This is just about as awful a story as could happen on any day. On a Christmas weekend it seems worse.
I'm sure many will read the headline and be tempted to blame the snowboarder. And that may be the truth. Hard to know at this point. I only know that some of my initial preconceptions had to be set aside as I learned more.
Let's start with the story from the Casper Star-Tribune:
Two people died Friday after a snowboarder collided with two skiers at Hogadon Ski Area on Casper Mountain.
The snowboarder crashed into a five-year-old girl and her mother as the two were stopped on a ski run, Sheriff's Lt. Mark Sellers said Saturday.
All three were taken to Wyoming Medical Center. The man and the girl were pronounced dead at the hospital. The mother, who lives in the Casper area, was injured and remained hospitalized a day after the crash. An update on her condition was not available.
The accident occurred at about 2:30 p.m. as the snowboarder, a 22-year-old Casper man, was riding down a black-diamond run called Dreadnaught. The exact circumstances surrounding the crash remain under investigation by the sheriff's office, Sellers said.
No one involved in the crash was wearing a helmet, according to authorities.
A shattering moment on a Christmas Eve. Dreadnaught. It means "fear nothing." But this moment shows that we are all but a whisper away from that which we do fear indeed.
Without knowing these three, we can only transport ourselves into what we imagine them to be. A mother watching her little girl take hold of the magic adrenalin found in winter adventure. A little girl feeling the thrill of accomplishment knowing mom is watching and maybe Santa too. A young man testing his limits and savoring things you will understand more in a moment.
A holiday Friday in a beautiful place. And in a flash it's over.
I don't know what happened on this black-diamond run. I do know that the friends of the young man made me pause as the last moments of Christmas night slipped away.
Some of you may feel you've read enough. You might want to skip watching the video. Or you will watch for a bit and then click out. I almost did. But there was something about the way the first young woman said..."shredding for him"...that didn't quite make sense at first. It soon did.
One last run. Skiers and snowboarders know the pull. Maybe everyone else was too tired. "I'm just gonna go." And that was it. His friends paid respects by "shredding for him." But you get the picture that he focused on "shredding for Him." Most 22-year-old snowboarders don't make it a point to prioritize spiritual witness at every turn.
This, of course, does not undo the faith-testing ache of something so inexplicable. And maybe I've mulled it all the more for having spent a beautiful Christmas week closely watching my youngest child who is approaching her fifth birthday in a few days. I can't promise deep wisdom in a late-night news post on The Blaze.
My mother did have a birthday two day before Christmas. I gave her a new book by Phillip Yancey called, "What Good is God?" Yancey nearly died in a terrible accident a few years ago. A patch of black ice. The doctor told him to call his loved ones and say goodbye. Yancey has always wrestled and written about just the kind of thing that happened at the Hogadon Ski Area. "Any discussion of how pain and suffering fit into God's scheme ultimately leads back to the cross," he once wrote.
It's a hard thing to wrestle with in Wyoming tonight.
But let there be grace.
Can grace take hold in Christmas heartbreak? Yancey once wrote a book called, "What's So Amazing About Grace?" There are a lot of question marks in his book titles. You may have noticed a preponderance of posts on The Blaze today that evidenced terrible disquiet on a day wrapped in the promise of peace. Last word to Yancey: "Grace is the most perplexing, powerful force in the universe, and, I believe, the only hope for our twisted, violent planet."
The grace of the cross may be more a subject for Easter. But the journey to Easter began in Bethlehem. Amazing.