I have been to two memorials in the past two weeks: one for my niece, Victoria; the other for my friend, Robert, who died on the morning of Vic’s memorial. Vic was 20 years old when she died; Robert was 61. Both services had audiences in excess of 100. And I played a public role in them both.
Vic’s memorial featured a song called “Collide” by Howie Day (released in July 2004). Robert’s service concluded with a song called “The Hurt and The Healer” by MercyMe (released in May 2012).
Both songs seem to focus on the word collide.
Collide is an interesting word to me; arresting, to say the least. Show stopping might be even more appropriate. It carries a force and an awesome power that is hard to match. We talk about cars colliding in a traffic accident, planes colliding in midair. Scientists talk about atoms colliding; they have built particle accelerators which they call colliders.
And it is of interest to me, also, that the word collision (which, of course, is the same word in noun form) does not carry with it the same force as the verb collide. Probably the letter d is responsible here, giving a final and inescapable conclusion to the long vowel sound in the second syllable.
In any event, the word is powerful, forceful, and immediately communicates the fact that there will be a definite change ahead. For when two objects collide (lit. are struck together) . . . neither is ever the same again.
In Howie Day’s song two lovers collide because of their differences; but in the end, they come together in spite of their differences. That is, they “collide” (they are forcefully drawn together) eventually in a positive, even inevitable way, because of their love. In MercyMe’s song the hurt and suffering of life are on a collision course with the grace and mercy of God. And so glory and suffering collide; scars are eventually understood, because when hurt collides with The Healer, what was dead is resuscitated with the breath of God.
Whether you are religious or not, and whether you are in love or not, the apparent contradictory forces described in the previous paragraph may depict situations that ring true with your life’s experience. I would be surprised if they did not.
Out of great disaster strength will sometimes emerge. Horrific terror can spawn heroic and altruistic courage. Hopelessness can sometimes be transformed into indefatigable faith. And unbridled anger and hate . . . can on occasion . . . experience a metamorphosis that would even rival the experience of Kafka’s traveling salesman; it can be changed into love.
Many years ago now, a 20 year old I knew was on the highway between Knoxville, TN and Ashland City, TN. She was just months away from her wedding day, and was driving home from college to spend the holidays at home with her parents and her brother. Her name was Susan. A drunk driver coming from the opposite direction crossed the double yellow line and his car collided with Susan’s car.
Her life hung in the balance. Severe internal injuries and numerous broken bones. One of her eyes was totally destroyed. Susan was a cross country runner, and her strong heart gave her an edge in this battle, I’m sure. But at the time, we were all expecting the worse; they had cautioned us it was likely she wouldn’t make it. Devastation. Horror. The unthinkable had happened in her family.
I can tell you that Susan did recover, albeit with certain physical limitations. She married as planned. Her life did not end. But it was forever changed. That is part and parcel when things collide.
On the 6th of August, 1945, atomic particles were made to collide in the air above Hiroshima, Japan; then again three days later in Nagasaki, Japan. Although they were detonated differently, both caused a bombardment of particles which led to a condition of supercritical mass and nuclear fission. The instant loss of life was unparalleled in history.
When things collide, life changes. And the change is inescapable.
“Even the best fall down sometimes. Even the wrong words seem to rhyme. Even the stars refuse to shine” when things collide, writes Howie Day.
When life as we know it, and death as we know it collide, what happens? When a loved one passes we are forced to struggle over this collision of life and death. When competing national interests come into conflict there is a political (and sometimes military) collision. And when personal aspirations collide with human limitations, or failures create an unyielding limit to the advancement of our dreams . . . our hearts collide with reality.
Things are bound to collide. Of this you can be sure. All that remains . . . all that ever remains . . . is what I will do after the collision event. What I will become. For I cannot stay the same.