Well, I'm back from a five-day silent retreat...and what a return to the "real" world (or is it the unreal world) this afternoon was.
My daughter went on retreat with me after her family came for a fourth of July visit. To let them avoid having to bring two cars, my husband and I offered to drive our daughter to meet her husband and family in Cumberland, MD which is halfway between their house in a Pittsburgh suburb and ours in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. But, oh my, what a trip! About twenty minutes up I-81 from Winchester we came to a full stop that lasted two hours.
When it became clear we weren't going anywhere soon, my daughter and I decided to walk up to the next exit (three miles) and along the route we found out there had been a violent, localized downpour. (We didn't see a drop of rain ourselves!) Someone in a small compact heading southbound lost control, went across the median, and struck an SUV travelling north head-on. Two people were killed at the scene. I don't know whether it was both drivers or a driver and passenger. According to another bystander there was also a helicopter that medevacked someone to the hospital. I guess we'll read about it in the paper tomorrow. I haven't been able to find a thing on the internet. So sad for the families involved and especially the victims who may have experienced what the Church calls an "unprovided death" where they are not spiritually prepared.
We decided that our presence near the accident scene was providential since we were there "by mistake." We usually go through Berkley Springs, WV, but my husband missed the exit off 81 and decided to continue north on the alternate route. As a result of us being there, however, we prayed the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for those who died and then prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary for them.
Our retreat was based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius which begin by contemplating sin and its devastating impact -- Original Sin that drove Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden and robbed them and their children of God's friendship and then personal sin. Retreatants meditate on the fact that many people have died and gone to hell for committing one mortal sin and then each of us reflects on why I have not been lost for my many sins. Why has God given me more time to repent and get my life in order when others have been taken so precipitately? Big question when one comes face to face with sudden death.
We prayed that those who died this afternoon were ready to face their maker. They certainly had little time to prepare in those split seconds before impact. No doubt they did not consider this morning that they were embarking on their last day on this earth. Please pray for all accident victims who died today. May God have mercy on their souls, especially those who were least prepared.
As the retreat ended we prayed for all those travelling home and Father gave us a travelers' blessing. I hope all eighteen of us are safely in our beds tonight. But my mind is buzzing with thoughts tonight about the insecurity of life and the need to be vigilant about our final end. What a tragedy to lose an eternity of heaven for the short life here on earth. Which brings me to a final question.
What would you do differently if you knew you would die today?