Sunday, April 21, 2013

When words fail

My son, as Blind Captain Cat in Under Milkwood

I honestly can't imagine that anything I could to say about the events in Boston this week and their aftermath would be unique or particularly powerful as compared with all the essays and op/eds and commentary across the internet. What I can tell you is that Boston is my home. I have lived here for the past almost 22 years.

Perhaps not long enough to be considered anywhere near a native, but my sons were born here and have lived all their lives here.

When they were little, I used to take them to Heartbreak Hill to cheer on the Marathon runners. Their elementary school P.E. teacher used to run it and they held signs for him, jumping up and down when they caught sight of him. There is a carnival atmosphere at the Boston Marathon. Many of the runners run it (26.2 miles!) in crazy costumes. One year I saw a gorilla suit. I kid you not.

We would cheer on the ordinary runners. The ones who looked like hell when they hit the base of the brutal hill. I like to think that seeing my young kids cheer so wildly (along with all of the rest of my town screaming like banshees) helped propel tired runners to the finish line.

My husband, a physician at one of the Boston hospitals, has worked the medical tents for the Marathon for most of the past 22 years. I think he's missed 2 races in all that time. One because of a family obligation out of town. The other was this year, when he had been asked by the Red Cross to take charge of organizing medical services for the entire race. He had to decline because of a professional commitment that took him out of town this week.

We live within walking distance to the area in Watertown that was riddled with bullets. We were part of the area asked to shelter in place on Friday. So for us, like so many of my fellow Bostoners, this felt all too personal.

And although I'm the person in the family who is supposed to have the right words to process it all, I feel as if I have been silenced by a grief and sense of vulnerability too large to name.

Last night, I read my eldest son's facebook page and was moved to tears by what he wrote. He is a college sophomore in Connecticut. He is the same age at the young man who is believed to be one of the Marathon bombers.

I don't understand what causes a 19 year old to maim and kill innocent people. There is too much I don't understand.

What I do understand, is that my son captured an essential truth in his words last night and he gave his permission for me to share them here.

at times like this it is essential to recall the context and your compassion. do not lose sight of the atrocities committed every day around the world by the US and governments we ally ourselves with. . . but also do not forget the losses many have suffered, the sacrifices law enforcement has made, and the damage that has been done to our ability to trust one another.

above all, remember this:
love your fellow humans. in this vast, entropic, uncaring universe . . . we are all we have. never let your hatred, or your wounds, incite you to judgement and hatred against another. we are all of the same stock. the true lesson of tragedy is not resistance but resilience, not destruction but reparation. your life, my life, all of our lives would not even qualify as the thought of a blink of an eye in the history of the cosmos, and yet a human life can be more important than any star, galaxy, or universe.

never let your sorrow and rage cloud your judgement. we are all in the same boat, and if some of us choose to puncture holes in the hull, the rest of us had better spend time bailing the water out and covering over the holes instead of tossing blame.

you exist in the fleeting moment of a fleeting moment the universe once dreamed

I beg of you, the dead and wounded in Boston and Iraq and Syria and the world around beg of you


do not let yours be a moment of spite and despair

let it ring throughout all time, everything we as a living species are privileged to experience and comprehend, as a moment of solidarity, of compassion, of empathy

we are nothing without one another

We are nothing without one another.

We are nothing without one another.

We are nothing without one another.


  1. To all the folks who left comments on this post--many, many thanks. I apologize that they seem to have gotten eaten. I had switched to the G+ integration with blogger for comments until I realized that the only way folks could leave comments was by using a google login. That felt too restrictive, so I switched back. And the comments disappeared. :(

  2. Ah, damn. I wrote something profound too... Given what's happened, this seems particularly poignant. That's all I can say. Love you and your brood.