UPDATE: We are pretty overwhelmed by the response to this. Zach and I want to say together – this is not Zach’s story. I hope people get that this is not about noticing how awesome Zach is (although as his mom I think he is amazing). Your words are so kind, but this is about something bigger….. Love you all!
There are moments when you know something has shifted under your feet. As a mom I have always been aware that the time I get with my kids is fleeting. The years have gone so quickly, and as they emerged into teens I felt the clock hands move even faster toward their launch from the nest.
And although I know somewhere inside that each day with them is a gift and that I cannot control how many of those days I will get, it’s something I don’t want to think about: not having them. But then the ground shifts.
On Thursday after the bell rang, Zach was moving toward his car to leave campus. With the crash of metal, two cars collided in front of West Hills High School. Hearing the crash, his first instinct was to run to the accident. When he arrived he found a mangled car with the passenger door open. Inside were Ryan and Cory Willweber, two teammates from Zach’s Cross Country team – brothers and students at West Hills.
First to the scene, Zach climbed over the two boys to turn off the ignition, as gas poured out of the engine and onto his shoes. He knelt down on the pavement next to Cory’s seat, took his hand and put his head on Cory’s shoulder and began to talk to Cory and pray out loud. Zach tells me that he sensed Ryan was already gone – that he felt he was there at that moment for Cory. Agitated, Cory’s eyes were closed and he was moaning but unable to talk. As Zach prayed, Cory settled down and soon the first responders arrived and Zach moved away from the car.
While Zach was with the boys the horn was stuck and blaring, Zach’s ears were ringing and several people were running around the outside of the car yelling. But inside the car there was peace. And God’s presence was there. Zach felt it so strongly in those few moments. He came home and relayed his story to me, and very soon we heard that Ryan was, indeed, gone.
The last few days since the accident have been filled with lots of tears in our house and an outpouring of love for the Willweber family from the community. And I’ve watched Zach and know that something has shifted for him, too.
I’ve been thinking about God’s presence this week. Last Sunday, our worship pastor, Jason Denison spoke about Presence being the point. That we were made to relate to something beyond this place. That we are meant to be conduits for heaven to hit earth. That we are made to be a people shaped and molded by His presence.
I had a lightbulb go on. I’ve thought of God’s presence as something I ask for when I need it. I knew on some level that He is always with me, but I don’t live in that. That He is Emmanuel. God With Us. All. The. Time.
And then I watched my man-child begin to navigate what I expect is a life-changing moment. An experience where he was a part of heaven hitting earth. A conduit.
Zach, age 18
Today Zach attended an interview as a finalist for a local scholarship. The parents who founded the scholarship had a beautiful daughter who was abducted and killed in her senior year while running in a local park. Her parents have turned their pain and loss into hope and good – funding scholarships for kids going to college – kids who have purpose and promise. Both her mom and dad were at Zach’s interview.
Zach walked into the meeting to a panel of interviewers. As soon as he entered the room the mother who founded the Fund began to cry. The interview was meaningful, and the panelists asked Zach a series of questions about his application, as well as some other pretty deep questions. They asked him if he had a reset button when would he have pushed it and why. He told them that until a few days ago he would have pushed it at the beginning of high school and gone somewhere else. But that today he wouldn’t push it. That he is starting to figure out that he is where he needs to be.
They also told him to come prepared with his “Top Ten List”. No explanation of what they wanted, just this.
The “Top Ten List” did not come up until the end of the interview. As he began to explain his list he told them about the accident. About his experience with Ryan and Cory and how his list had changed on Thursday and was now “The Top Ten Things I Want People to Say About Me When I Die”.
Here is his list:
- He Loved well.
- He followed his heart above all else.
- He sought after wisdom.
- He knew how to be silly.
- He fought for Beauty.
- He protected others.
- He was Wild.
- He had an uncompromising focus.
- His music moved people.
- He was a Badass.
By the end the whole room was crying. The mom told Zach that after her daughter died people told her that she had an aura around her. And that when Zach walked in the room he had an aura around him, too. Angels surrounding him. I don’t understand this. But I believe it. She also told him she thought he was already a Badass!
When we are conduits it is not about us. It’s about being available.
The horrible loss of Ryan Willweber isn’t about Zach. There is no way I can fathom the loss the Willweber family is feeling. And my son’s small role in the event is not the primary narrative.
But I do know that Presence really is the point. Our presence (little p) in what’s going on around us. Our willingness to lean in and not miss the divine appointments that come our way. And Presence – the Big P – God With Us. All. The. Time. Whether we feel it, or not. Whether we pay attention to it, or not. Whether we believe in it, or not.
And so I lean in. Into the pain and the loss. Into the hope that I was made for something more. Into the knowledge, running deep in my soul, that every once in awhile I get to see a glimpse of heaven. That the veil is thin enough. That a young man, who is also my son, is showing me the way today.