Some thoughts on tragedy and grief

Tragedy strikes us all. As an individual or as a family…even as a nation.

1997

There was a drought in the Texas Hill Country, the lake was low, and winter was ending. Every day people would walk past our pier and look out across the cove and pray for water to fill it up.
Pray for rain, our respite from the drought, our savior from the brutal heat of the summer to come.
Water to irrigate gardens and fill wells, water to quench the thirst of our neighborhoods that depended on the health of the lake.
Eventually the water came. It rained for days, storms to usher in the bloom of spring. There is nothing like the Texas Hill Country in the spring. Should you ever get the opportunity you should visit in mid-April. It is just gorgeous.
The lake was regaining its vigor and the drought was ending.
Eventually the clouds parted. The water appealed to two fishermen that I loved more than anything.
They trolled out in a fishing boat on a bright, sunny afternoon, off to catch a few fish for dinner or maybe to add to the freezer. They kept our fridges stocked with fresh fish, and were just going to play.
Before the end of my day at school a storm blew through and made everything glisten as the sun came back out. I stayed for choir practice and went home a little later than usual with a friend.
I knew something was wrong when there was a police car outside our house when we got home, but no one knew anything. They just knew the storm had blown through and the men hadn’t returned home.
Surely they were just on the wrong side of the lake waiting it out on a beach.
One hour past, then four, then it was morning, and then it was 10 am.
We heard nothing except the boats going back and forth on the lake and the occasional shutter of helicopters overhead.
They never came home.

2009
My sister had finally agreed to go to a rock in roll bar with me that I sort of adored to see a band that I had loved since I was a kid. We had friends who were going to meet us and plans for dinner and drinks.
A night of fun.
As the hour drew nearer to our fun evening people cancelled.
I hate when people cancel last minute, but they did, so it was just going to be my sister and me.
We were determined to have a good time. We went to the restaurant upstairs and ordered some food. We watch people tottering in 5 inch stilettos. We laughed at how we were the only two out of I don’t even remember how many that made it to the show.
I don’t even remember who was playing.
We had never had a sisters night out, so we hung out and talked for a while.
Our drinks arrived and so did our food. We talked about our kids and jobs and life.
Then the phones started ringing.
Her husband had been trying to get ahold of her, but she didn’t answer, so he called my phone and I picked up right away.
“Where are you?”
“Scout. Why?”
“Dennis was in an accident. You need to go to Austin.”
“Okay, we will be there as fast as we can.”
We left our food uneaten and rushed from the building. We didn’t know what we were going to see when we got to the hospital, but we knew we had to go.
My sister’s neighbor kept the kids while we were gone.
We drove. A drive that normally took 4 to 5 hours took 3.
Again we waited for a man we loved; only this time his body was with us. It was his soul that was missing.
The life force that made him our father even though we were grown when our parents met.
We waited the night and a day. We waited until the tests were run that said he was coming back to us. We prayed for his soul to find its way home. We held hands and rested our heads on the cold tile of a hospital waiting room floor.
My mother waited in his room. Talked to him. Tried to coax him back. Tried to feel the warmth of his hand in hers for as long as she could.
He never found his way back.

2013
The last two days have brought great grief to the cities of Boston and West. Gut wrenching losses for families who had been having nice normal days. They were out for a run. Home watching TV. Sitting watching the world. They were participating in life.
Some of them were accomplishing dreams. Others were at work.
I was at work Tuesday. I followed the story all afternoon and late into the night. Pausing only while at home and holding my kids just a little tighter. I let them fall asleep in the living room snuggled up that night. There was nothing I wanted more than to hold them and make them safe.
Last night after I put the boys in bed I logged into Facebook and immediately I saw photos of a fire at a plant in Waco. Then I turned on the news and it had exploded.
Not just exploded but ripped a town apart. It will take years for them to come back from that.

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I only have a few words of wisdom when it comes to loss of those you love and rebuilding the life that you know. I don’t know if anyone who has lost in these tragedies will read it, but maybe the people who are reading need to hear it as well.
It takes time to cry. It takes time to feel the loss. It takes time to really understand that they’re gone and never coming back. It takes years, sometimes decades, to move on.
I don’t think we move on really.
I know that in my life the losses just became dull aches that resonate with how I try to appreciate each breath I take.
The losses have taught me to see the effects of my life on others. How one decision can cause a ripple effect that goes on and on and on.
It is easy to get mad and take your grief out on the world, but don’t. I got mad when I was so young and my grandfather got taken from me. I got so mad that I eventually rebelled to the point where nothing mattered but how I felt. I took my grief out on everyone, but no one ever understood that or forced me to deal with it. Don’t do that.
Don’t bottle it up and bury it thinking that everything is okay. You’re here, you’re safe, you’re moving along. You will crumble from the inside and become immobile.
Grieve. Heal. Cry. Get angry, but don’t get mad.
Most importantly love. Love is the most healing of emotions. It creates strength were there may have been none and warmth that lasts through the cold.
I pray that love surround you and that God bless your life with many years of happiness that far overshadow this dark time.

It helps to be Optimistic on 9/11

September 11, 2001. That is a day we all remember. Many of us remember what we were doing. We remember how we reacted. We remember going home and just holding our families, because “What if we were next?”

It is now 10 years later.

Most of us have been affected in one way or another by the events of that day. I was watching a special on MSNBC about the newscasters who were reporting that day and they got incredibly emotional while they were forced to rehash the news events of that day.

Well, what did we learn? What have we achieved? Where do we move on from here?

We learned that not everyone is a fan of the United States. Some people hate our country and our way of life to the point of violence.

Not just violence, but an inhuman act of tragedy.

We achieved a decade of war and warring opinions on whether we should be at war or not.

We achieved becoming less than we were. It may not have been the cause, but eventually with all of our resources flowing out of the country Bin Laden achieved his ultimate goal of changing the face of America. Today many Americans are out of the job and/or behind on bills. We live paycheck to paycheck and those that don’t are a lucky few.

We achieved the knowledge that we are not invincible. That is an achievement, albeit one that none of us wanted to learn.

We have learned to humble ourselves on the world stage.

We have no where to move yet, at least that is my opinion. We are crippled by the destruction of the structures, the wars, the economy. We are in limbo waiting for our prayers to be answered so that we can move on.

We are all living with the reality that this could happen again.

So – WHAT should we do about it?

It is my humble opinion that we need to grieve.

It is my opinion that this ten year anniversary will mark a new era for our country. We will be able to wake up out of this funk and find that which makes us whole.

I think if we each acknowledge the past, but begin to take the steps to fulfillment then eventually the nation will start to be able to take steps to fulfill it’s destiny.

We need to start living for today. Stop thinking about what was and start thinking about what could be.

We need to open our hearts to new loves. We need to open our arms to our families. Embrace forgiveness.

As a nation we are still broken, but I think that if each of us can allow that which is broken to repair within us, then the nation will once again thrive.
It may be possible to achieve greatness once again.

We may never be what we once were, but we can be something new. Something better. Something more tolerant. More forgiving. More peaceful.