My 24 year old daughter is a second year choir director and music educator at a small, rural middle and highschool in Southwest Virginia. During the same time I was attending a workshop on neuroscience and coaching last week, talking about and personally experiencing transformation, three young students at her school also experienced their own version of it.
In two separate car accidents over three days, this life of theirs on the Earth plane ended.
This was not the first time senseless, incomprehensible tragedy struck so close to my daughter’s heart. On April 16 2007 as a freshman at Virginia Tech she was eerily close to the massacre that occurred there. She was one floor above the room where two people were killed in the dorm; she lost two dear friends she knew from her high school; and she (and her friends she lost) also attended the same school as the boy who was responsible for all of it.
Yesterday when I spoke with her, she said she felt she was right back there at April 16. Her usual effervescent demeanor had diminished to something beyond sad; She sounded numb. Like she had just received a shot of anesthesia to her soul. Perhaps having reached a sort of “tipping point “ in the compounding of young lives lost close to her and her ability to process all of it. The emotions become so overwhelming that is becomes hard to know what to feel or how to feel it.
This time she is one of the “adults” in a position of stewardship over children’s broken and bewildered hearts while unsure how or even if she should make room to tend to her own.
I read once that from a spiritual viewpoint it is a fallacy to say that people’s lives are “cut short” when they die so young. That from this point of view we all are really only here a short time in relative terms anyway, that each of our souls have come to do its work in whatever time its here, and that our life is fully lived for this lifetime no matter how long we inhabit our physical form. In this regard, “time” is really irrelevant.
Yet, even if we buy into this notion and understand our true nature as spiritual beings, we are still having a human experience. In that experience it is so hard to comprehend the death of a young person that seems so random and to us as humans – so senseless.
I have wondered if the purpose of these souls who come to Earth and leave soon after is simply to remind us. Without them, we would forget. Or we would just not have the context, the alternative view, to understand whats really important. We would forget- that all there is really- is love; that we are all community and family and need each other; that we are more alike than not; and that when there is loss we feel and we feel deeply. And in doing so, we see in each other what is inside of us. Without this “reminder” , the vortex of chores, and petty gossip, and worrying, and comparing and competing with one another would sweep us away into an illusion that this is what life is and all its about. We would not have a reason to PAUSE….. And it is in this space – this pause – that we sometimes, often, more often than not – create something from loss that has a countervailing gain that would not have been created otherwise.
So I do not think it is any coincidence that it is during Thanksgiving week that this tragic loss has occurred. It is the quintessential timing to PAUSE. Time to pause and let these souls that have passed on in this way serve to remind us about GRATITUDE. I mean the kind of gratitude that we need to PAUSE to take notice of. Gratitude for the sheer privilege of having the experience of being alive and of the gift of Life itself. Of knowing what a sun looks like to rise and set and for my eyes to have the ability to reflect the beauty of the purples and blues and orange that paints the sky when it does. Of being able to bear witness to the changing phases of the moon – each phase with a beauty and mystery all its own. Of watching the cycle of a leaf turn, then die, then be reborn again. Of knowing what the cool grass feels like under my feet. Of knowing what the sky looks like in its clear blue purity and then when its being rearranged by puffy clouds and in other times when it mother nature feels more dark and stormy, I get to see that too. Gratitude. For my heart that beats and knows how to love and how to cry, for my brain that thinks and creates and for the “Programmer” that has programmed it to perform the miracle it does. Gratitude for a human spirit that brings me to my knees in awe – in the knowing of the resilience of that spirit, in its oneness, and its ability to make meaning out of what in the moment seems senseless and beyond repair.
When we pause…. like this….. sorrow can be transmuted joy, to the kind of joy that still honors and celebrates the preciousness of these three lives and the meaning they can give to ours and that allows us our sadness and pain to co-exist alongside our reverence. In doing so, I think it helps to make it seem less senseless. I thankful to these three souls for teaching me this, reminding me and mostly – for making me PAUSE….