I often speak of those who find ways to be happy even in difficult circumstances. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand my thinking. There are indeed times when the only reasonable response to a particular situation is profound sadness. It would seem highly inappropriate to laugh in the face of the terrorism in Belgium. We carry on with our routines when we hear of such things but that heaviness lurking in our hearts is quite normal. As humans we oscillate between good feelings and bad. Hopefully our lives are such that we don’t encounter too many tragedies at once.
This has been a tough week. My emotions have been taxed, stretched to a breaking point. I was already praying for a friend who was awaiting word regarding some medical tests that might bring her unwelcome news. I had learned that an old friend had been hospitalized. Then, of course, there were the deaths in Belgium, senseless and frightening murders. This was also the anniversary of the day when one of my former students died in a terrible car wreck only months before she would have been married. I have followed her mother’s journey through grief. I have watched as this brave woman found ways to inspire those who know her with her faith and courage. Sadly, though, I have realized that her pain lingers in spite of her best efforts. My feelings of empathy for her have been quite strong during the last few days because I understand that dates on the calendar may be triggers for thoughts that are heavy and unbearable.
I hated hearing about the young girls who were killed in a terrible accident on their way home from spring break in Corpus Christi. Families have been torn asunder as well as entire school communities. Some of my former colleagues knew these young ladies and their sadness has been profound. Not only have they had to deal with their own personal feelings but also with the confusion and depression of their students. I suspect that this has been a terribly traumatic week for them.
Yesterday when I went to South Houston Intermediate I learned that the mother of a young man whom I tutor had died. I am not privy to many details regarding the situation but I don’t really need them to understand the emotions that must be stalking this young boy. He is a very kind and gentle soul. I like him very much. He always has a smile and he is quite inquisitive. I enjoy his questions. He is very polite when he attempts to find answers. Now I am very worried for him.
I have learned that his mother was a single parent and that his only sibling is in the military. He must be feeling very lost right now. His world has been upended. I have been thinking about him constantly since learning of his terrible fate. I have never completely gotten over the death of my father. None of us ever really do. We learn how to cope but those feelings of loss are always just under the surface. I can feel the pain that this student must surely be enduring.
Worst of all must be the questions in his mind. Will he have to move to go live with his father? Is his world careening out of control as he considers losing his friends, his teachers, the life that he has known? It is bad enough to realize that a parent is forever departed but the emotions are only compounded when so many changes become necessary. I hope that he will find security and love wherever he has to go. I want him to understand how many of us really care about him. His will be a difficult road and I pray that he will receive the counseling that he surely needs.
After my father’s death I often worried about what might happen to me and my brothers if my mother were also to die. On one occasion a friend even asked me what I would do if I were an orphan. She remarked that I might have to go live with strangers and never see my friends again. I was luckily able to correct her misconceptions by asserting that my Aunt Valeria would take me into her home. When my friend pressed me by suggesting that I could not be certain that my aunt would be willing to raise me, I had a quick answer. I pointed out that my dear relative had an extra bed in her dining room that I believed was there just in case I ever needed it. Furthermore she had a daughter who was almost the same age as I was who no doubt would love having a sister. I knew that I would never be left all alone. It was great comfort to me to realize that I had an extended family that would care for me if I ever needed them. I can only hope that the student who has captured my heart has someone on whom he may depend. Otherwise his future is more uncertain than I had even imagined.
While I fretted over all of the sadness that I have already described I found out that something quite unspeakable had happened to a long time friend of my youngest daughter. In a strange accident his left eye was so badly injured that it had to be removed. He has always had a remarkable sense of humor and has never been one to dwell on the negative and in that spirit he wrote an ode to his left eye. It was clever and might have even been hilariously funny if only I had been able to push away the sympathy that I felt for him. I know that he is attempting to be brave, to make the best of a situation that he may not change. The photo that he posted with his eulogy showed that his injuries are extensive. Many who commented on his post justly noted that he is at least alive. Others made pirate jokes and went along with his attempt to be courageous which is probably the best medicine given that acceptance of his fate is ultimately the only possible response.
At any given moment the world is filled with suffering. Sometimes we are lucky enough to be far removed from it. Other times we are in the center of the circumstances. We are continuously challenged by life. None of us are immune to tragedy and sadness. Sometimes it is not only okay but necessary to cry and allow our hearts to temporarily break. We would not be human if we did not.
History tells us that thousands of years ago Jesus met for dinner with his apostles. They shared a Passover meal. They had no way of knowing that within hours their worlds would be forever changed. We all have such experiences as do those that we love. During such times we pause to feel the very depths of feeling. We comfort one another and learn the true meaning of love, for it is in the worst of times that we learn who our real friends are. Sometimes we even find that some who give us succor are the most unexpected. Hopefully we remember those who have been loyal and return the favor when it is their turn to deal with the difficult events.
As we celebrate the Easter season I hope that we all pause long enough to reach out to those who are in a time of hurting. A simple call, a short note, a brief visit, or a meaningful hug might be all that they need to begin the healing process. Look for them and do what you can.