"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go." Abraham Lincoln
Driving to Target last Friday afternoon, I switched on MPR radio as per usual and heard mid sentence a mention of 26 dead, 20 of whom are children......elementary school shooting....lone gunman....teachers dead....
I took a gasping breath, almost cried and switched immediately to a Maroon 5 song talking about how his body keeps on telling him yes.
"Not today, not now." I said out loud, to myself. It was too much. I have two boys in elementary school and one in a very public preschool. This happened to them, far away. This won't happen here. To me.
The illusion of safety is a dangerous one. I used to think that tragedy happens to other people, people I don't know. Not me. Or I thought that I'd paid my dues in life already and not another bad thing could possibly go wrong. Until I had Dermot. Until I felt the grief, over and over again.
There's a certain awareness after you've lost someone, or the idea of someone. Grief is often times more powerful than love. It pulls you away from people that love you, people that need you and yourself. It transforms you into someone else. Someone who knows.
Someone who knows bad things do happen to good people. A mother of two beautiful daughters gets a brain tumor, a strong young hockey player gets paralyzed by one stupid play, a young mother caring for her ailing mother gets the news that not one, but both of her sons have autism. These unimaginable tragedies happen every day to people we know and to ourselves.
So all weekend, I decided not to listen to the news, not to watch the ongoing coverage of the horrific event that destroyed so many innocent lives. I know that it happened. I feel sorrow for the families that lost love ones. But sometimes it's too much.
So I return to the quote by Abraham Lincoln. When all is lost, I pray. I don't have a formal practice or even a memorized prayer when things gets overwhelming. I get quiet and I look for signs. Signs of grace. "Look for the helpers" Mister Rogers' mother told him. Look for the first grade teacher who saved her students lives while losing her own. Look for the smile on the face of the young Jack Jablonski as he wakes up everyday with hope of rehabilitation. Look for the outpouring of support for the young mother with too much on her plate. I look for the messages in everyday occurrences. I know that I am being cared for in a way I don't quite understand. It relieves me from worry and fear. It keeps me going when there's too much.
And most times that's enough.