Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The other day I was working in the bakery. Sirens were sounding, first responder vehicles rapidly passed my place. I have three walls of windows in the bakery, so I see the mountains, the golf course, and a lot of passing traffic.

A friend raced to my door and asked if my kids were okay. Friends from other states began to call to check in with me.

All the schools in town were in lockdown, there was a shooting, a death, perhaps multiple shooters, bomb threats, helicopters, law enforcement and newscasters from television stations racing to get the breaking info.

All of a sudden, we were one of those places. Painful circumstances rocked our little town like a 7.8 on the richter scale earthquake. Lack of information, multiple sources of bad information, fear, shock, horrible truth, all rolled our town and a sense of security and peace collapsed just like a shaky building, one moment standing tall and firm, the next a pile of rubble, with dust plumes rising to the sky.

We all turned on the local radio station. Cried. Hugged. And breathed a deep sigh of relief upon finding out that teachers were okay. That there was only one shooter, not multiple, targeting several campuses at once. That the young woman who was shot was in the hospital, but was okay. The wound was minor.

But that still left us with the harsh truth. A fourteen year old girl was dead. She felt so hopeless, so painful, that she decided that day to do something drastic to alter her reality. A daughter, a sister, a granddaughter. A quiet, straight A student who had friends.

Our town is small. Most everyone knows most everyone. In these kind of situations, we all try to make sense of something that doesn't make sense. We each create our little narratives, trying to force chaos into some kind of order.

We think that if we can understand, we can later prevent another tragedy.

And I guess at the end of the day, understanding is about the best we can aim for, even though it seems rather impossible to find any understanding in a world where a 14 year old girl feels that much pain.

My kids were not close to that event at all. At least physically. But they are good friends with the girl who was shot. She is in our home regularly. And they are friends with friends of the young girl who was killed. We have spent time everyday praying for all the families involved. And when I accidentally veer into creating a narrative about the situation, I am grateful that Rose reminds me that we do not know all the story. And that creating one doesn't help anyone. Of course she doesn't use those words. But she gets the concept.

We acknowledge the pain. We pray for grace. What do you pray in a situation like this? Grief is hard to bear under normal death circumstances. I pray that all people who are in shock, in grief, in pain, will know grace, compassion, and eventual healing.

Why is it that grief can be so horrible, and yet it doesn't seem to kill most of us.

Just leaves everyone with giant piles of rubble, messed up water systems, roads that disappear into nowhere, and us, left to start cleaning up the mess, one pile at a time.

I remember the earthquake in Kobe in January, 1995. It woke us up, rolling the floor of our apartment. We woke, but went back to sleep, until my sister called from Texas, an hour later, asking if we were okay, alive, was our town destroyed?

We watched the news in shock. Just as we did on 9/11, safe ourselves, but reeling, because the truth is, if we let it, the hurt and loss of others is damn sure going to affect us. At least, I hope that we will remain tender enough to feel a bit rocked by the loss of others in our human family.

When you see the complete upheaval of those places, you might wonder if they could ever be functioning cities again.

And yet, here we are.

The eggplants have decided to produce. They are healthy and lovely, I picked a giant purple orb the other evening and with basil, that is thriving, and a tomato from a friend's garden, some peppers from our garden, and lots of onion and garlic, made a most amazing caponata.

The pomegranates are red and juicy.

My yard is filled with such an amazing amount of blooming flowers, it is an embarrassment of riches. They are crazy beautiful. I don't deserve them. But they give me joy, everytime I go out. My house is filled with bouquets.

I feel pretty rolled right now. Muscle memory? Grief? Pain for my fellow man, my neighbors? I truly don't feel like smiling at all these days. But history reminds me that we will all smile again, because that is how we were made. Resilient, capable of surviving earthquakes somehow.

Oh, how I pray that all humans in severe pain will find the help they need. And that people in deep and tragic grief will be surrounded by kind people, not mean judgmental ones. How can I pray for comfort for people who are feeling inconsolable grief and confusion? I guess I will pray they will be comforted by a soft blanket, they will be provided clean water when they need it, and in the mean time, that a numbness would help them get through the next weeks and months until they are strong enough to adapt to new stage of life, post earthquake.


Melaka said...

This last February my son committed suicide. It seemed to come out of nowhere. Recently I read a book (or should I say numerous books) that have helped me cope with the idea of death and heaven. The central truth of the book "Proof of Heaven" by Eben Alexander states this: 1) You are loved and cherished; 2) You have nothing to fear; and 3) You can do no wrong. Overall Love and Compassion is all anyone needs. Thank you for your writing.

gingerhillery@mac.com said...

Oh, the pain! And I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that love and compassion is all anyone needs. You are welcome. Sending you a great big hug.