nehemiah. 
Do you know what Nehemiah did in the Bible? He found the walls of Jerusalem all broken down, and he built them back up. 
Not by himself! He inspired other people to do it, too. 

 Does anyone NOT know that our country seems to be on the brink of insanity right now? Political tension, racial tension, small businesses struggling, and worries about epidemics. 

 And what does Nehemiah do, when he finds his country all broken down, with riots and killing? He builds it up. With a white friend and roommate. 


 And by the way: Kole wasn’t his first name. His first name: Joshua. That name means “The Lord Delivers.” 

I know almost NOTHING about this young man, but I do know that he made some positive, affirmative statements. 
I know people loved him. 
I know that this white kid and this black kid hung together. 


 So, what I HOPE I will be able to say, in three months, six months, a year, whenever, is: 

 “Because of the death of Nehemiah and Kole, I am determined that I will be committed to love, and committed to evaluating people on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. 

I will open my life and my home to my brothers and sisters. 
I will be a Nehemiah. 
I will be a Joshua.” 

 Peace be on your household.

1 comment:

  1. From a FB post made by Jodi Johnson, Kole's mama:
    We will celebrate Kole and Nehemiah on Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 2:00 PM at High Point Friends Meeting located at 800 Quaker Lane. During the service there will be a period of silence during which anyone is welcome to speak to what is in your heart.
    Here's the webpage for High Point Friends Meeting: http://www.highpointfriends.org/