Editor’s Note: This heartfelt article by Kevin Donnelly, reflecting on the terrible tragedy of four children being killed by a drunk driver (with three others injured, one in a coma), reminds us that in our Christian faith, there is still hope in the face of such great sorrow, and true consolation in the knowledge of everlasting life, where God willing, we will be reunited with all our loved ones. Subscribe to The Australian here for quality journalism.
Having lost our son James in a hit-and-run accident, I understand the suffering and pain caused by the sudden and untimely death of a much-loved child. The connection between parents and their children is instinctive and primal, and to suffer such a fate causes immeasurable bewilderment and grief.
One can only try to imagine the torment and loss being experienced by the Abdallah family, having lost three children and one of their cousins. For parents to suffer in this way, and for innocent children to be taken in such a senseless and random manner, strikes one to the core.
In the words of Danny Abdallah:
“They were going for a walk, an evening walk together, and I was very clear on telling them to stay together and on the footpath. I told them to go for a walk, a little walk and stay together. You guys should be OK, give them a little independence and this is a one-in-a-million chance thing.”
While one becomes inured to the daily violence, conflict and death occurring around the world, no one expects their children walking to the local suburban shop to be so rudely taken. Such is the intensity of the shock, it’s understandable why the father, Danny, talks of simply being numb.
One can only hope and pray that as the families affected are Maronite Christians, who attend the local Catholic church, their faith and the love and support of their friends and family will assuage their loss and help them cope with what will be a tortuous journey. A journey, contrary to the glib comment about “closure”, that will be a long and trying one, testing their willingness and ability to cope with what at times will appear to be a living nightmare.
Even though James was killed almost 18 years ago, not a day goes by when he is not in our thoughts, and the emptiness and sorrow never disappear. To experience such loss is to experience unending and ever-present sadness.
First is numbness and disbelief, then there is the searing pain of grief and loss, and then, with the love and support of others and the ability to be resilient, comes resignation and acceptance. The belief that this world is not the sum total of experience, and that there is a world to come, also offers solace.
When I first heard the news about the children being hit by an alleged drunken driver, I thought of the lines spoken by King Lear over the lifeless body of Cordelia. Lear laments:
“Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, And thou no breath at all?
Oh, thou’lt come no more, Never, never, never, never, never.”
As parents we all expect our children will outlive us, as we assume they will grow to adulthood safe and free of danger while we succumb to the inevitability of old age. For the natural order to be denied flies against reason.
Lear also cries:
“I am bound upon a wheel of fire, That mine own tears do scald like molten lead.”
Such is the intensity of Lear’s pain and loss that on his death Kent states,
“Vex not his ghost: O, let him pass!
He hates him much
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.”
In an increasingly ego-driven, self-centred world, no matter how much we think otherwise, the reality is to be human is to be vulnerable and susceptible to pain and loss. To think we can escape this vale of tears is to mistakenly believe we control our own fate and the fates of those we love.
Life is inevitably fraught with tragedy, suffering and loss, and the challenge is how we deal with events that have the potential to unnerve and destroy. In an increasingly secular, post-Christian age the challenge is made more difficult by denying a spiritual and transcendent sense of life and what follows. Not surprisingly, Australia suffers from increasingly high rates of suicide, depression, self-harm and substance abuse.
Oatlands: The heartbroken mother of three children killed by a driver allegedly three times the legal drinking limit on Saturday says she forgives the 29-year-old behind the wheel.Leila Abdallah spoke at the tragic scene on Bettington Road this morning.Story: https://7news.link/2GPNWgO #Oatlands #7NEWS
Posted by 7NEWS Sydney on Sunday, 2 February 2020
Such is not the case for the Abdallah family and the other families touched by last weekend’s tragedy. All are members of their local Maronite Catholic Church and as their priest, Father Tony Sarkis, said:
“We have been supporting the family since we heard the tragic news last night through our prayers and Masses firstly, and through our ongoing support.
“This heartbreaking event has touched the hearts of all the community, and we ask everyone to continue to pray for the three families.”
While the loss and pain will never be erased, in prayer and communal grieving there is solace and comfort.
Kevin Donnelly is a senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University and author of Taming the Black Dog.