What a strange summer morning when my friend Mitchell fell off the roof of Calvary Community Church… the year was 1978 and it was a time when volunteers could work on roofs without safety harnesses.

My father[1] was the pastor who transitioned this congregation from a much smaller building with fifty people in 1974 to a group that would cram more than five hundred people at its peak into this modern new church building. Many in the congregation were involved in the construction including a handful of us sixteen year olds eager to try our hands at man’s work.

The sloped roof above the sanctuary had boards being laid over the beams. As each was placed, it was our job to nail it in place by hand. On a morning that I was not feeling well, my friends went to work. As Mitch laboured to loosen a crooked nail, he lost his balance and plummeted to the concrete twenty feet below. If I had been there that morning, I would have witnessed it. Some others I know did.

As his head cracked against the ground, he was immediately unconscious. He remained in a coma for a week until he passed.

Mitchell Mireault was sixteen years old. He was one of the guys I was close to. We spent lots of time together doing what young guys in youth groups do—eating McDonald’s and pizza, flirting with girls and sneaking out late at night to wander around the city.

Mitch was a good kid and he loved Jesus. He was missed greatly. A young man in his prime who lived too short of a life…

1978 was our year without angels. None were there that day to keep him from falling. The prayers of faith did not resurrect my friend lying brain dead at Hotel Dieu Hospital. The prayer vigils did not keep him alive. No miracles for us that week…

What do you do with yourself when the hard rain falls? Tragedy has ways of opening up new kinds of questions. Hearts break and crumble under the pressure of great loss. Some will never find ways to live beyond their grief. At funerals for the young, we like to say that God needed them up there, or only the good die young. Is that really true or is it what we tell ourselves to cope with the unimaginable?

Others feel that tragedies happen to punish us for our sinfulness. Do you remember some people saying that Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans because of their wicked ways? There is a certain, fearful looking for judgment that people resort to when they cannot explain why something terrible happens.

Somewhere in the theology of insurance companies, they have determined that natural disasters are acts of God. In those cases, you may not be able to make a claim; check with your agent to see if you are insured against damages ‘caused by God’.

[1] Donald Robert Rogers