You may have noticed the flurry of silly on the blog this week. Not that I need an occasion for a flurry of silly, but this week I had one. In between laughing at Pearl, and joking with you all, and making fun of the tree lady, I cried, a lot. Hard crying that would hit while I was driving in my car, or sitting at my desk, or lying down to sleep. And I needed to escape to silly when I could.
This post will not be well-received by some.
I have been deeply saddened, as have so many millions of others, by the tragedy at Virgina Tech. I should say, the tragedies. There were many, and not just on that one day. They were set in motion years ago, when a mentally ill child, then adolescent, then young adult, apparently slipped through crack after crack. The final cracks were in the gun laws and the mental healthcare privacy laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
I don’t have any friends or family members who were working or studying at the school at the time of the shootings. Because of our relative proximity to the school, many people in our area are alumni — LG’s teacher, Biscuit’s vet, are just two I’ve spoken with this week. I’ve been thinking a lot about Seung-Hui Cho. And about his family. A local Christian radio station was calling yesterday for listeners to go on their website and send cards to the grieving families. And they said they wanted people to write to Cho’s family, as well. That’s what I had been thinking about doing.
As I recently commented on someone’s blog, mourning a life is an even more painful and complex challenge than grieving someone’s death. And I don’t know if mourning a life ever ends. I say this from personal experience. When the person who died is someone like those brilliant, successful, cherished students and teachers that we see on TV, we know, everyone knows, that their lives, although much too short, were something to be celebrated. Family members have already made clear that their memorial services are to be celebrations of life. Of the joy they brought, the contributions they made.
When it is difficult to find something to celebrate about the person’s life . . . what do you have but grief, pain, darkness? How will the Cho family honor their beloved son and brother’s life? In what stories, memories, will they find comfort? I pray that there are some. We haven’t heard them.
I heard a few people talk about how odd Cho was. I heard a couple of people say that they tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t talk. I heard a story of how, as a young adolescent, he refused to read aloud in class, and when the teacher wouldn’t let it go, and forced him, his speech was unclear and the entire class laughed at him. From that day forward. And I heard him described by high school classmates as “this shy kid who got picked on every day at school,” and “someone who would not even give someone a dirty look.”
Today I saw that VT played a baseball game. The attendance broke all records. And during the game, the news report said, they observed 32 seconds of silence. That pushed the button that prompted this post. There are 33 grieving families. One grieves alone. One young man is excluded in death as he was in life.
I don’t have the answers. And I have many more questions than I have the energy to address here. But I do hope we don’t stop asking the questions until we get some things changed. Like laws. And hearts. I don’t know which will be more difficult.
*for you youngsters, the title is from an oldie:
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
So on we go
His welfare is my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another.
It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.