If I’ve learned nothing else, at least one lesson was solidified for me today: One can never be prepared for great tragedy.
In fact, that’s the most tragic part.
The reason that people so often see terrible news and think “that could never happen to me,” is because whatever it is so unimaginable that one simply can’t comprehend or prepare for what it would be like if it were to happen them. But, the light at the end of that dark tunnel is that the greater the tragedy, the greater the outpouring of love and support.
This morning, in the midst of worrying about getting my hair to straighten correctly and wondering if I’d eaten enough for breakfast I received a call from my mother. My mom has a certain tone of voice when something bad has happened. There’s fear in it, like she’s scared the news might actually break me, but it also includes an unwavering control at the same time, the one mothers get only from long difficult years of being the pillar of strength for their kids.
“Something terrible has happened,” she said. There no easy or simple way to start a conversation like that.
By the way, it’s amazing how quickly the mind works when adrenaline sets in. Between that first sentence, and her being able to tell me, I managed to brace myself for anything I could think of from death in the family, to someone being ill, home emergency, anything my mind could attach to ‘something terrible.’ But, like I said, even in that split second, sometimes you can’t prepare.
The news was that my Uncle Scott, my mom’s brother, had taken the lives of his two children, AJ (7 years old) and Jake (4 years old), then turned the gun that he’d used on himself and committed suicide.
I did break. I am not an overly emotional person, but the news was crushing. Not only did I lose an uncle, the lives of two precious innocent children had been taken along with him. It was incomprehensible, it was everything that you NEVER think could happen to someone you know.
There was no apparent motive, no warning signs, no indicator whatsoever that this may have happened, even to the three other people living in the house, his wife Cyndi and her parents.
My uncle was sweet, incredibly gentle, and loved his children with every ounce of his heart. Even looking at his last few posts on Facebook, just days earlier, reveals upload after upload of photos and videos of his kids enjoying a play date at the park, nature photos from a recent fishing trip, and even an exchange of “I love you’s” between he and my mom. No sadness, hopelessness, just a wonderful father (involved enough to take so many pictures) spending quality time with his wife and kids and enjoying the beauty of nature. What then could have caused such a 180?
We could only speculate. He hadn’t had the easiest time lately, he’d been battling pain and illness for quite a while but he finally got a diagnosis and was on the fast track to recovery. His illness resulted in having to go on disability from work, but he felt lucky that he was allowed to keep his health insurance. Could it have been a drug interaction with his new medications for his treatment plan? Could there been some sort of altercation or trigger that we didn’t know of? None of the pieces we had seemed to fit together, and sometimes that’s worse than knowing the whole story no matter how terrible it might be.
Uncle Scott had been a friend and brother figure to me since I was young, and even played almost a father figure to my younger sister after our dad passed away in 2003. We spent holidays at their home cooking great down-home southern food. He was the first one to introduce me to rock & roll. Nothing but happy memories come to mind.
But, in an instant everything was different. It wasn’t long before the shock and heartbreak flooded over his wife’s Facebook, and before we knew it, new stories about it started appearing in the local paper. My family’s tragedy was local news.
I had to make a conscious decision to turn it off. To turn from the negative comments and the cold emotionless voice of journalism, and turn to what we truly needed at a time of grief: Love.
In fear of the negative judgement that the incident may provoke, I posted a simple plea for prayers and positive thoughts without any details at all. Love and support was all we needed, and its exactly what we got. Even without knowing what had transpired, the flow love and promises of thoughts and prayers came from all angles, from close friends and old acquaintances, from family, from other countries. Immediately our hearts were lighter, if even just a little bit.
Slowly I began to explain the whole story to a few close friends, including my boyfriend. In knowing the story, the outpouring grew further. My boyfriend jumped into action, doing anything and everything to help me so that I could stay with and give my undivided attention my family. My closest friends extended an open offer for “anything I needed.”
Finally, my mom and sister posted the story to their own social networks. Again, more love. There was no expression of judgement, there was no criticism, just love and support.
Suddenly the burden felt almost bearable, like the the love came as a physical force to help lift us off the ground and give us the strength to carry ourselves through it, and I believe that’s exactly what it is. Tragedy truly brings people together, and we all know that when people come together around a common purpose, extraordinary things happen. They can change the world, and they certainly changed ours.
So, I would like to say a public thank you to all of those who have already lent their hands and hearts to my family. And to all my readers, I hope that you’ll be willing to reserve judgment and lend yours as well. I can not possibly express how grateful I am to be surrounded by such phenomenally caring people. Thank you, all of you, really.
I would also like acknowledge and send my condolences to my Aunt Cyndi. While I am mourning the death of my uncle, I know that the grief of losing her children is unparalleled and my heart goes out to her at this horrible time. And may the souls of my uncle, AJ and Jake rest in peace.