Day 4: In Defense of Living

I found out in the middle of the night that Adam had been shot.

My grandma was in town visiting from the Detroit area and when she came to visit she often slept in my bed with me. I loved it because we would talk and say our bedtime prayers together and then she would gently tickle my back to help me fall asleep. The night Adam was shot, I can clearly remember her waking me saying, "I need a prayer partner." 

There was so much confusion and misinformation before we learned what actually happened that night, but in those early hours we mistakenly believed that Adam was shot by a police officer while toilet-papering a house. When my grandma woke me up to pray, I remember walking through my house looking for some sort of clue about what was happening. I remember walking into my mom's bedroom, knowing she wasn't there, and seeing her deodorant and toothbrush in the middle of her bed. There was no cap on the deodorant, that was on the floor. 

It was that small detail that caused the first bit of panic to clutch inside my chest. That image of my mom in a frenzied rush, washing up so she could fly out the door to get to the hospital, plays in my mind like a movie to this day. I picture her just throwing her toothbrush down, realizing in that moment that nothing else mattered, grabbing a sweatshirt and running to the car. I don't know how a mama ever gets back to a place where anything else ever matters again.

I didn't want to wake up my sister, BethAnn. My grandma would go back home eventually and maybe she could bring this nightmare with her. But, if I woke up BethAnn then it was all going to be real. This is how an 11-year-old processes trauma. This is how I was stuck for a really long time. When I started doing #AdamsActs 6 years ago it was as if I gave that little girl inside me permission to grieve fully and out loud for the first time. Six years (of opening up and processing) later, that little girl is almost a grown up. I feel that progress and healing in such a real way, I can't adequately describe it. 

I went so many years stuck in that little girl space when it came to this trauma that I made a lot of childish decisions. I was self-protective and hurtful and was looking for relief in all the wrong places. But the place that was "stunted" the longest was the ability to experience true and deep joy. Out of solidarity with death, I was prevented from truly and deeply savoring life. 

As a self-proclaimed empath, I feel things wholly and intensely. I feel and carry others' hurts and afflictions as if they are my own. I can easily allow myself to become paralyzed by the weight of these burdensome emotions. The past six years of honoring Adam's life have helped me to sever the ties of solidarity to his death. 

I recently discovered a poem by Jack Gilbert in which he describes all the great suffering in the world and still, somehow, the joy. He writes of the women's laughter in the harsh streets of Calcutta or the cages of Bombay. His words remind me of the obligation to live, to find joy and a stubborn gladness.

We must have the stubbornness
to accept our gladness
in the ruthless furnace of this world. 
— Jack Gilbert

For Day #4, I allowed a stubborn gladness to peek through the logistics of my life. When my to-do list was a thousand miles long, I stopped and found joy in relationships. I put aside my chores and I sat down to visit with two of my favorite friends. I slowed down at the grocery store to chat with the cashier and bought her a candy bar and I said "yes" to two interviews that I didn't really "have time for." We hosted our community group in our home and we facilitated honest discussion about love and life and growth. I chose people over projects, and I got less done but in the ruthless furnace of the world, I chose delight. And according to Jack...

We must risk delight.
— Jack Gilbert

For more information about my process of allowing God to transform my grief into something beautiful and positive, you can listen to my interview with Donna Harris of Constantly Under Construction HERE or download my devotional e-book HERE