Sunday, September 8, 2013
The day after the storm in the small community where I teach, two teenaged boys, both new seniors, were in a terrible accident. The driver walked away. The passenger died. The trajectory of two families forever altered, and to a smaller degree that of most of the people in the town.
For those in deep grief, the early autumn beauty around them is unseeable and inaccessible. For those two families I expect bright skies and vivid flowers and dew-sparkled webs feel like an assault and are anathema. Winter has already started for them and will be the season of their lives for a very long time to come. I know. I remember.
For those of us only peripherally touched by that particular tragedy, as we are touched every day by so many losses that we have no power to prevent or end or ease, the question is how do we honor those who are suffering.
There are the traditions of course: food, prayers, memorial sites. The day after the accident, all the parents I came into contact with had spent extra time hugging their own children. And for most of us whose lives have been touched by this tragedy but not torn asunder, the darkness serves to make the light in our lives seem even brighter. Those of us who have been members of that terrible club for several seasons know that light will eventually return to homes where darkness now consumes everything. It will not be as bright for a while, and it will never look the same.
But one day, something will happen, a random magical thing, and they'll realize joy as vivid and brilliant as summer flowers after a rainstorm.
Two weeks ago, second day of school, while standing outside at the end of the day helping kids get where they needed to be, I noticed a mom and her two kids walk toward me. The boy probably third grade, the girl a kindergartner. Because I was focused on the mom, who was going the wrong way, it took a minute for me to see the girl standing directly in front of me. "You are beautiful!" she said. And walked away with her mom and brother as though nothing extraordinary had happened.
God's words and voice coming through the tiny body of a five-year-old girl. Received directly into the heart of a woman who at one time was certain her heart could no longer hold such joy.
Kathleen has been gone for almost three years. The sense of loss never diminishes. But life does indeed go on. And a heart can heal enough to make room for both the deep darkness of the unimaginable and the luminosity of pure seeing and love.
While these families are wrapped in raven wings of grieving, I will hold the promise of bright skies for them. And offer prayers for safe passage through this perilous time.