Goodbye October

October is my month.  The month I’ve always loved because it is so beautiful here.  The sky is so crisp and blue, the weather cools, it is the month my little boy came into our lives and well, it has always felt like good things are coming.  It is also the month I dread.  The month we knew Dave was sick for sure, the month we found out that time was going be our enemy, the month we knew he would being dying much, much sooner than we expected.  In my post-Dave world, October is also the month we gather to remember him.  Every year, people still come and golf with us in memory of him.  Nine years later, I am always so surprised that we are able to do it again, but I know down to my bones that they will still keep coming because of who he was and what a good friend he was to them.

It is a remarkable thing.

I am glad today is the end of October is near though.  I will be glad to step into another November, knowing I put another October behind me.  This October started out and was going pretty well, but my overwhelmed button was pushed last week and has left me reeling, reflecting and possibly resetting my goals again.  I really thought to myself…it’s ok…it’s not too bad this year…I didn’t hit any low feelings.  I didn’t get stuck in the missing him.  I didn’t get overwhelmed by the “another year on my own.”

Last week, we started transitioning again.  After-school coaching was starting for me and I wasn’t quite sure how everything was going to line up for us.  I wasn’t sure that all the pieces were going to fall into place.  I am always apprehensive until the routine re-aligns.  I always stress out about how it will all fit.  I need the extra income though.  I am fortunate to have something I love to do, so my stress and mommy guilt are balanced with hope that finances will be relieved and the fun I have working with the girls.

When I came home on Monday, one of my hounds wasn’t looking himself.  His eyes were still twinkly as always, but he didn’t look well.  It was already near six and I had to get to my big boy to pick him up…so, my sweet pup had to wait.  Well, we got home and the evening fell apart quickly and my sweet dog died.  He was old, but not that old and it was unexpected. It knocked the wind out of me.  He was the last dog that Dave and I had together…he was the “good one”…well behaved, so sweet, and of course held so many lovely memories in his presence.  My heart was broken as I watched him and felt so helpless.  I know it’s not the same, but I was immediately brought back to watching Dave die…feeling so helpless…knowing what was going to happen, wanting to stop it, and being so, so helpless.

With the help of all the sweet people around me, I made it through the week.  The hug from my neighbor when I went over for help after my pup died.  My brother, his family and my mom who came right over and helped me with my boys and the logistics of a big, dead dog in the house, and the people who patiently listened to me this week as I told my story…

I made it through the week.  Then yesterday, we gathered to remember Dave.  We golfed.  We had a great time.  We reminisced. Dave’s friends embrace my boys, share stories about him and it is amazing.  All these years later, they come out and continue to help us heal.  One of Dave’s friends, a lovely man he worked with, was widowed several years after me.  I only see him once a year, but we have the widowed kinship.  We caught up as we do each year.  When he left the lunch, he hugged me and said, “it’s time…find someone to take care of you.” Now he didn’t say this in a chauvinist way meaning that I can’t take care of things, but in the loving, widowed way…his only intent was that I find joy again.  He knows the exhaustion.  He knows the sorrow.  He knows the loneliness.  He knows the healing, the hope, and the surviving too.

It got me thinking even more.  I really don’t even think of having someone to take care of me anymore.  It is my daily assumption that this is my life and it is my responsibility to take care of everything myself.  All my being goes into making our lives work.  All my energy goes into making sure my boys are ok and hopefully happy, healthy and well.  I even take care of myself more now…but someone to take care of me just seems like memory…not a possibility for the future.

So, as I sit here on this lovely, October morning, I feel a bit lost again.  My heart is sad again, but I know that with the sadness, with the lost, I will find something more.  I know that what is the most bittersweet about this time of year is the hope it brings to me despite the pain that always lingers.  I know those memories of hearing my husband was going to die only days after we had our sweet baby always propels me to love more and be more.  As my heart heals, sometimes it is necessary to feel its brokenness again.  It reminds me that there is much more to this unexpected life than just surviving it.

Preparing for camp

This week, I am preparing myself for camp.  Soon, I get to be a small part of the fifth Camp Widow West created by Soaring Spirits International (http://www.sslf.org/).  It is a weekend put together specifically for those who have been widowed…no matter what the circumstances or situation.  It is in lovely San Diego.  It is in the same area where Dave and I often vacationed.  It is a place of hope and solidarity.  It is a place of laughter and heartbreak all rolled into one.  I remember the thing that struck me most when I attended several years ago… the only common thread…being widowed.  To see so many men and women who had suffered this great loss come together to share their struggle, their hope, and their stories was inspiring.

This year, I am going back as a volunteer.   Volunteering is a more natural state of being for me…participant is really hard for me.  I know that although I wear the volunteer badge at this one, I will still be participant, whether I like it or not.  I know that I will listen to the story of others’ loss and I will share mine.  I know that my heart will break as I listen to the newly widowed and that I will be inspired by those who have survived this journey longer than I have.  It is a bittersweet place.  It is filled with broken hearts that still smile, laugh, and continue to face a life they had never imagined.  It is amazing to see how people turn tragedy into miracles.  It increases my hope and gives me the courage to thrive in my unexpected life.

So as I prepare, I get ready to face the heartbreak of others.  I get ready to experience my own loss in a new way.  I get ready to share my story with those who will hear it.  I have the wonderful opportunity to meet some of my heroes!  I get to be with the other bloggers who share their stories.  I get to listen to the stories of those who have created a place of healing for so many, including themselves.  I get to remember and see how much I’ve changed over the years too.

This year, the boys are coming to San Diego with me.  I was going to go alone, but then thought about sharing the inspiration with them and the value and the possible impact that it might have in their lives.  They don’t often see this part of loss.  They don’t often see people other than us surviving the loss.  It can be an isolating experience losing a spouse, or in their case, a parent.  They will have the opportunity to see others who walk the same walk every day.  They will meet other children who share similar struggles, sorrow, joy, and hopefully understand that we are not alone on this journey.  They will get to see a part of me that they don’t really see too.  They don’t pay much attention to the writer mom they have…sure, sometime they see the books come in the mail and they know that I write.  They might see that what I do has a bigger role than just me sitting at my desk.  They might see that words are healing.  They might see that sharing our story not only brings healing to us, but may bring comfort to others.  They might experience the solidarity of hope and healing that I have been privileged to experience.  I hope they are comforted.  I hope they are inspired.  Even if they are not, that will be ok.

So as I prepare, I think about all the other people who will attend. I wonder how I will be changed by their stories.  I wonder how I will be inspired.  I look forward to the unexpected…and for me that is huge!  Looking forward to something isn’t always a part of my life anymore…it is a more rare and precious thing.  Looking forward to the unexpected is an adventure!  I am so grateful to have this adventure ahead of me!  Camp Widow…here we come!

***Important Note – Camp Widow West is an adult experience for those who have lost a partner or spouse.  My children are not attending this event, but are accompanying me on my trip.  Their experience will be based on seeing my participation as a volunteer, not as participants.  They will be spending time with friends and family while I volunteer.***

An Insulated Heart

Right after I was widowed, my heart was raw.  It was wide open, exposed, and vulnerable to all and any heartache that I saw and heard.  It didn’t matter if that tragedy was near or far.  If I heard it, saw it, read it my heart ached for those involved.  My empathetic senses were turned up to full power.  If I heard of people losing loved ones, I was ripped back to my early moments of loss and sadness.  It truly was like going back to square one and experiencing my own loss of Dave as if it were the first moments again.

I was extremely raw the first ten months or so…arguably the entire first year, maybe two.  I was weary from my loss, my lack of control of my sadness and my tears.  Through the help of support groups, individual grief therapy, and living my grief, I began the process of insulating my heart again.  I say again, because I had already learned this skill through my ministry.  While working with young people and their families, I would be a place they came with their own tragedy and issues for help and guidance.  A skill I was taught during my ministry years was to leave their tragedies and issues at the church when I left.  It was very hard to learn, but it was essential.  It helped me to live in the present with my own family and not be continually burdened by the struggles of others that I experienced daily.  It started in a very literal way, I would use a physical sign to leave them behind at my office; maybe asking them to stay behind as I closed my office door, praying for their well-being as I left for the day, washing my hands before I left sending the issues of the day down the drain, or shutting my car door as I left and telling them they could not come home with me.  It sounds kind of silly, but it works.  In my final years as a minister, there were many trials.  Teens in my ministry were killed in accidents, the church was going through the period of recognizing its own sins, and the betrayal by a colleague whom I trusted and worked very closely with were all very challenging.  I can’t remember the name of the movie, but there was a character who would lift his arms and run his fingers through the leaves of a tree outside his front door whenever he returned home, leaving the troubles of his day there dangling in the tree.  When he left the next day for work, he would run his fingers back through the leaves taking back the troubles, thoughts, and experiences of his work and life outside of his home.  Eventually, this became my main imagery of letting go as I returned home.  It didn’t always work, but most days, it kept the ministry of church outside the door of my home and let me be present to my family.

So in those early years of loss, I remembered and began insulating my heart again.  I was insulating against the triggers of grief that I knew.  It was difficult because in the beginning, nearly everything was a trigger.  I had to insulate my heart without cutting it off from loving all together.  Many days, I now wonder if I insulated too well.  I wonder if I have built too solid a wall around my heart in the hope of survival.  I hoped that the insulation would be soft enough to let the love flow back and forth, but strong enough to not let me drown in the loss of that very love.  It was a balance.  It was a time of learning what to let in and what to shut out.  When tragedy struck up close and in person or outside my life in a more global way, I would carefully gauge how much I could take and then shut myself off…I would run my fingers through the tree in my imagination and let the troubles hang in the tree for me to pick up again when I felt strong enough to hold them again.  When I think of it, it is really a very selfish thing.  For me, it was also a very necessary thing.  I needed my heart to survive Dave’s death.  It was imperative. Many days, I wonder if I have become too skillful at keeping my heart insulated.

This past week brought the news of the tornado in Oklahoma.  On Mondays, I volunteer with/for a friend at her church.  She is a dear friend.  She is from Oklahoma.  Her family lives only blocks from the area of impact.  She pushed into my insulated heart with her concerns for her family.  She chipped away at the tough exterior when she told me of the school children trapped.  The sadness began to seep into my heart.  It began to hurt again. I also attribute this quick penetration of my heart to the children I have been teaching the last six weeks also.  I spent six weeks teaching kindergarten and first grade.  These sweet little souls have no insulation around their hearts and emotions.  They wear their entire hearts on their sleeves.  Whether they are joyful, feel wronged, afraid or happy, it all is all right there on the surface.  The emotions traveled through by these sweet children each day are transparent and immediate.  I think being with them made my heart squishier. They let me into their little hearts right away.  They trusted me, loved me and showed this daily with their wonderfully transparent emotions and behavior.  I loved them right back.  When I was finished with this six week stint with them, I was still greeted daily by their hugs, smiles, and some days’ tears and fears every day I was on campus.  So, thinking of the teachers and children in Oklahoma brought me to tears and made my heart ache.

Something happened Monday afternoon as I drove home from my volunteer gig.  My sorrow from the news in Oklahoma brought back my sadness for many of the kids I knew long ago.  My mind was flooded with the thoughts of those precious lives lost.  Images and memories of moments sitting with their parents in the silence of their sorrow draped over me. I remembered moments I haven’t let into my consciousness in a long time.  Moments I have insulated my heart from very carefully. I thought of the courage of those who live through great loss and felt the sadness of that journey.

Those emotions have been consuming me most of the week.  I have also let in the emotions linked with ending another school year.  There are many goodbyes this year. Colleagues I love are moving on for many reasons.  My own future is uncertain and this limbo always triggers my grief.  Next week, I begin a new summer job and all the transition is draining my emotional strength. Add the holiday weekend, which still to my own dismay affects me in ways I often can’t expect. My insulation is thinning and my heart is feeling very squishy.

I try to remember that feeling emotions is okay.  That it can be healing and lets others know how grateful I am for their presence in my life.  I feel so exhausted though.  This week, I can feel myself shutting down again as my heart opens and experiences the changes.  I know from experience that this will be temporary, but it is taxing nonetheless.  I find myself sleeping off my sorrow again and my motivation is waning. I remind myself that this too will pass.  I remind myself that it is only because I have been fully present to those around me that I feel this pain at all.  I remind myself that my insulation has been balanced because no matter how much I try to build walls around my heart, people get in and I love them.  What a gift! I often joke that I am a Jane of all trades and master of none…the more I consider this, the more I find that there is one thing that I have been good at for a long time…building relationships with others.  I look around and I see the relationships I build.  I open my heart to those around me and when I am brave enough to let myself love them, joy comes.  It makes the insulation around my heart soften and it will be ok.  The joy is fuller because through the loss and sadness that change can bring, I am grateful with all my being that I have invested in people.  Even when I have a week like this past week has been, I am grateful for the gift of the wonderful people around me.  When saying goodbye is heartbreaking, when the world throws tragedy of others toward my wounded heart, when the insulation of my heart is penetrated, it is testament to the fact that I am still here…not just surviving, but thriving and letting love back into my heart and soul, despite my wounds.

“Once there was a way…

to get back homeward…once there was a way to get back home.”  Golden Slumbers,  The Beatles

So once there was a place that felt like home.  There was a place where I felt safe, loved, protected…home.  Eight years ago, the door blew open, my love left and my home didn’t feel like home anymore.  That place, that state of being, that knowing and belonging slipped through my hands like sand.  I tried to hold onto it, but it wasn’t possible.  My home, my heart was empty.  This emptiness was to become the deepest, darkest place I have ever experienced.  Every ounce of joy spilled out of me and I was filled to the top with sadness, loneliness and brokenness.  I felt abandoned even though I hadn’t been.  I felt alone, even though I was surrounded by those who loved me.  I felt only pain.  I never thought I would recover.  I sincerely didn’t think I would survive. I knew I would die of a broken heart.

I could never go home again.  I would never be in my safest place again.  I would never be held by him again.  It was over, forever.  It was beyond my comprehension. Home. Gone. Forever.

Looking back, it feels like I slept through the years to survive.  Grief was thick and it filled my waking and sleeping hours.  I longed to be comforted, but comfort never came.  I crawled into bed alone every night, hoping I’d wake to my former life, but that day never came, it never could…there was no way back home.  Even if it didn’t feel like it, I was the only home…home was me…for me, for my boys.

So, for many years, I have been carrying the weight of widowhood.  I have been carrying the weight of sole parent.  I am stronger.  I can handle a heavy load, yet I still long to go home.  I long to rest in his arms at the end of the day.  I still long to have him give me the “don’t worry baby, you’re with me.” I still am bewildered that I do it every day…without him.  Every now and then it hurts deeply again.  Every now and then I have to stop and remember to breathe.  Every now and then, I must stop and remember how good I had it.  I must be grateful for before, during and after.  Some years pass more easily than others, some anniversaries go by and I don’t remember them until they are gone.  This year though…I am remembering that I can’t find my way back home.  There has been so much growth, so much change, I’m not sure I’d recognize the way home even if it appeared magically before me.  How can so much change so radically?

Home was ripped away from us.  He was ripped away from us.

Sometimes, I look back and think that maybe that part of my life was the dream…the part that I just imagined…it seems so far away now…only eight years since his last breath and my life is so different.

It is different because I loved him…not so much because of the tragedy.  It is different because I was changed by his love. I hope he was changed by mine.  I am changed because he trusted me to carry on without him…he knew I could.  I wasn’t so sure.

Eight years ago, I sat on the bed next to him, nursing our baby. While I sat, he was leaving us.  His breathing changed.  I set our baby in the crib.  His breathing rattled and then his breathing stopped.  I laid my head on his chest and his heart beat was gone…so many times in an embrace I had felt his heartbeat, I heard it…this time…it was gone, he was gone, home was gone.

” And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love, you make…”

Steady as she goes

Busy, busy, busy, that’s me.  Keeping myself busy has never been a problem.  Too much time to think…well, I can always fit in the time to over process anything.  My mind is probably four times busier than the busiest me.  The gift of busy though is that I don’t have a whole bunch of extra time to act on the things that go through my mind incessantly.  I am a reflective person, so I continue to take time to contemplate where I’ve been, what I’m doing and where I want to be…maybe too much.

Another gift of busy is that I don’t have too much time to contemplate the sorrow I still feel in my life.  I still have a hole in my heart and nothing fills it.  I still have an empty heart in many respects.  I am still lonely.  If I stay busy, I only have to think about this, to feel these things when the momentum slows.  During the week, the momentum never slows and I can fill myself with work, family and my obligations.  When the weekend comes, especially after the kids have gone to bed, the aloneness hits me in the face.  No one to talk with, no one to sit with, no one who wants to know how I am.  It still leaves me feeling hollow.  As much as I do for others, when Saturday night rolls around, I’m still sitting alone in my living room thinking too much.

I have filled my life with many relationships.  I always have.  I have friends, coworkers, acquaintances who fill my life with laughter and camaraderie.   During the work day, I am blessed to be surrounded by students who make my life a joy.  Now that the boys are older, I have time to do some of the things I enjoy too.  I get to spend time coaching and taking care of myself too.  At home, my boys keep me alive and ticking. Not a shabby life by any means.

I don’t even mind planning ahead a bit now.  I can look at the future and not be overwhelmed.  Even looking forward is a huge feat for me.  I can remember when looking to the future meant that I would have a plan for dinner and even that brought pain.  Then slowly it meant I had plans for work.  Now, I may even have plans and goals that will lead me to more fulfilled place.  I have plans that even make my heart happy…sometimes.

Nearly at the eighth anniversary of his death now, I can see light in the tunnel.  I know there is not really an end to this tunnel and as long as I am moving forward, healing will continue to come to me.  My hope is that if I keep the forward movement steady, the healing may lead me to a place where I feel loved again.  I know I can keep living this life as I do…alone…but I don’t want to do that.  I want to have someone to share my life with.  For many years, I felt this was a cop-out to want to have someone in my life.  I thought I had to do this on my own.   I imagined my journey as a widow was to break me of this enabling need and prove to myself that I didn’t need someone in my life.

I look at those words and think “how absurd!”  As a person who spends her life building relationships with others…first in ministry and now as a teacher…how can I ever imagine that!  Relationships are paramount to me professionally and personally.  It is important to me to be a loving, compassionate, committed parent, friend, colleague…well, all of it.  Why wouldn’t it be important to me to be a loving, compassionate, committed partner, lover, and confidant with and for someone?

So as busy as I may be and as steady as I hold the line, I still will keep my heart open.  Not in the way a young girl looks for love, but in a way that I now know.  I now know that I can survive one of the greatest heartbreaks a person can imagine.  I know that life and love are fleeting.  I know that people come with baggage and that is what gives them depth.  I know that my heart can expand to embrace another in ways that I never would have imagined possible.  I know the gifts I have to offer and the challenges that I struggle with every day.  I know how not to lose myself to another.  If I stay steady on my path, if I keep my mind and heart open, I know I won’t face lonely forever.  I know that his death wasn’t the death of me…even though it felt like it so often for so long.  I know that as important as it is to just keep moving, keep busy…it is also important to stop, look around and assess…even when I’m lonely and feeling like solo may never end.

Steady as she goes.

Moment by moment

Over the years, I have written about using gratitude as a coping skill with my grief.  I try to be thankful every day.  I try to count my blessings, even when it feels like there are none.  As the holidays approach, I must use this tactic more and more.  Another skill I’ve acquired over the years is to take things moment by moment.

Before I was widowed, I would look ahead to the future.  I would plan, think about what I wanted for myself and my family and set “future” goals.  When Dave was diagnosed, we were thrown into the world of moment by moment.  As he dealt with a very painful cancer, painful treatment and the side effects our days shrunk down to hour to hour, then minute to minute.  We really never knew how his body would be working, responding or how he would feel emotionally as he dealt with his own mortality in a new and very real way. On top of cancer entering our lives, I had just given birth to our second son.  Living with an infant is also a moment by moment life, based on our beautiful little boy’s needs.  We had both ends of the spectrum every day.  Our moments traveled the gambit from deep joy to deep despair.  Moment to moment, I learned more about my new little boy and said goodbye to parts of my life and to my husband in many ways.  If I had to live with the future to think about during those days, I know I would have drowned.  I couldn’t think about it at all.  I knew that my future held a picture of me without Dave, me raising this beautiful new baby and his big brother alone…it was too terrifying to consider.  So, I stopped looking toward the future.  I lived in each moment.  I tried to be present to whomever needed me in that moment…sick husband, new baby, struggling child…all while trying to keep it together.

Living moment to moment is how I continue to live now.  For many years, it was a coping strategy.  I really didn’t have much to look forward to after Dave died.  I had to tend to the boys and love them the best I could with all my strength and will.  I took it one moment, one task, one minute, one breath at a time.  I didn’t do it purposefully.  I did it to survive.  I tried to feel joy if it came in the moment.  I know I felt sadness nearly every moment for a very long time.  I let my anger in when it came and in each moment I did my best.  I found myself surviving.  Some days, I even found myself smiling.  I lived in the moment.  If I let myself slip into the past, there was deep, deep despair in my heart.  I had to live in the moment…no choice.

Now, I live in the moment by choice.  I’m still not good at looking ahead.  Last night while I was lying in bed, I had to remind myself that I choose to live in the moment.  This past year has had so many wonderful moments for me.  So many moments I never planned, so many spontaneous moments. It has been a pretty wonderful year filled with moments that I hope I will never forget.  I had to remind myself about my choice last night because I was feeling pretty lonely.  I had to remind myself that because I choose to live moment to moment there will times that are hard.  During those moments I can think about the joyful moments and it will help me endure.  When I think about the moments that filled my heart over the past months, I can’t believe how blessed I have been.  My moments with my kids, my family and my friends, my moments at a job I love with people I enjoy so much, moments with students, my moments coaching the past weeks, my moments with the sweet man…each moment so special, most moments unplanned…each moment contained within a future I could never see.  All moments which add up to a pretty normal, pretty happy life…all things considered.  Even in the lonely moments, I know they will pass…because, it really is only a moment.  Who really knows what the next moment will hold for me?  Even when I crawl into my bed alone at the end of each day and the shiver of winter seems to emphasize my aloneness, I know that the moment will pass.  I can fully experience the lonely, the cold, even the sadness that comes with it because I know that the moment will pass.  Even more, I can cherish, savor, and be still in the moments of joy, love, and belonging because I know they too will pass…no matter how much I want them to stay.  My choice, my moments, I never would have guessed they would bring me to a place of peace.

Not every moment is peaceful, not every moment is joyful, but not every moment is sad anymore, not every moment is lonely anymore.  The more I think about it the more I think balance is the key.  The future is fleeting and nearly never worked out as I had imagined.  My moments however are filled with the reality of my life.  My moments leave me knowing that I gave myself, my presence, my love, really my whole being to them…and I really never could have planned for that.  In my struggle to survive, I have found the intention to be present to myself and those around me in a way that I never knew when I was always glancing ahead.  My tragedy has led me to a place I truly never knew before…now…and in this very moment…I am grateful.

The power of good

I was a youth minister when the Columbine school shooting occurred many years ago. It was my first experience with public tragedy that effected youth directly during my professional ministry. As the tragedy occurred, I knew I had a group of junior high teens coming to group that afternoon.  I didn’t know how many of the kids would show up, but I knew some would.  I knew the kids would need a safe place to talk about what happened.  I knew I would have to be sensitive and listen to what they needed, not inflict adult needs on them.  I scrapped the plan for the afternoon group and started looking for something new to do that afternoon that would be a loose enough lesson that their needs would be met.  While planning, I came across a prayer.  I can’t remember it exactly all these years later, but I remember clearly how the prayer space was to be set.  It was a prayer about the biblical promise that good will overcome evil.  That was really what we would be thinking about that day…how does evil happen and he even more compelling question is why does evil happen?

A handful of kids came that day. I had only one of my volunteers with me that day.  The kids started to talk and share immediately.  They knew us, they were in a familiar, safe place, and they wanted to talk about it and express their fears, their shock, they wanted to ask their whys.  So we sat, we listened to each other.  As our time together was ending, we took them to the prayer space.

The prayer space included a tactile element…nails.  I made a cross out of several boxes of nails laid out on the floor.  They were sharp, heavy nails. Although I don’t remember the words of the prayer, I remember the nails.  The prayer started with the nails, the kids were asked to touch, take, feel the nails…I did this with along with them. We sat quietly around the space on the floor with the nails in our hands, feeling the sharp point, the jagged tops, the weight of each nail. They continued to hold the nails while I read the words.  The words described God’s promise through the cross that good would prevail over evil.  The words spoke of difficult times when we sure that God was not there.  When terrible things happen and we don’t understand why God would allow those things to happen…then the prayer reminded us that good will prevail. It may not always be easy, but it will be there. I’m pretty sure it had scripture in it reminding us of the promise. I know that as I read it rolling  the nail around in my hand that I believed it.  I knew then that no matter what horror we faced that the good in humanity would outweigh the bad.

That was way before I was widowed.  That was way before the many other public tragedies I’ve witnessed. That was way before yesterday when I heard that someone was killing young children and the adults that cared for them in the classroom each day.  As a minister, I found myself very often sitting with the people asking why, trying to be a place of peace and solace for them.  I know I don’t have the answer to that question. As I made my own journey watching my life as I knew it end with Dave’s death, I asked why for many years…still no answer.  What I do know is that I still believe the ideas in the prayer all those years ago…I do believe that good will prevail over evil in the long run. As a history teacher, I know that humanity has tendencies toward violence and we continue to find new ways to hurt each other.  I know that great tragedy happens every day…it may not always be public like yesterday, but I know that people are hurt, killed, and lost forever to their loved ones every day.  I also know that goodness, love, kindness and generosity also exist alongside all of these tragic moments whether they are public or private.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I saw a quote on facebook.  I was reminded of the nails, the prayer, and being with those kiddos all those years ago.  A widowed friend had re-posted it after seeing it posted by a writer on The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation website http://widowsvoice-sslf.blogspot.com/.  It was a quote from Mr. Rogers that read,

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world. – Fred Rogers

It reminded me of the prayer all those years ago that I used when the Columbine shooting shocked and horrified us.  Look for the good, it will be there. It always is there amidst the horror. I have clung to this promise through the years as I have witnessed these public acts of violence.  I think of the nails and how sharp they were when I see the heartbroken as they face the unbelievable task of living without their people. I think about the sacrifice and the violence the nails represented.  I also think of the love and kindness that will surround most of the people as they walk through the moments when they don’t know how they are able to walk, to breathe, to exist anymore without their loved one at their side. I’ve hung to the threads of this promise when I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, and didn’t know how I would survive without my husband by my side.

When my own whys didn’t have answers, when my heart was in a million pieces on the ground, when I was so broken I thought I would never be well again, goodness, kindness, and love came to me in many ways and through many people.  It still does.

My hope today is that all the goodness, kindness, and love that surrounds me will also surround and wash over those people whose hearts are broken right now.  I hope that goodness will prevail in their lives over the evil they have experienced.  I hope that throughout this horrible part of their journey they will experience the deepest, most consuming love they will ever feel.  It is my hope that someday, they will have good again.  It may seem to be a lifetime away and the most difficult thing they have ever accomplished, but I hope they know love and goodness again.