The LDS ‘Pantsgate’. An attempted mass shooting in Portland. An evil, senseless slaughter of children. A horrible knife attack.
A good friend, dear to me and vivid in my heart and memory, young husband to an extraordinary woman, father of two, suddenly and inexplicably dies. The hearts of his wife and children shattered.
The hearts and lives of parents and families who have just gone through the most devastating of random tragedy. The people who ache to be noticed and recognized.
I take a deep breath and try not to throw my keyboard through my monitor in furious despair.
Your paradigm might be different from mine, but mine tells me that we are a fallen and imperfect people. These events and the reaction to them powerfully remind me that we are a work in progress as individuals, societies, governments and a species. Today, this week, I’m having trouble seeing much progress.
My friend, Dennis, died two weeks ago. I met him on my first day working as a bellman at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, Alaska. He was younger than me. Born in Magadan, Russia, he came over to the USA with his mom and by the time I met him, he spoke English with no accent. The way he talked told me a lot about him. He spoke with energy, intelligence, some slight arrogance, and a lot of kindness. He was efficient, very clear thinking, driven, hard-working, somewhat intolerant of sloth and stupidity, and I feel like we became friends very quickly. Between him and his good friend, and soon my good friend, Amor, the drudgery and politics of the job became something to look forward to.
At the time, he was about to marry a very nice young woman. At the same time, the concierge at the hotel was Kelsey. Also smart, also driven, also deeply kind and decent, she and Dennis were best friends. It was clear to me at the time that these two were destined to be together and I was confused as to why they weren’t. They both married their current sweethearts (I think) and not long after Kelsey’s beautiful child was born, I took my family back to Utah.
Some years later, I reencountered both Dennis and Kelsey on (where else?) Facebook. They were together and were adding to their family. I was so happy for them. I put characters modeled on them in my latest book.
And Dennis died two weeks ago. Unexpectedly and, currently, inexplicably. Dennis and Kelsey had left a strong impression on me, and I loved seeing them talk about the wonderful and positive things happening in their lives. Dennis’s death floored me. I thought of Kelsey, their two small children. I needed to hug them, give any comfort I could, needed to be there and fix this somehow.
I couldn’t, of course. Alaska’s a long, expensive trip from Utah.
But, and this is selfish, I know, my feelings were raw and I have felt despondent and blasted since hearing about his death. Kelsey, strong as she is, seems miraculously capable and able to cope. She is a great mother.
And I spent two weeks feeling fragile with my concern for her and her family and being deeply hurt at the randomness of Dennis dying.
Then there was the shooting in Portland. Now Connecticut.
I don’t want to be dramatic, but I need to use some words to try to convey what’s in my heart.
My hope is shaken. My soul feels suddenly empty- but also full of rage and the need to hold and be held. I want to reach out and take the morons and evil people who commit these acts and then turn these acts into political capital and shake them until they dissolve away. I want to burn them with the rage that blazes inside of me, the only thing really keeping me from shattering completely.
And if this is how I feel, how are those directly affected by these tragedies feeling? How can I help them?
How can I fix this?
I, for myself, know that God lives. I know that He has a plan of happiness. I love Him. I love Jesus Christ too. My belief and conviction of these things does not get shaken by awful tragedies. What does get shaken by these horrible acts and the reaction to them is my faith in myself and humanity. My belief that I would be able to heal and rise above if something like this happened to me– that belief gets shaken. My ability to function takes a hit too– I can’t stop thinking about these poor people, these grief-shattered families.
This is a selfish thing for me to say, but I don’t know if I can take any more of this right now.
How can I fix this?
I can’t. Not today. Ask me tomorrow.
Gordon B. Hinckley once said that despite our faith and understanding, death is a raw, painful, heartbreaking thing to cope with. You’re thoughts reflect this, I have felt it too and there are really no words to make it better. How I wish there were. I think it is healthy to feel such hurt, it shows you have faith in comfort and peace, that you love people and care about strangers. But to ‘feel’ is a painful gift. I wish you peace, Jared, and hope that we see less of this tragic loss in coming times.
Thanks. I’ve been reflecting on this whole ‘feeling’ thing. I’ve realized that for a lot of years I had deliberately turned off my ability to feel in some areas. I know why I did this, but it’s too much for a comment. In short, I’m glad I found that switch then and that I have found it again and put it back the right way.
I really appreciate your kind words.