Grief, Joy, and Paradox

rockefeller tree

I came home from a day of shopping, getting an oil change, and visiting my mom and turned on my TV with a sense of familiar dread because my car radio had alluded to an active shooter in San Bernardino, California. In fact I listen to news lately with a growing sense of anticipated dread because disaster has become so common that it seems that routine news days are rare. I am not a Donald Trump fan, nor do I intend to vote for Donald Trump, but at least if I see his smarmy face plastered all over my TV screen then I know that today was a good day in the news, a normal day in the news.

So I watched as they evacuated wounded people from a Social Services office building and listened to the count of those who died and thought to myself, “who wakes up in the morning and thinks, ‘I guess I’ll go shoot myself some social workers who help disabled people today’? The answer was pretty quick in coming but it will never make any sense to me. A young couple went out to kill today, newly married, with a baby who they have to leave with a parent while they go kill people. Have we all gone insane? How could this man, an environmental engineer and his wife, this new mom, become radicalized, if that is what happened? They’re not hopeless loners with no future. I just don’t understand. Why would any promise of glory after this life make them give up raising their child together?

It is the day that the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center will be lit and I feel guilty but I decide to leave the news coverage and go to NYC on my TV to celebrate what should be a season of hope. It was a good move but also bizarre. Everyone on that stage seemed so brave to me. There were the young people in their bright red coats, tempting fate, and singing about peace on earth. It was a lesson in the paradoxes of our lives to move from hate to hope so quickly. When Andrea Bocelli, blind and brilliant, stood facing an audience he couldn’t even see and sang to us all with his eyes closed, it seemed to me an act of defiance as well as a gift of love. Living in a world that brings forth these two events in one day is dizzying and mind-blowing and so confuses our emotions. But it also makes the whole business so much more profound. Music is a healer. It soothes our troubled souls and makes us smile no matter what. And that is how something as prosaic as a Christmas special that we can see every year, this year brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of the good that still remains in the world.

So we will mourn again with still another group of family and friends who have lost loved ones and at the same time we will celebrate a hopeful season. Through our tears…through our tears of grief and of joy.

By Nancy Brisson

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