Everyone feels broken inside when tragedy or violence takes a loved one from their life. For those left behind, the word forever that once was filled with possibilities becomes complete with broken promises. Violence is senseless regardless of the underlying cause. The death and carnage left behind defy understanding. Vivid stories describing the event or even the carefully crafted clinical description on the certificate that officially ends the life you loved can't begin to answer the one question that matters most. Why? Why did they go?
The tragedy is always hard to understand, made more so by its bewildering arrival in our lives. All of the careful planning for a secure future, precautions taken to ensure safety and security vanish like a sunny day colliding with a summer shower. There is no way to prepare for the suddenness of tragedy. We are profoundly stuck in an ugly, evil plot crafted by the choices of another. Life changes on a dime; suddenly tomorrow is no more. Where do we go from this point?
The human body responds to a thankful state of shock – our built-in insulator that allows us to survive and function. It is a necessary reprieve from a reality too harsh to accept. We are on 'autopilot' as we move through the next few days and weeks that all blend together in a maze of pain. The horror coexists with loneliness, rage and a burning desire to understand why. Why us, why our loved one? There lies within each of us who has survived a tragedy, regardless of a personal decision about spirituality, the absolute certainty that there is more than this. All that has gone before, all that you know about life and all the wonder about death lead to the surety that the journey does not abruptly end forever. So the search begins, where are you, where did you go, why did it happen? This applies especially to those who’ve lost their child, no matter the child’s age – a child remains the parent’s child forever. Children are our future – what we believed to know in our own forever.
It is in the silence that we find our answers. It is in the silence that we are assured to have made connections to those lost loved ones. Why does this happen? Perhaps it is the first time we are willing to believe that it can be so. We need to find there is a part of our forever that continues even though we cannot go just yet. We turn instinctively to a higher power, our Creator, to care for the one we have loved and lost. We do this knowing that it is the safest place we can trust even if forced to accept what we can never understand.
As time passes, we are left with our attempts to take what has happened and release the pain of the grief that has engulfed our life. We embrace the only plausible explanation for the question of “Why?” which has been looming throughout the process. Regardless of what we cannot understand, we begin to realize that the one we have lost finished early. They completed their own personal journey and returned to the loving Creator who always accompanied them. We understand that even in the worst of their story, they were never alone. There comes an acceptance that the overwhelming love shared pales in comparison to the love they were surrounded with throughout their life – most especially when they left. Somehow this balm soothes our brokenness and begins the healing we so desperately need – because we must go on and get through. We have to build a new forever for the rest of our life.
Tragedy and violence – horror and evil – leave lasting imprints on our psyche and emotions. It makes it ever harder to find answers to those secret questions that consume us. 'What were they feeling when this happened, did they know we loved them so?' It helps to know they were always enveloped in a love of Our Creator, that which we can never comprehend. Even if we can never forget the way things ended, we can embrace the goodness we shared. Never let go of the good memories. For as long as we hold these recollections close, the one lost to us never really leaves us. They lovingly live on in our new forever.
–John T. Catrett, III serves as a Chaplain with ONHL Hospice. ONHL Hospice currently provides services to the majority of Northeastern Oklahoma but is available to accept patients statewide. Learn more at http://onhlhospice.com.