At the end of last week, I received an email from one of my best friends from church, when I was growing up.
The news was stunning.
Her first boyfriend, Joe Gargiulo, became a good friend to me at the time, as we were all going to the same church.
When Joe and Kathi broke up, I didn't see much of Joe anymore. At any rate, Kathi and I barely keep in touch, as we have such different lives. It almost seems like a whole other life that I lived then. She's been married for years, with two kids who are almost adults, but sometimes it feels like just yesterday that we were wearing our mother's wigs, teasing them into beehives, putting on lots of makeup, stuffing our bras, and, looking like a more grotesque version of Tammy Faye Bakker in her heyday, simply to go and play Putt Putt, like we looked normal.
The looks we would get were priceless, let me tell you.
Anyway, we keep in touch at Christmas, etc. But I was not prepared for the news she sent to me.
Last weekend, there was a terrible wreck on I-85, near Atlanta. I remember hearing about it on the news. A Chevy Impala, carrying two kids and two adults, crossed the median and slammed into a van, head on.
It was Joe's van that got slammed head on. There was nothing he could have done to prevent the accident, according to the police.
Two of his children were immediately killed upon impact, even though they were wearing seat belts. His other son was injured, as was Joe. Two children in the other car were killed, too. I just read an article, which I will link here, which lists the driver's name, the children's names, as well.
Kathi told me that Joe was in the midst of a very painful divorce, and he was driving his children back to their mother's house, after taking the kids to Walt Disney World.
According to Kathi, Joe had been very, very depressed over the break-up. The two children were buried on Saturday, but Joe could not attend, as he is in ICU.
I cannot imagine what he and his estranged wife are going to go through. As well, what will the surviving son feel and go through in the coming weeks, months, years. Even more tragic, is the fact that driver of the offending auto was a 21-year-old girl.
It reminds me of the verse from the Bible, 'On the just and unjust, alike it doth rain, and the quality of mercy is not strained.'
I normally would not do this on my blog, but I am going to ask anyone reading this post to put down what you are doing, and just send a prayer or a good vibe to Joe and his family. As well, prayers for the Stephens family, and for the girl driving. Their pain is just beginning.
Whatever, or whoever you believe in, please send positive energy Joe's way, and to the Stephens family.
I'll keep you posted on Joe's progress. I am not sure he'll even remember me, but I plan on going to see him, when he is able, and to let him know that he can talk to me anytime.
As I was going to the bank this morning---I got my first 2,000 dollar check for my writing--I was listening to Bridge Over Troubled Water on an Elvis CD that I have. It really made me think about Joe.
These are the times when I have no idea why God allows these things to happen. The only way I can even rationalize it is that God gives us all free will, so that means everyone has it. Some people use it for good, some for evil, some make mistakes--they think the young girl driving fell asleep at the wheel--and God could come down and stop anything, but God doesn't do that.
He lets us choose our behaviors, and the outcome is determined by the chosen behavior, but He's always there no matter what.
That's why you won't find me saying to Joe, "It was God's will...." because I don't believe it was God's will. I believe it was a series of events, a chain of mistakes, that led to the accident. I have to believe that, because if I don't, then I cannot fathom a God that would purposely take away the lives of children in such a manner.
If there is anyone out there in blog-land, reading this post, who has lost children in a car accident, etc. please post and let me know what to say and what not to say to Joe, whenever I get the chance.
Thanks to everyone who will read this.
Here's the Article I found from Connecticut, where the two Stephens children resided