It was Saturday night (11:00-ish), and I was in bed reading another awesome post from Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess, about her favorite words. My smart phone has been really cranky of late – it is literally begging me to replace it and put it out of its misery – so I wasn’t able to respond to Jenny’s blog. In the meantime, my creative juices were flowing and I started writing down my own list of favorite words until I ran out of steam. Around 12:45 (ish) I finally put my spiral and pen away and turned out the light.
No sooner had I started drifting off than my phone made its irritating beep beep noise alerting me to something it thought I needed to know during the wee hours of the night. Sometimes, it’s alerting me to a FaceBook friend who has just sent out a new post or that someone is texting me or its updating me on breaking news about some celebrity or political figure. If my phone were truly smart, it would know that I’m not interested in news or FaceBook posts while I’m trying to sleep. Still, when that beeping noise goes off, I HAVE TO LOOK! The phone knows that. I know that. I don’t even try and fight it anymore. So I looked. In this instance, there was a brief, transitory headline that stated there’d been a shooting at a nightclub in Florida.
Really? Aren’t shootings fairly common at nightclubs all over the U.S. on weekend nights? It’s all drunken fun and games until one person pisses off just the wrong other person who’s looking to beat the snot out of whoever happens to be most convenient − and then the guns come out and idiots are shooting at each other. Like I care. I certainly don’t need to be alerted every time that happens. I turned over and went back to sleep.
I DIDN’T KNOW.
That Sunday I sat in front of the TV like I have too many times now when mass tragedy strikes here and abroad. Fifty dead, give or take. Around the same amount wounded. More expected to die. How many lives were irretrievably altered, I wouldn’t even try and guess. They’re calling it the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. By now, you know all of the most updated information as well as I do. I’m not going to rehash the particulars. I will say, though, that I was rooting for the young man who was trapped in the bathroom who had been texting his mom. He was so damned scared. I can’t even begin to imagine…
I waited and prayed and hoped to hear that he was okay. He didn’t make it. My heart goes out − words cannot express …
Then, again, immediately following that nightmare, a different kind of tragedy struck at the Walt Disney Resorts and Hotel in Orlando. An alligator managed to snatch up a two-year-old and escape into a manmade lagoon. The authorities didn’t even try to pretend they were doing a search and rescue. It was always a recovery mission. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting there to be any kind of recovery, but I’m glad they were eventually able to find that poor baby’s body. At this point, I’d be remiss not to mention that dreadful weekend was ushered in with the murder of Christina Grimmie, a former contestant on the TV show, The Voice, by a deranged fan. I’m trying not to be crass or callous or jaded. Or cry my eyes out. I’m numb. How can so much heartache happen to one city in such a short period of time?
Yet, people all over the world deal with atrocity − some on a daily basis. People are resilient and they learn to adapt and move forward under the most horrendous conditions because − life insists one move forward. There is no book or strategy or wisdom that can even begin to address how to go about doing this for every person affected. Can there ever be a more personal event in one’s life than to survive tragic loss? I’ve heard it said that there are some things that a person just doesn’t get over, ever − there’s just the slow process of surviving one moment, then the next, then the next. It’s a damn lie that time heals all wounds. Some turn to faith − or other things. Some lose their faith. No judgments here.
My own belief is that God is greater than all grief, all anger, all despair, all tragedy, all hatred, all evil, all who blame Him and turn away. He understands us better than we understand ourselves. He gets it and He gets us. He can take whatever rage we can dish out toward Him, toward each other, toward ourselves, and still return His Love to each of us. He is our Father, who loves us deeper than any of us could ever possibly imagine. What is difficult (for me, anyway) is remembering and accepting that God gave us Free Will. He isn’t going to stop people from doing whatever it is they choose to do. That includes madmen and fanatics and dictators and the worst of the worst of us. God knows that madness and tragedy is fleeting in His eternal plan. He will be there to welcome his children Home and dry tears and heal souls when they/we return to Him. I’m not trying to proselytize, but that’s my belief.
Even with my belief, it is hard to understand the depths of illness or depravity or evil or whatever name you want to give it that people have wrought and continue to bring about that has us twisting again and again. The pain is real. Intense suffering is real. We grieve our losses and move forward one slow inch at a time. Even in the worst of tragedies, though, the very best of humanity always emerges. That is the silver lining − if there is one to be had.
Still, just for a few moments, I need to recoup before I can take on any more bad news.
I’m hanging on to a new word I learned that Saturday night − perhaps just moments before the shooting started in Orlando. It’s a favorite word of many of Jenny Lawson’s readers. It describes something I’ve often experienced but never knew there was a proper word for − the smell that is produced after the rain hits the dry earth. Silly me, I’ve always referred to this as simply the smell of rain. It’s called Petrichor, though. “Petra” is the Greek word for stone and “Ichor” is the name given to the vital life force/fluids flowing through the veins of the Greek gods. Mortals have blood, Greek gods have Ichor. So the smell of rain is the vital life force flowing through the Greek gods that nourishes the parched earth.
Forgive me, but as the world continues to burn, I must shut my eyes. In my mind I see Nero playing his lyre amid death and destruction, fire and brimstone. Hell on Earth. Rome burns over and over and over in so many various forms through the ages. I am Rome. I am New York. I am Paris. I am Orlando.
In my mind’s eye, I look up and watch as the heavens part. The rains begin. It’s soft and insistent. Fires are extinguished. The cooling wetness washes away heartache, senseless madness, hopelessness. That wonderful smell, that Petrichor, perfumes the air as my tears mingle with the Greek gods’ life force renewing the earth − so cleansing, so healing, so triumphant in its promise of hope.