Our college cross-country coach, Coach Page, was a fount of vaguely useful information that I've grown to appreciate more and more over the years, even if at the time we thought he was kind of a goof. Thanks to him, I know that the easternmost state is not Maine but Alaska, and I'm always filled with some trepidation now that I no longer routinely pack the "Big Five" when I travel (towel, soap, toilet paper, padlock, and sunscreen).
Coach Page was also fond of reminding us, whenever we were stuck in traffic in NYC or Newark, "Better a delay than a disaster." I had occasion to remember these words during my sabbatical travel a couple of weekends ago. Returning home from the Great East Coast Baby Tour via train, I was deeply engrossed in a novel given to me by one of my friends (Let the Right One In, if you're interested - a painfully poignant literary novel) and did not think much that we were stopped at a station for what seemed like a longer-than-usual stop. I assumed it was a smoke break until we learned that there was indeed a delay and we could get out and stretch our legs for a while.
We soon heard the rest of the story: a freight train a few miles up had struck and killed a person. The investigation and recovery would take some time. And, of course, life would never be the same for the family of the one who had been hit. Speculation was rampant regarding the nature of the death - no one assumed it was accidental, and there was even some annoyance at the "selfishness" of the individual. Incomprehensibly, one man began to describe for me the nature of the clean-up task when trains hit cows. (I stopped him quickly, and crassly, as I told him I did not need the details, having already walked this journey with a friend whose son was killed by a train.)
What happens when your delay is someone else's disaster? As impotent as it sounds, you pray and pray. Which I did, off and on, for the rest of that journey. And still do. I invite you to pray for the family of Nicholas Van Alstine. Trusting that God has received Nicholas into the arms of love, grace and wholeness, pray that his family will have the consolation of the Holy Spirit, and the abiding presence and gentle comfort of friends for a long time to come.