Monday, October 9, 2017


As I watched the horrific scene outside the Mandalay Bay complex unfold in Las Vegas last week, a lump formed in my throat, my chest tightened, and tears reached my eyes. I couldn't wrap my head around how someone would even conceive of such a plan much less cold-heartedly carry it out. I must confess the 'why' of it plagued me for a short time, but does it really matter what the motive may have been when 59 people are dead, and over 500 injured, some critically wounded who could eventually lose their fight for survival?

For the next several days, I read many news articles about varying accounts of what happened during those 15 minutes of terror: the mounting number of casualties, the first responders who ran towards danger, the fans who acted selflessly to help wounded strangers, and the madman who inflicted this atrocity on innocent concert-goers. Each and every time I experienced the same visceral reactions, lump in my throat, tightening of my chest, and tears in my eyes.


I consider myself to have empathy for folks who have been wrongly treated or accused. Certainly the Vegas massacre was heads-and-shoulders beyond mistreatment or accusation, and yet I didn't shed a tear. Is it because over the last twenty years or so, these kinds of ugly scenes have become commonplace in our country to the point that I've become numb to them? Maybe without actually having a personal connection with anyone who suffered injury or death, I felt somehow removed from this cruel reality. I hope neither of these possibilities are true of me.

As I gave thought to my lack of emotional release, I tried to think when it was that I had last cried. September 14, the 14th anniversary of a dear friend's suicide...

 After attending a band concert, my friend went home and in the wee hours of the morning, she shot herself. I remember getting the call, screaming into the phone, and pounding my fists on my knees. I was so angry, so irate, and felt so disappointed with her, that I couldn't have cried if I wanted to. which at the time, I had no intention of shedding my precious tears for someone who devalued life in such a violent way. I attended her viewing, even sang 'Ava Marie' with our performance group while there, and although I experienced the lump in my throat, the tightening of my chest, and the tears in my eyes, with chin extended and a hardened resolve to be strong, I refused to cry. 

When something significant or catastrophic happens in my life or in my world, the best way I find to deal with it is to write about it. After a few months and an unusual occurrence, I wrote the poem, *"A Light In The Mourning," detailing my friend's suicide; what might have driven her to it, the feelings that rushed through my mind and body when I was notified, and finally described how I came to some sense of acceptance.

As I wrote each line, visions of the good times we shared played like a video in my mind, and as I continued my efforts to complete the poem,  I realized more and more how much she'd meant to me, how much I missed her, and that I would go on missing her always and forever. With that realization I, either consciously or subconsciously, gave myself permission to cry, and by the time I'd finished, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably.

Every September 14 since,  I cry over a loss that ripped out a piece of my heart and my soul. I feel sorry for her, I feel sorry for me, I feel sorry for all those who never had the chance to meet this wonderful, talented person, and I feel especially sorry for the great things she left undone that could have been so influential in making our world a better place.

As I write this post, tears run down my cheeks for all those who lost their lives in Las Vegas, for all those who were critically wounded and for all those who had to witness this senseless massacre.

I feel sorry for them, I feel sorry for me, I feel sorry for all of us who will never have the chance to meet these wonderful, talented people, and I feel especially sorry for the great things they've left undone that could have been so influential in making our world a better place.

* "A Light In The Mourning" by Flo Barnett

In the blackness of night,                            Then, somewhere in the mourning,  
She writhes in unspeakable pain.                 An incredible light appears.
Her demons screeching out obscenities       Trembling we draw closer
Leaving her tormented soul defeated,          And, although never seen before,
Without hope or friend,                                This radiance is familiar,
She ends her life.                                          Comforting even.

In the early mourning                                    Intuitively, we recognize her glow.
We cry rivers of tears,                                    It warms our hearts,
Wail in deafening pitch,                                 Eases our minds,
Sustain crushing blows                                  Embraces our souls,
To heart and spirit,                                         Lifts our burdens,
Drained, we turn stone cold.                           Genuinely loves us.

We hate her for this dastardly act,                And in the light of the mourning,
Cursing her decision to inflict agony.             We sense the ‘why’ of it.
But not for precious memories,                      Enlightened in our grief,        
We might hold her forever in contempt,         We come to respect her choice,
Wishing her eternal suffering,                        For her it was the right choice,
Damnation even.                                            The only one even.

In time, God only knows how long,                 Every second of life involves choice
We remember,                                               And each one we make
Laughing like hyenas,                                    Is right for us in that moment.    
Talking about how to live,                             We will never understand hers, 
Dancing to life’s rhythms,                             One day, perhaps we’ll accept it,
Singing in perfect harmony.                          Forgive it even.

                                           Unedited original