Dear President Trump,
It’s been a really hard day. One positive thing about it, though, is that the reasons for its hardness have absolutely nothing to do with you. For a change.
About six weeks ago we were invited to an annual walk around the medium sized lake near us to celebrate the life of a two-year old boy who died in his sleep for no apparent reason. This little boy loved pink flowers so every year his parents hold a “Flower Walk” in honor of him. A couple hundred people are invited to walk, and if they wish, to support a nonprofit for families of children who die suddenly, inexplicably. The boy’s parents have found this nonprofit invaluable in helping them through this nightmare and I’m so glad it exists.
I told you a long time ago about how at 24 weeks gestation I became preeclamptic and when it looked like I might be starting to have seizures the decision was made to induce labor. Our son was too small and under-developed to survive. Even though we lost him over 20 years ago it was still hard putting the Flower Walk on the calendar. And it was even harder getting out the door this morning to go to the actual event. Fortunately Laura and I had some time beforehand this morning to talk over how we were feeling and that made it easier to go, especially since we were in agreement that we’d hang back and not interact much, both of us being too tender to be social.
I’ve always admired people who can take something tragic and find a way to make meaning from it, like the parents who organized the Flower Walk this morning. And like Lucy McBath who was driven to run for Congress five years after her son Jordan was shot and killed by a white man who thought he and his friends were playing their music too loud. She ran, and won, on a strong gun control platform. People who somehow figure out how to make the world a better place by doing something they wouldn’t have done had they not experienced their worst nightmare are such heroes.
And really, I think such heroes are all around us all the time, using their pain and tenderness to be more compassionate and empathetic, sometimes on grander, more public scales, but often on smaller, more personal ones. I don’t know about you (well, actually I think I do know about you), but I’m pretty sure I can usually tell when someone has had a life experience (or experiences) that they wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. Often those people have ways of being that are calmer, more in tune, more appreciative than people who haven’t (yet) been touched by tragedy.
Of course there are a lot of people who go through awful things and kind of would prefer that whatever happened to them had instead happened to their worst enemy, who are pretty stuck on how unfair life is and how they always get the short end of the stick. Those folks are hard to be around and they aren’t the ones you want to be nearby when you need some comfort or even just normalcy when you are feeling raw.
I remember when we got home from the hospital after losing the baby how people came out of the woodwork with meals and cards and sweet trinkets (it was a week before Christmas). And I remember that there was one particular young man and several middle aged women who were able to just sit quietly with us while we cried, who didn’t seem to feel the need to cheer us up or fix anything. I don’t think back to the details of that time very often, but I’m grateful that we had people who were willing to sit with us and to walk alongside us as we tried to make sense of our loss. And I’m glad that today there were so many people walking in memory of the boy who loved pink flowers and that we were able to join them.
May we feel safe enough to love without guarantees, because there are none.
May we be willing to support one another when nightmares are fresh and when they are old.
May we all understand that oftentimes pain is invisible.
May we be peace for one another.