Like a Freight Train

When bellies are fed and chores are done, Saturdays are for walking.

Showers moved through early today, scrubbing everything down and sending the creek a ‘babbling.

We step out.

The sun comes over us like an ocean wave, washing us in her amber glow.

We head down toward the bridge, soaking in this feeling of leisure—pure joy in each step. I have never seen them more relaxed than at these times, my two growing boys. I feel it too—tension leaving my body, mind slowing to be right here, right now.

A flock of bird startles overhead and we all crane necks to watch them soar. I feel my heart lifted, carried on wings. Leaves sway in wind, droplets of rain sparkle in grass. A white cat stares at me through neighbor’s window.

I hear the train approaching in the distance…whistle announcing this rude disruption coming on. It draws near with loud rattle of cars and scream of rails. We, all three, turn and give attention.

My Little Man waves, reminding his mama of a small me, searching these passing boxes for the man in the caboose. But he’s not there, and we walk on as the noise of passing years recedes into the surrounding hills.


One would think my heart would forget by now, but I cannot hear the sound of rattling cars without thinking of him: old friend who lost his life on metal rails. The mystery of his death haunts me at times like these, but lately, the mournful sound of the train whistle brings something else also.


Strange, it seems, that the very thing that took him from us can bring him back to life so vividly.

A roaring, screaming, moving memorial to my friend.


We’ll never know what he was thinking the night he died, what drove him to such an act of hopelessness.

He was young.

If given the chance, would he do it again?

It reminds me of something John Ross said last night—about a Dobson family moment he heard on the radio.

“Parents are always asking kids, ‘What are you going to be when you grow up? Who are you going to be?’ But no one asks them, ‘Who are you right now?’”

If someone had asked, would it have mattered?

I have invited God into this sorrow but the peace that accompanies this healing does not keep me from missing my friend. Or from a longing to still that kind of silent pain that can take a life in such a way.

Never mind.

Can’t change the past.

But maybe…maybe we can learn from it.

I look at my boys.

They are throwing leaves over the bridge, watching for them to come out on the other side.

Who are you?

Heart beseeches.

Who are you now?

I lean over the edge of the bridge, join in this simple game.

In these golden moments I feel that they will be with me forever.

Surly I cannot exist apart from them.

And in the distance, a train whistle blows.


  1. says


    so beautiful! so sad, and also food for thought. My boys are getting older, one in his last year of high school and yes it always seems to be about the future these days, what do you want to study?? Where will you go to college?? Makes me really think about the here and now … as always you leave me pondering …

    It’s a good thing


  2. says

    Tragedies would be compounded if we were to then squander the moments of blessing in front of us right now — leaning over bridges to find golden moments. I wonder if that’s why the train whistled for you today.

    Makes us remember how fragile all of this is, doesn’t it?

  3. says


    Over a decade ago the Lord graciously saw fit to attach His presence to the sound of a train whistle in my listening. Ever since, when I hear the train whistle, I am reminded of His presence and that He is inviting mine. There have been moments in my life since then when a Holy Spirit moment comes to me just as I hear this call. It is a moment filled with joy and praise. That God would use such a common thing to draw me to Himself is one of the most intimate blessings between us.

    May He use something … anything … of His choosing to draw you.

    Thank you for this recollection. It spoke deeply to my heart.

    On another note, I read your comment over at Deb’s and wanted to tell you how touched I am (still) by your honest confession and your blessing of encouragement to her.


  4. says

    Dear Laura~

    This post has made me think! Thank you!

    “Who are you right now?”

    Wow, that one really got me!

    I will come back and read this again … soon!

    Love you,
    ps. Thanks for reading my saga! It has been fun to relieve the journey!

  5. says

    We must live not taking anything for granted….living on purpose. My youngest sister was tragically killed at age 17 (in 1989). I have purposed to make my days count…I am not always as successful as I should be, but I try very hard.
    Blessings, andrea

  6. says

    This is heart-breakingly beautiful Laura. How true that even though there is peace there is still the “missing”.
    Treasure these moments with your boys – knowing them just as they are now and preserving the memory in your heart. I think as you live the moments and the days you find that when they become who they want to be they will be all you prayed they would.

  7. says

    Laura, this was the first post I read on my return to Blogland from a long hiatus. Your words fell on my heart like dew. So beautiful, so true. God bless you for sharing them.

  8. says

    Often I think there is way too much emphasis put on where we are going….embrace what is…be true to this days calling…so much is missed…slow down and take note of the world around us, including people….so much that is hidden, so much that is never spoken…learning to celebrate what is…to be content, no matter how imperfect while on the journey.

  9. says

    Chills run as I read your post this morning; memories of my own brother gone. Not a train, but a rope and I still wonder…would he do it again?
    Like Pam, I am reminded to live for today, savor right now. Tomorrow may or may not come. One of my boys now grown, working, living in Washington DC, another almost finished with college. They were young, blond boys with glasses, your two remind me of those days. My heart remembers those walks, those thoughts, and many tomorrows have come and gone. One more at home, my daughter, another gift to savor – today.
    Love you!

  10. says

    You used “flock of birds” and “crane” in the same sentence…crane being a bird of course! That was a cool association actually! Interesting you would put it that way.

    Anyway, it was a good story and I think I’ve mourned my friend while at the same time received the peace to deal with her loss and the grace to move on. But I always remember.

  11. says

    Interesting thought about asking our kids who they are now! It is important for them to know who they are! I wonder how many of them would be able to answer with something other than, “i dunno”
    Even so, I think that is a question that I am going to be asking my kids over the next few weeks and even years of their life. They need to be able to answer and do it with confidence.

  12. says

    A beautiful reminder, to help my boy and girl know they are valued for who they are right now, rather than what they could be someday.

    Oh how I want to instill a sense of peace with who God has made them. The school year is about to start here, and I am going to have some adjusting to do. This weekend was a good “last fling” for me, for the summer. The weather was bad until today, so the previous two days I was in Green Bay, live with Beth Moore. Incredible time, great time with a spiritual mom and friend, and came home tired, but with more to chew over I think.

    God did His “stuff” again in me.

    I know what it is like to have that hopelessness that drives those actions. No matter where the hopelessness comes from, it is still there. My prayer is those that feel so hopeless will find the One who can give them a never ending hope. And the One Who will guide them safely into shore, if they will let Him.

    Love you my dear friend. These last 2 posts have been wonderful!

  13. says

    There is no time like the present… It’s God’s gift to us; that’s why it’s called the ‘present’… That’s a phrase I’ve read before – it goes something like that, but I can’t remember it exactly… anyhoo, I like it and know that life is a gift, and we need to treasure it. If we’re going to think about our future, we should be looking eternally… Something I’ll think of and say often is about taking time to smell the roses… relish what you have now. You write about that so beautifully and I’ve been very touched by this piece. Thank you for being such a wonderful blog-pal, for your encouragement and sweet friendship – you are treasured. N xx

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