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Critical Light

I heard some incredibly sad news yesterday.  Very suddenly, the world lost a young wife & mother, a woman who grew up down the block from me & was the younger sister of a girl I went to school with.  The profound sorrow that her family–– her husband and young children, must be going through is inconsolable, it’s a depth of crisis and grief that words just can’t capture and wouldn’t if they could.   I don’t know how exactly it is that she passed, and it would be irreconcilably unforgivable even to ask–– what matters is that she’s gone.

And this isn’t the first time that tragedy has visited her family.

The summer before I was to enter 4th grade, my family moved to a tall white pillared house on Glenys Drive in an imperfectly-quaint suburb in Illinois–– the eighth move we’d been through in as many years.  It wasn’t long after we’d unpacked that I’d met the kids in the neighborhood, and at first sight was lost in a deep crush with The Girl Down The Block.  Smitten, and it’d lasted for a couple years.  Tragedy struck her family and our village when, our freshman year of college, she was lost to the world in a terrible asthma attack.  The sorrow her family and her friends went through was immeasurable, and with now the loss of her younger sister, her family’s pain is all the more cruel.

In times such as this, there are no words, only grief.  In times such as this, there is only hurt, loss, a numbed severance.  I cannot even imagine what her family is going through now, and my heart bleeds for them.

But today, while heart, mind & spirit were withdrawn in sad seclusion, I found myself not once but several times in situations where the opportunity for kindness presented itself.

Now, I am very firmly and concertedly one who believes that generosity and charity spoken of is generosity nullified–– count me wholly in the  Matthew 6:3 “let not the left hand know what the right is doing” camp.  But as I hope & pray that someone might draw something from this, I’ll suffer the chance of that nullification, and forgive me if, as I’m a bit askew in sadness right now, this is unintentionally uncalled for.

But as every ounce of me was anchored in sadness, and these instances presented themselves, before I knew what I was doing, I was engaged in them–– not even consciously because they were kind acts, but because a subconscious flame lit inside illuminating that they  were the right thing to do.   Helping an older woman pull her cart up a very steep incline in a subway passage, though I was in a hurry; giving just-bought fruit from the grocery store to a homeless man who was digging for food  in the garbage, insisting that a seated man stand so that a young mother carrying a baby could get his seat; leaving $5 with the cashier as I got coffee with instructions to pay for whichever customer should come next.

In times like this, suffering so egregious a loss as this young mother, so cruelly taken by the whims of fate, there is no way to combat the grief.  There is no magic bullet for the sadness, and no words will lessen the inky pitch of total darkness.

But in each instance today, despite being clenched by despair, taking the opportunity to engage in those acts of kindness, a light registered.  A spark.  A match lit in that darkness combatting my wellsprung anguish.   Perhaps it was conscious after all–– a will to push myself out of the pit by exercising the option to bring light to someone else’s day: to increase the kindness in the world.  For a few short moments, if for no other reason than just to light that match within the darkness and light a small right shine.

In that small way, in pressing forward in an offering of kindness, I found that I was paying homage–– they were gifts offered in soft remembrance.   Rest in peace, Dawn, and may with time your family find the solace and peace that grief right now consumes.