Where Tragedy Intersects with Truth, Where I End by Katherine Clark

Where Tragedy Intersects with Truth

Some stories leave a reader short of breath, muscles stiffened, dreading to turn the page because of the unavoidable outcome of the narrative arc. Katherine Clark’s story began on a routine Friday, volunteering at her son’s school. However, when she rounded the playground equipment in a schoolyard game of tag, one of the children bounded into the air from above and crashed into her head. She landed on the ground, paralyzed from the neck down, and Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope is her memoir of that collision and of her faithful response in the re-telling of it.

Because of the Fall

What followed that day in 2009 for Katherine, her husband, and her young children was a journey of why’s in which they also learned to trust God in the dark, even when answers did not come. As they waited for healing of Katherine’s crushed and lacerated spinal cord, they found the truth of C.S. Lewis’s words:

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

And in the case of the Clark family, God’s best was pretty painful. Although forty days of intense physical therapy and rehabilitation enabled Katherine to come home on her feet with a cane, her life was forever changed. Even today, nine years after the accident, she experiences difficulty in walking, muscle spasticity, balance issues, and continual nerve pain throughout her body.

Grieving, but not Depressed

The Clarks learned that grief is “the faithful response to loss.” (211) In excerpts from Care Page posts that were written during Katherine’s hospitalization, John Clark (Katherine’s husband) shared the family’s story of laughter and tears. Their grief over all that was lost with the accident was tempered by hope and gratitude, “the sense that God [was] not only near, but that He [was] doing something mighty and altogether lovely in [their] midst.”

The faithful response of the local church was key to this tenacity and “faithful response” within grief, and it was heartwarming to read about all the many ways in which the Body of Christ showed up for that young family:

  • A friend posted Bible verses in Katherine’s hospital room;
  • Meals were delivered to the hospital each day so Katherine and John could have a family dinnertime with their children;
  • Evening visitors were asked to wait until 6:15 to protect their family time;
  • Friends and family volunteered to stay with the children after John tucked them into bed so he could return to the hospital for some treasured time alone together.

The loving attention of God’s people and their prayers helped the Clarks to see beyond the pain and suffering to God’s redemptive purpose in it, to deal with their children’s sorrow, and to praise and grieve together.

Two Pervasive Responses to Grief

  1. If grief is seen as an unwelcome interloper, we’re quick to put a Romans 8:28 band aid on it instead of giving our attention to lament. Jesus models a right response to the death of Lazarus, for even though He was going to turn death on its head, he wept genuine tears and entered into grief with His friends.
  2. If grief becomes a way of life, indulged at every opportunity, we reject healing and become content in sadness.  Jesus’ question of the man at the pool of Bethesda (“Do you want to be healed?”) could be rhetorical, but probably not! Although it is true that we spend our days on this planet living in shadow, Katherine challenges readers to remember that our “darkness cannot overcome the light.” (127)

The transcendent truth that emerges from the story of Where I End is that we are asked to carry the weight of our story for the benefit of others who also have a holy history that requires their attention and acceptance. Although everyone will not be asked to experience quadripelegia, the miracle and the mess of each life reveals the power of God to carry us through pain and to sustain us through darkness. Even those events which could never in a million years be described as good, can be used to produce good in the hands of a God who knows us and loves us and is able to redeem our stories.


Many thanks to Moody Publishers for providing this copy of the book.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

69 thoughts on “Where Tragedy Intersects with Truth”

  1. In my career as a nurse I have been amazed repeatedly at how humans adapt to devastating and life altering injuries. What a wonderful resiliency is built into us as a gift from the God who made us! Those who deny the grief altogether or don’t move through it have a much more difficult time. This sounds like an inspiring story of hope and adjustment in the face of overwhelming odds.

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    1. Yes, this family did SO many things RIGHT in their response to this tragedy. Aside from the inspiring story of Katherine’s recovery, this book is a great resource for the church in knowing how to come alongside in helpful ways.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To me, that’s a bonus of reading a book like this. You get the author’s story, and if it’s a situation in which the church showed up (as we are called to do!), we glean ideas and motivation for doing it right!

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  2. What a powerful story! I once heard the wife of Steven Curtis Chapman speak at a women’s conference about when their son accidentally ran over their daughter, with the car, taking her life. The pain was twofold-losing their daughter and helping the son deal with the fact that he was at fault (even though it was completely accidental). I wonder what it was like for this child, knowing his mom was hurt because of an innocent thing he did. These situations always move me to prayer. They must be so difficult.

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  3. Wow, what a heart-rending story yet full of hope! It’s times like this that we see the truth that hope and joy can be present in the most tragic situations when we are relying on God. And you are so right that we need to lament and grieve and acknowledge the pain, but then rest in the hope and love of God. Thank you for sharing this story, Michele. Sounds like a great book to read. Blessings to you and thanks for linking up faithfully at #LMMLinkup!

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  4. Thank you for this excellent review about a book that might not be easy to read. Yet, as always, your reviews give context and background without giving away the whole story. I appreciate so much the effort you put into each one of these reviews.

    Blessings,

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    1. Thanks, Karen! I looked at this book over at Moody’s site several times, knowing it would be a worth while read, but not sure I was willing to enter into the reliving of Katherine’s accident and recovery. So tragic and yet, in the end, so amazing!

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  5. Michele, thank you for your thorough yet tantalising review of this book. It leaves me intrigued and wanting to read it for myself. You have a lovely knack of yielding sufficient information to cover the basics of the story but not so much as to make reading the book redundant. What a hard path this family travelled, and what a great response from their church, family and friends! It shows how much we need one another’s help and support as we seek to reveal God’s love and compassion in action to those in need, never knowing just when we might be desperate for the same. Healing is a process that can take years and may never be complete, but what this book seems to reveal is the hope and joy that are intertwined with sadness, pain and grief. Another book to add to my ever growing wish list! 🙂

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Joy! I’m glad to know that I don’t give too much away in my reviews! It’s always a challenge to know how much to include to make it meaningful rather than just a teaser, and still not short circuit the experience for the serious reader.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This does sound like a difficult yet hopeful and helpful book. I had my own brief bout with neurological illness resulting in being unable to walk on my own when a virus hit my spine 20 years ago – scary! And difficult, though not to the extent this author’s broken neck would have been. Our former pastor has been in a wheelchair almost 20 years since a car accident when he was in college, six months before his wedding. He did make his wedding, and he and his wife have sunny, sweet spirits, but they acknowledge life is not without its difficulties. These situations are so hard, yet God provides grace. I put this book on my wishlist, but I can imagine wincing while reading it, at least at first.

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    1. Wincing Yes, I knew it was going to be hard to read about the accident and the claustrophobia of immobility, and the hopelessness of a long recovery, and yet, for me, it was really worth the effort.
      I didn’t realize that you had experienced a virus that effected your spine. Very scary! So glad you recovered!

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  7. Wow! Sounds like a powerful story. I was so thankful to keep reading and find out she was able to eventually walk again. Thank you for sharing, Michele.

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  8. I’ve really had to struggle with the thought that ‘best’ could also be ‘painful’, but the truth is I’ve seen it in my own life. I appreciate the points made here, Michele, either by you or the author, reminding me to be okay with grieving our loss. How often do we quickly move on and encourage others in their pain to do the same?
    This was truly refreshing to read today. Thank you, dear friend.
    Marva | SunSparkleShine

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    1. So true! I’m not sure which is worse: the struggle with the trial or the loss of control that comes with it, but I’m right there with you on this one. And thanks, too, for reminding readers of the importance of not hurrying our people through their grief and lament.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for the post recommending the book. Sometimes, I am hesitant to read this type of story, because I am worried that it will be depressing, but usually find that they are just the opposite – uplifting. I will give it a try.

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      1. I resisted reading “On Living”, by Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain, because I thought it would be morbid, but it is anything but. I should know not to prejudge a book!

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  10. Michele,
    This hit me like a ton of bricks… “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
    I actually started to cry and feel so emotional now. That pretty much sums up my life. I continue to trust God in the painful and I’m so thankful for the ways He’s brought triumph over the enemy so I can believe for the future. God is good, even when my circumstances are not!
    Much love,
    ~Sherry Stahl
    xoxo

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    1. So good to have connected over that Lewis quote, and it is great summary for why the Christian life, rightly understood, should be approached in humility and deep dependence upon God, for we DO NOT know what “His best” will require of us or how painful it will be. We do not know how we will endure it, or even what we will be when we come out on the other side.
      Thanks for your great insights, Sherry. It’s always good to hear from you.

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  11. What a story! No one certainly has a story like theirs but the outcome and how they lived their life since the accident seems remarkable. I love this summary, “Even those events which could never in a million years be described as good, can be used to produce good in the hands of a God who knows us and loves us and is able to redeem our stories.”

    Thank you for pointing us to this redemption story.

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  12. Very interesting and touching from many aspects. Really liked the way the local church helped because that meant that someone outside the family cared enough for the family to do this.

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  13. Working with men in addiction I’ve learned more about grief. I especially appreciate how you recognize that grief isn’t to become a way of life. It sounds like a powerful story this family shares.

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    1. Such a great point to emphasize, Debby. I’ve seen situations where an entire life is wasted, first in addiction and then in an identity of forever weakness as a “former” something, never a present anything. Certainly, we grieve over all that is lost, but we must also open our hands to receive the next thing when the time is right.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Many unexpected things happen to us in life, but the most important is our response and commitment to turn TO God instead of AWAY from Him. thanks MIchele!

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  15. Michele, this sounds like a powerful book. My younger brother was a quadriplegic as a result of a rollover auto accident. He was in his 20s at the time and while he did regain some use of his arms and upper body, he never walked again. He wasn’t a believer at the time, but he came to know the Lord a couple years before he died.

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  16. Wow, that seems like an amazing story! I love the quote by C.S. Lewis, it is the way that I have always felt! I trust God and know He has a great plan for my life, but sometimes we do not agree on the level of pain that I can handle!

    Thank you for the great review!

    Blessings,

    Amy

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  17. Really excellent review and points made by you. Grief is a powerful subject AND experience and too often those who are grieving do not receive good support or receive “support” that shows no real understanding. I dealt with it often in my office and took an additional certification re. grief. Love the C.S. Lewis quote. His words on the subject in A Grief Observed are some of the most honest and profound I have ever read.

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    1. Brace yourself for the first couple of chapters where the accident occurs. The fact that I knew she had recovered (eventually) really helped me to read it. The application to our own tragedies and set backs is definitely worth the hard read.

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  18. “Even those events which could never in a million years be described as good, can be used to produce good in the hands of a God who knows us and loves us and is able to redeem our stories.” So glad we serve a God like this. Tragedy happens, but God redeems it for us and others. This sounds like a story that would stay with you for a long time. In a positive way.

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  19. Thanks for sharing Theresa. I love the C.S. Lewis quote. It also made me stop and think when I read “do you want to be healed”. I have been praying for peace but maybe I am not accepting the peace God is giving. If I accept the peace that means I accept that I might lose my husband. I have found people are always stronger than they think.

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    1. Victoria, it sounds as if you have a lot on your plate right now. C.S. Lewis went through a lot of painful experiences, so he’s speaking out of that knowledge which comes from having suffered. It’s very hard, sometimes, when we’re in the middle of it.

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  20. Sometimes I want to run away from stories like these because they are so painful. But you make a great point, Michele: “Although everyone will not be asked to experience quadripelegia, the miracle and the mess of each life reveals the power of God to carry us through pain and to sustain us through darkness.”

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  21. Ooh, this sounds like a good one! I can relate (on some degree) with her quote about not questioning God’s best for them, but questioning HOW PAINFUL that best will be. Wow.
    This life is certainly not necessarily an easy one, is it? Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Yes, Rachel, Katherine managed to find the right balance of realistic portrayal of a bleak medical situation alongside hope. I do think her supportive family and friends were the key to that, which reminds me of how important it is for us to show up when a fellow believer is in crisis.

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  22. I like what you said many comments above (yes, I often read those , too!) about this book being good instruction for churches on how to come alongside the grieving and grappling in helpful ways. Putting this one on my board, and maybe in my cart!

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    1. Well, I’m glad you read the comments, Liz, because I’ve often said that sometimes the best part of the blog post lives right here in the comment sections. It’s great to have a forum for so many good insights when we’re talking books.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Sounds like the book shares some great information on dealing with difficulty; especially for the Christian. So easy to read the feel good things in the Bible, but when difficulty strikes I am always amazed at how people deal. I pray if I ever have to walk in those shoes that I will measure up. Looks like a book worth putting on the reader’s shelf.

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