Archives For Tragedy

'Fagor Pressure Cooker Lid' photo (c) 2010, Julie Magro - license:

Not all family tragedies erupt with sudden explosions of violence. Some tragedies are far quieter, silently simmering for years like a pressure cooker. The children never hear a cross word exchanged between their parents, but even if they lack the ability to articulate just what it is, they know. Children are notoriously perceptive creatures, and even if they lack the words, they feel the tension.

And then one day something is different. The pressure, the tension, has unexpectedly been relieved. The valve has been turned, the lid is off the cooker, and the steam evaporated into the air.

'@ Steam' photo (c) 2009, Pete Birkinshaw - license:

Likewise has their family dissipated into the ether like steam. It has ended not with a bang, but a hissing whisper. Quietly swept away like gossamer on the wind…

Not all tragedies are loud things. Instead of an explosion of emotion, there is an implosion of the soul. “Why did this happen,” the child asks (perhaps not in so many words)? “Am I to blame?” There are no words, no navigator, to traverse this inner landscape. One parent is gone, and the other working desperately to hold on, provide a semblance of stability.

'Atomic Bomb Test' photo (c) 2012, SDASM Archives - license:

Too late.

The bomb has quietly gone off. Where before the child was whole, he is now a fractured soul. Unsteady, unstuck, unanchored, he is a ship in the long, dark night headed, like Titanic, for a berg. Collision is inevitable when one has no concrete sense of place, no place that feels like home. Untethered, the child wanders rootless, without purpose.

'Tom Riddle's Diary' photo (c) 2012, Sarah_Ackerman - license:

Life becomes something merely to be survived. Like Voldemort split amongst his horcruxes, it is a fragmented existence–a half life. Like Harry, the child will spend the better part of his life trying to find the pieces; unlike, he is not trying to destroy them, but piece them back together into a meaningful whole. Yet so often this is akin to placing square pegs into round holes: things may indeed be forced into place, but they are not a good fit.

And they slip, or cannot be dislodged–except by force.

This child? He is a child of divorce.

I am the child, and this is my story.

What is yours?

In the wake of tragedies such as the shooting yesterday in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, people will ask the inevitable question:

Where was God? The answer is that he is the same place he has always been: on his throne. Objections will be raised: God could have, should have, or…

Some will conclude there is no God. Some will conclude that he is powerless to act. Neither is true.

But the fact is that now is not the time for theological speculation.

Now is the time grieve, to be present with the bereft, to offer not a word, but arms.

As the Bible says: “Weep with those that weep…”

In time, healing will come (though life will never be the same). But right now, parents of surviving children are having conversations they should not need to have. Yet other parents are standing in the doorways of empty bedrooms wishing for one more night of:

“I can’t sleep.”

“I’m thirsty.”

“Read me a story.”

But the silence is deafening, a roaring in their ears, and in their hearts. Because these parents will never again hear those things, and are instead standing in the doorways of empty bedrooms contemplating funerals.

Those parents deserve our respect–and our silence. Now is not the time to push agendas–political, theological, or otherwise. Now is the time to weep, to be Christ’s hands and feet.

It is a time pray, to reflect, and hold our loved ones all the closer. For as John Donne said: “Do not sent to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

The less of this, or any tragedy, is that life–not even young life–is not guaranteed.

But it is a gift. A gift which must be mourned when it is lost. Telling to me is that, before raising Lazarus, Jesus wept.

And if he wept, knowing what was to shortly come, how much more us?

Someday death will be swallowed up in final victory. Someday the faith shall be made sight.

But today is not that day.

Today we grieve. We grieve, and we remember.

God give us the grace to someday, somehow, heal.