By: Pastor Mary Beth Hartenstein

Three of the top nine stories listed on KCRG-TV 9 deal with death: Two-star general is killed in Afghan attack, four teens killed in an accident in western Dubuque County and one young man was the driver of the vehicle that hit them, and nine-year old twins killed in ATV accident in rural Linn County. Death seems to be a misty shadow that has settled in on the news stories of the past 48 hours.

I know that death is a part of life. I know that these deaths represent only a small picture of the nearly 155,000 estimated deaths that occur every day around the world. I did not know any of these individuals or their families. I just know that somehow these deaths feel too close for my own comfort level.

As a parent, I cannot imagine the pain and grief of having a child die. I cannot imagine that I would have told them to clean up their room, pick-up their jacket, or take out the garbage one minutes and then without notice or warning learn that this would be the last thing that they would have heard coming from me. Even if the words were, “I love you,” knowing that they were the last would still be hard to comprehend that finality.

I cannot conceive what it would be like to be the parent of the young man who caused the accident, killing the four pre-teen boys. There would be nothing that could console him; nothing that could take away that moment of poor judgment; nothing that could make the situation anything less than what it is… awful, just awful.

Having death occur naturally or by accident is one thing, but I struggle to understand how we, as human beings, make a decision to kill another person just because…because we are angry, hurt, misunderstood.

I have been in emergency rooms, nursing home residences, and at bedsides. I have been with individuals and families before, during and after death. Death is not a stranger to me. Yet as I have reflected over these deaths in the past few days, I find myself asking the age old question, “Where are you God?” I know it is a rhetorical question as I believe that God is not absent from these situations but is still fully present, even if I might not be able to feel or experience God in the midst of them. But such difficult situations, such as these, provide the opportunity to wrestle with what it means to have faith in God.

In an interview with one of the friends of the four young men killed on Saturday, the young man said, “God has a plan for everything. I just — it better be a good plan, ya know?”

What plan could be better than having these young men begin their freshmen year of school in just a few weeks? What plan could be better than having a 24-year old grow into his adult without this experience to haunt him forever? What plan could be better than having nine-year old brothers wrestling with each other over the control of the TV remote? What plan could be better than for this general to return to his family and friends?

And so, I sit with sadness in my heart for these families who have experienced such great loss. Yet, I also sit with hope in my spirit for anything less would allow death to have the final word and my faith has taught me that death does get to have the final say.