one thing

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07
Jun

thoughts

8:43pm, Tuesday, June 6, 2006

It’s taken me a long time to start writing this post. Even now, as I lay on my bed facing my laptop, I find myself taking a long time to do the actual writing. We have had a great deal to process and work through in the past several days… make that the last several weeks.

Words cannot begin to describe how I truly feel in the depths of my being right now – and yet, oddly enough, words are the medium through which I am trying to express myself. I hope that doesn’t mean that this effort has been defeated even before it has started.

Seven people were shot and killed in the house behind our backyard last weekend.

God, that doesn’t even really mean much to me any more…

Tonight I visited the house for the first time. That is, I walked along the alley out toward Hamilton, and then I walked down the sidewalk in front of the house. Teddy bears, flowers, candles, cards all strewn in front of the chain-link fence that apparently was supposed to keep small children and animals in the yard. A news reporter (I think) lady stood on the front step of the house next door, talking with the residents before heading back to safety. And happiness.

You make eye contact with the people driving slowly, hesitantly down the streets and alleys. You know why they’re here, even if they don’t know why you’re here. Or maybe they do.

Last night, as I read a seminary book in our back bedroom (which faces the house), I heard children singing a song in Spanish. I heard and saw a grown man weeping in the company of a few friends in our alley.

Five people die at Taylor, and the community grieves for a month before dispersing. Seven family members die in inner-city Indianapolis, and the community (at least this neighborhood) grieves for much longer than that.

Has it really sunk in yet? I don’t think so. Dealing with the tragic loss of five people (and the subsequent revelation that one was misidentified) has so numbed me to the shock of sudden death that this shooting feels … removed. Extremely sad, yes. But somehow less —

but not really less at all. I mean, one family completely wiped out in the span of a few minutes? That’s absolutely unbelieveable. Maybe that’s the trouble I have with it all.

Life is so precious, and yet there is absolutely nothing we can do to guarantee it to ourselves or our loved ones for even one more hour. Of all the paradoxes I have considered in my lifetime, this may be the most perplexing, the most disheartening, the most challenging. It’s lately been as if the reminders of our mortality just won’t go away.

Another car, leaving this time. I know that slow, hesitant turn from the alley onto Tecumseh. It didn’t happen before last Thursday or Friday.

A thought struck me as I sat on our porch after visiting the house. We, as a culture, anaesthetize ourselves to pain and sorrow. We make light of death through video games and primetime TV shows. That is, we don’t make fun of death – we just push ourselves far enough away from it so that it doesn’t affect us very much when we see it in those forms. But we anaesthetize ourselves so well that when pain and death come – as surely they will, even in droves – we don’t know how to handle it. At least, that’s how I’ve felt lately.

Maybe that’s the best answer to the question that so many people have asked me lately. “How are you handling it?” “How are you holding up?” I’m holding up by playing Dynasty Warriors, convincing myself that my character is just knocking out the bad guys, not really killing them. I’m holding up by watching Star Trek, seeing characters answer questions of mortality and deep personal loss by distantly investigating disaster areas in between commercial breaks. I’m holding up by not thinking about it, which is what my culture has taught me to do.

But I can’t avoid it tonight. Seven people died. A whole family. And the man who pulled the trigger will most likely die, as well. Another family is in the process of confirming that the exhumed body of their daughter really is their daughter. Four other families are now almost six weeks removed from the deaths of their loved ones. It must feel like yesterday.

People live, and people die. But people aren’t supposed to die in ways like these! People are supposed to live happy, productive lives, and then die at good, old ages of purely “natural” causes. Murders and car crashes aren’t supposed to happen. And don’t give me any of this “it’s because of the Fall” stuff, either … that’s a cop-out, another way that our culture is teaching us to distance ourselves from pain and loss. I don’t care why these things happen. I only care that they happen…

…and I only wish that they never get any closer to me than my workplace or my backyard.

Am I scared? Not really. The guy turned himself in. Things like this don’t happen every day. Besides, the birds still start chirping every morning at 4am, making me close our windows for a few more hours of sleep. They have moved on… we will, too, in good time.

Am I overwhelmed? Am I worn out? Am I tired of hearing who else died unexpectedly this week? Do I wish that six months could pass with a snap of the fingers? … Am I numb? If so, it’s certainly not comfortably so.

I can’t get the picture out of my mind: those kids jumping up and down on their big trampoline all afternoon as we moved in last Saturday.

7 Responses to “thoughts”

  1. Dad A. Says:

    Wow.

    Thanks for opening your heart and sharing it with us. I’ve never been through what you’re going through. But your line about the birds chirping in the morning reminds me that life goes on.

    When my mother died in 1991, there was a cloud of gloom over my head for about six weeks. It only lifted when six words popped into my head:

    God loves me.
    Life goes on.

    When I remembered those two truths, the cloud started to part and the sun began shining again.

    Life does go on, even though terrible things happen. Things that shouldn’t happen. Things like these that you’re experiencing. Life does go on. And God really does love you – and all of His children.

  2. Susan E Says:

    Maybe it is because a kindred spirit has dared to speak the words that I too have uttered, now long ago, that I don’t even nod my head in agreement. Nodding would not do justice to how I feel. Maybe it is because I have been battered, when I dared challenged the way things or done that trivializes the perpetual pain the helpless endure, on a daily basis, beaten back into a compromising box. Rising up to defend those who cannot defend their selves or suggesting that there may indeed be a better, more compassionate, more Godly way to live can leave one living on the outside of the “godly norm”. The solice that I find is….God does count every tear. He feels the pain to deep to utter. He promises to prevail, even if I don’t see it! It pleases Him that we grabble with the paradox of life and reach limits to our understanding. It shows we are yet still alive in a world of the living dead and are not content to just endure.

  3. Indy tragedy at Addison Road Says:

    […] One of my mom’s grad students lives directly behind the house where 7 family members were shot to death last week in Indianapolis. His reflections on the tragedy are here. Technorati Tags: asides, current events, life […]

  4. Mom A. Says:

    Dearest David,
    My “mother’s heart” wants so badly to wipe away the pain and grief and confusion you are feeling, and yet I know that is impossible. Sometimes “the way out is the way through,” and though it may be excruciating, when we reach the end of the tunnel we find we have learned, matured, strengthened ourselves for the living of this life. It isn’t fun. It makes us shed our childhood innocence. But it is the way of things.

    Have you ever taken one of those “stress evaluation” tests – where you accumulate points by noting the stressors/changes that have taken place in your life over the past year? I’ll bet if you took that test now, your score would be through the roof! Not only did you get married, move not once but twice (or was it three times?), change from one job to another and then lose that job (even though it was planned), and change churches, but now in the past six weeks you’ve had Zach killed in a plane crash, the Taylor accident with its resulting and continuing drama, your cousin Glenn cheating death in a tractor accident, and now a terrible murder across your backyard fence.

    “Mind-numbing” is probably a good word to describe it all – and accurate, too, because we are made so that when stressors become too overwhelming, our minds become anesthetized (to use your word) until we have time to process the grief. It’s true that our culture leads us to look lightly upon killing, which so often masquerades as entertainment. But I believe part of the reason you feel more “removed” from the murder of your neighbors is that you were still numb from the other losses. It is the body’s natural defense against pain so great. God made us that way because he knew there would be times when there would be more grief than we could comfortably manage. You will work through it all in time, one piece at a time, but it may take a while. So when you say “Has it really sunk in yet? I don’t think so”, you are exactly right. It will sink in gradually as your mind is able to receive it. Just know that you are responding in a very normal and indeed God-given way.

    I would also observe that the two main tragedies – Taylor and Covarrubias – are different in that the TU grief stems from a true accident, while your neighbors died as an intentional and partly random act of violence. We can’t really protect ourselves against either kind of grief, and the feelings they produce in us are slightly different. Grief from intentional violence has more resentment and anger in it. So it is a bit different to deal with. You have always been a very sensitive person, and so I believe you feel all these emotions keenly, even if you cannot name them.

    I can give you two small examples from my own grief work. When my Grandpa F. died, it was about 9 months before I could bring myself to write his date of death in my genealogy records. And when Grandma F. died, for a good while I was unable to watch any TV shows with a death in them – not even Columbo. I just couldn’t face it. But in time that went away. Everybody has their own way to respond to tragedy and grief. Be assured that you are dealing with all this even when you may feel you are marking time.

    Remember too that you are now processing these tragic events outside the protective care of your parents. In other words, you are the head of a household yourself now; it’s a new position in the family for you, and you will see events from a different perspective than before. It’s a hard truth that in reality there is no way you can absolutely keep you and your family physically safe. (Your father always laughed at me for feeling safer when he is home, since he says he’d be no help if a guy with a gun showed up anyway.) I noticed that you described the news reporter on the porch next door as being able to head “back to safety. And happiness.” At this moment, you may feel personally that leaving your neighborhood is a trip back to safety and happiness. I wouldn’t blame you if you did. It will take a while for this uncertainty to subside; but as you noted, you will move on, too, “in good time.” We usually use that expression to mean “in the appropriate amount of time,” but think about that adjective “good.” This can be “good” – as in “valuable” – time, for you will come out stronger for having gone through it.

    One more observation, a bit more practical: I think it might be beneficial to use periods of sustained physical activity to help you work off the stress you feel. Walk, play racquetball, basketball, etc. I think it might be a release.

    You have given us a moving and sensitive look into your thoughts during these incredibly difficult experiences. I know without a doubt that God is even now working to bring you comfort and peace, and eventually deep joy. Our love and prayers are with you and Tara. We are always here if you need us!

    As ever,
    Mom

  5. Shelley P Says:

    WOW!

    I just really don’t know what else to say. Your words paint such a clear picture of the state of grief.

    Grief does seem to be descending upon us in droves right now. You may have heard that Highland High School lost a senior in a car wreck, then we lost Zach – graduate of HHS and nephew to one of our teachers. I am also personal friends with his mom. The Taylor tragedy and now the Indy family . . . it all makes me want to scream! Instead, I turn to my children and hug them, tell them I love them and ask them, once again, to be careful in their comings and goings. Then, I give them to God. That is the only control I have over their ultimate safety; putting them in God’s hands.

    I recently shared with someone I know that my philosophy of life right now is this: “I have a choice – I can live in fear, or I can live – period. I choose to live.” I believe that the God who loves me beyond comprehension, weeps bitterly over all these losses. And yet, I also believe that in His infinite wisdom, lives will be changed, hearts will be turned, and more of His children will return to Him, just like the prodigal son.

    Blessings to you and Tara in this time of transition and grief. May God use these experiences to teach and mold us all, closer to His image.

    Shelley
    (from Maple Grove)

  6. blog-thing Says:

    […] Read this. June 8th, 2006 | life | no comments […]

  7. one thing » Blog Archive » The trial begins Says:

    […] been over three years since the Hamilton Street murders. We remember. The trial of the primary suspect began this morning, in front of a judge but no jury […]

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