In a world where information quickly enters our mind and then leaves our consciousness, and a civilization in which people are often detached from their emotions, it can be hard to know how to respond to tragedy. A Faceb**k status or Twitter update often times give reference or details to the particular event, but rarely holds much weight, and is often quickly forgotten as the newest piece of information is uploaded.
This reality hit me last week, as I was briefly watching the evening news at a friend's house. The broadcaster quickly read off one headline to the next, not leaving any room for impact or digestion of the events. What stood out to me amongst the national headlines was the story of a 6 year old boy who was hit by a car and killed as he, his mother and younger sister were crossing the street. The reporter simply brought it to the viewers attention for only about a 15 seconds before listing off the next piece of news. I stopped. Physically, emotionally. I think i even held my breath for a moment. How could we have become so calloused to this kind of news? As if this mother's loss was just a 'headline', 'a piece of public information'. In that moment I thought of the mother of this young boy. I thought of the driver that hit him. I thought of the little sister. These people's lives will be forever impacted by this traumatic event, and yet it only gets a 15 second timeframe on the evening news. It just seemed so wrong to me.
Today this hit me again, as I read the Faceb**k updates and the local online news piece detailing the death of a young man I was once very close to. Early in the morning on the 31st December (around 12.30am PST), a 23 year old man was driving under the influence of alcohol and crashed into the car of another young man, my friend Brox, who was only 20 yrs old. Reports say that Brox died at the scene, and the other driver, Travis, was taken to hospital where he also died. I was stunned. In shock. As my eyes raced down the webpage reading the details of the crash, they began to fill with tears. "No! No! No!", my heart screamed. I went back to FB and scanned through my newsfeed again… reading the posts from my friends who are grieving, from the pastor who is writing the words for Brox's memorial service, from other friends offering comfort and sharing stories of how Brox had impacted their lives. I, too, wrote a FB status update sending my thoughts and love in memory of both these young boys and my condolences to their families and friends into cyberspace. Then I turned off the computer. I needed to grieve. To let it come. To think back on the memories I shared with Brox - his smile, his laughter, the way he always looked for the silverlining. And then I picked up my guitar and began to play. The video below is what came…. Part of me wishes I was tech-savvy enough to separate the audio from the video so people wouldn't have to see my messy hair, my tear-stained cheeks, etc. That part of me wishes my strumming was better and that I didn't sing out of pitch. But that's something I've learned about grief - it's not always 'put-together', perfect or polished. It's usually messy, raw and unedited. And I'm learning to be vulnerable, to let people see the raw, messy me, and to let grief come. To let the tears flow down my cheeks, the anger rise up in my blood, and the questions of "why?" and "how?" surface in my mind. I don't have the answers to these questions, of course. But sometimes it's about being honest enough with ourselves to just ask without needing an answer. Sometimes it's about letting our emotions 'get the better of us'. Sometimes it's about recognizing that Brox's life was worth me singing an out-of-tune, poor rhythm, messy, raw song in order to grieve.
So it's not perfect, but it's purposed.
For Brox, for his legacy, his family and friends… and for each of us that needs to let ourselves grieve.