A grief recalled

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Thirty-one years ago today, as I write this, I had an appointment with my therapist. Janice had helped me save my own life and survive a toxic divorce. She helped me find value in living again, helped me believe once more in the illusive chimaera of possibility, even happiness. Real progress was being made, and I was becoming a person again. And so it was, at 4:30 that afternoon, Wednesday, June 16, 1993, we had an appointment. Instead, as it happened, I went to her funeral.

There was no sense to it. Five days before Janice was driving her babysitter home close to midnight. She stopped at a light. The light turned green. She proceeded into the intersection. A car, driven by some monster, ran the light and struck her driver side door at speed. The paramedics said she died instantly. One split second she was chatting amiably with her childminder, the next split second she was gone.

I will spare you the tale of the private agonies and depression I endured for more than a year. My personal ordeal was insignificant, I am sure, compared to the horrors of her family, her husband, her children, the vast number of people who had known and loved her for decades. If it could be said to be unusual, my grief was unusual only in that I had somehow contrived to reach my 38th year without ever having known death in a personal way. I was wholly unprepared for the stark helplessness and grief to come.

I suppose you expect, brothers and sisters, from that ordeal I learned some universal wisdom, some life-affirming truths, that I can now pass on to you. Sorry, I can’t. I gained nothing from it then, and 31 years later I am no wiser. I can tell you nothing now that you don’t already know.

Most of you already know what I learned quickly back then, that life can be unfair, that the universe is a cold, unwelcoming place, that the good sometimes die young and evil sometimes lives on and on and bloody on. It is part of the stupid calculus of existence that Janice died and the monster who murdered her is alive and walking free to this very day. There is no wisdom to be had from that.

Today we face a struggle for the continued life of our nation. We do so, with a certainty beyond doubt, that we represent the forces of good against the forces of evil. It is an evil greater than I thought possible, but one I was not entirely unprepared for. Nor do I know of any reason to believe that our goodness is a guarantee of victory. Right, in case you haven’t noticed, doesn’t always make might. Whatever natural strength we possess must necessarily come from within each of us. The universe isn’t going to help.

Each hour, each minute, each second to come will happen whether we choose to participate in it or not. So we must choose to participate, knowing in advance that there are no guarantees of success, knowing in advance that the enemy is just as determined as we are, knowing in advance that the justice of our cause will not save us. It’s all up to us, our voice, our vote, our volition alone. That’s all.

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