I’m just kind of done today.
Face down on the figurative pavement, friends, and here to stay for a while. A few minutes. A few hours. A few days. It’s hard to tell. All I know is I’m not moving right now.
Charleston, yes. The shootings in Charleston hit me like a punch to the gut. Racism and violence does that to mamas in general, and to dads, and to people who seek to Love Our Neighbors as ourselves. It’s especially tender, I think, for those of us who are part of transracial families, made of members who have whole palettes of colors imprinted in our collective skin, because we know those people are our sons and our moms and our sisters and our friends. Living with and loving people of all colors does this, after all; breaks down barriers so that even we who are steeped in privilege are wounded when our neighbors bleed.
But not Charleston alone, I admit. Charleston alone didn’t level me like I feel it should have. I feel vaguely ashamed of that, but there it is nonetheless.
Charleston happened on Wednesday, and we left for vacation on Friday. Vacation with one kid vomiting, and then another. And a headache for Greg. And a rash under my boobs.
We soldiered on, and then Sunday came.
Sunday. Father’s Day. A beautiful, summer day we spent together glorying in the sunshine on a river in Oregon.
Sunday. The day Brenda died.
Brenda, the mama of one my kid’s besties.
Sudden illness. Gone at 50. Life irreplaceable and somehow, inexplicably spent anyway.
I sat in our hotel room with Greg on Sunday night — in our hotel room with the loud, steady air conditioner and maroon decor and soft beds and snoring kids — and I said, “I’m going home.” Our vacation was supposed to last until Tuesday. We’d planned it for months with Greg’s parents, but this is what it is to be older and wiser. “We tried, Greg, we really did, but I’m going home.” And because Greg is older and wiser, too, he said, “We did. We tried. It’s OK. Go home.” So I packed my bag and a couple of kids and a service dog, and we came home to mourn.
My oldest asked me why. She knew why she needed to be home. To be with her friend. But she asked me why I did. “Why are you coming home, too, Mom? What are you going to do there?” She wanted to know, and she asked relentlessly, the way teenagers do. And the way teenagers do, she didn’t accept the quick answers meant to placate her. Answers like, “Just in case you need me.” And answers like, “I’d rather be there for you guys and have you need nothing than not be there and have you wish I was.” So I finally told her, “I have no idea what I’m going to do. None. At all.” And she said, “OK.” And that is a kind of wisdom, too.
On Tuesday, Rachel died. Cancer, the fucker. Rachel died, even though she was a sister and cousin and daughter and cherished friend. She was also a mama; irreplaceable, yet gone.
Charleston. Brenda. Rachel. None of them my losses, as in, not my besties. And yet all of them are my losses — our losses together — because they prick our hearts and tear our souls and leave us feeling helpless, vulnerable and afraid, and so very sad for their families and friends.
I sit outside on this summer night and the wind pushes down from the mountain behind me, persistent. My grass is dead but the weeds still make a valiant effort like the wind and the sun and Love to keep rising, again and again.
I sit in my saggy chair and I think about God and why I still believe.
I believe in healing. I believe in grace. I believe in a Love so wild and free it blows through us and knocks us off our feet. I believe in community. I believe in come-unity. Community. Come, unity. Come, Unity, come.
I believe in God because I must. A crutch? Yes, YES, a crutch. A crutch on the days I can’t walk on my own. How do people do it without one? I need a crutch some days, a wheelchair others, and a soft place to land on the days I can’t go on, can’t get up, can’t move much less function. And I need a companion on the days I RUN. Because I run, too, wild and free like Love, and that’s when I want Grace to run alongside me. Love, my companion; Grace, my support. Love to laugh with me, the sun on our faces as we race through open fields. Grace to whisper, “See? I told you you’d walk again. See? I told you you’d RUN.”