I was riding in the front seat to go pick up flowers when the phone rang. A (303) area code caught my attention, but I let the phone ring to exhaustion, and the alert landed in my voicemail.
For some reason, I’m still registered on the safety alerts for the city of Boulder, even though I haven’t lived there for close to ten years.
I pressed play on the message, and was notified that a stay at home order was in place for the area of 17th and Grove — where I lived as a college student.
What unfolded in the coming hours makes a stomach drop.
Shootings are frequent here in America. They happen so often, it’s easy to blur into the conflicting feelings of terror, anger, sadness, rage, and emptiness that these senseless acts of violence bring. There was another, just eight days prior, but it wasn’t in my community. I wasn’t on the receiving line of those notifications.
Thousands of people have visited the gates around the grocery store, leaving bouquets of flowers, and signs, and symbols of peace. I feel empty today, still, wondering about the community where I used to live. I feel desperate for the ten families who have to wake up to fumble around the new, enormous gap left when someone who they love is no longer here. I feel angry about the memes, the lack of inaction, and how callous we’ve become.
When I went to donate money to the victims (which you can do here) I noticed the language of the fund said they are raising money for the next tragedy, too. The next one, because we know it will come.
This is heavy. This is real. And we need to use our words to talk about the sadness and shock. We need to use words of comfort. We need to use words to make sense of things so senseless, or the effects will seep into our bones and stay there.
In my experience with grief and trauma, I’m astounded that one person’s life can shatter so drastically while another is out buying flowers. How many babies were born on Monday afternoon? How many others, dying of COVID across the world? I was just out, picking out orange roses to brighten a day.
Our minutes are full of multitudes.
It breaks my heart that some of those moments meant for picking out eggs turned to last breaths.
None of this feels beautiful.
In recent years, I’ve preached about walking with sorrow in one hand and beauty in the other.
There are days where the weight of the pain takes two hands to carry. The heaviness fills our palms, oozes between fingers, drips down to smear on our jeans.
We must see the pain. Name it. Honor it.
And then, use your words to chip away at the blocks of what remains. Use your words to write in a journal. Use choice words when yelling at the ceiling. Use your words to call a senator. Use your name to sign a petition. Use your words to fill out a donation form.
And in the processing, use your words to let beauty come back into balance again.
Open your palms. What are you carrying today? May allowing the pain be a beautiful thing.