I love the Decemberists, but that’s kind of non-sequitur.
The past week has been so full of terror and pain and rage for so many people on so many levels.
My cousin’s son died. He was a beautiful boy and I never really got to know him because he’s sort of a distant relative and I generally let kids have some distance because their world is private and beautiful and, in most cases, none of the business of boring adult relatives, but I was always happy to see him running past with the other kids at family gatherings and he was so alive and friendly and everything kids are supposed to be until he wasn’t and then he went so fast. I feel like I know him better from the eulogies than from life, but I know his father in that same distant but warm-feeling way. We played together as children. He was older and preferred to play with older children but I sometimes got lucky and was included in the big kid imaginary world, and he was very much the same kind of bright, strong, charismatic leader, and I have just been struck by how he never could have known then what he would endure now, and seeing someone you have loved, even in that cousin at holidays way, experiencing that loss of hope and promise, and that destruction of a whole world and way of being in the world, as a parent with years left to be a parent, is unimaginable. There is nothing I can do but I know a sinkhole just opened up in his whole existence and there is no telling how much will fall into it or how deep it is until it is too late. It exposes the tininess of any pain I have ever experienced. I can only pray, but I hope to get his address and write too, because nothing I say will matter, but being remembered and loved is important when a loss is too huge to communicate or bear.
And this kind of reminds me of the fact that so many people are experiencing similar or even greater losses right now. Last week, I was chugging along, following the updates about the terroristic threats against students in Missouri after apathetic leaders stepped down and I was full of indignation and anger at stupid American politics and the fact that so few people I know seemed concerned or even aware of what was going on, and then out of nowhere, more terror, but in another country, and then politicians saying they won’t allow refugees fleeing the same terrorists come to various states and people fighting and fighting and fighting about that. It is so much. It is more than one planet seems able to hold, and every death is as profound as the one that my kids and I cried over all weekend, and so many of the refugees have lost children, parents, siblings, as well as home, but are now blamed for someone else’s loss, and what about the terror in the U.S. that never makes the news because the perpetrator looks too much like the newscasters and politicians who are busy pointing fingers somewhere else?
I have been taking two classes this semester that deal with privilege and oppression and it is hard to say whether I am seeing it everywhere because I am becoming more able to see it now or whether this is an increase.
In the middle of it all, Deuteronomy 10:19 keeps popping up on my social media feeds, and I am usually skeptical about people quoting scripture in the midst of a crisis because I saw it misused a lot growing up, but every time the reminder to love the stranger is another person’s response to all this fear and hate, I feel a little less hopeless.
It is easy to mourn the loss of someone I identify with and to care about the suffering of a childhood playmate, but every person I will ever meet or know about is someone’s childhood playmate and someone’s daughter or son. Even the people who shoot or threaten students just trying to go to school. Even the politicians who want to turn away shell-shocked preschoolers. I am lucky to have people in my world who remind me of this.
I am blessed every moment by the words and actions of so many people I know and so many people I don’t know. I hope I can do a better job of remembering this and being one of the people whose intentions and actions create more hope, and less anger.
The calendar on my wall has the Grace Paley quote “Let us go forth with fear and courage and rage to save the world,” on the page for this month. It’s a good quote, but let us go forth with love, and food, and an offer of a place to sleep, too.