March 8, 2009

A Decade

I realized earlier this month that it has now been ten years since 1999. One decade. That is hugely significant. I can clearly remember the late 90s. I'm one of those people who thinks that the 90s were recent. When I was younger, I would have made fun of me.

On a more serious note, today marks the 10-year anniversary of the violent death of a girl I once knew. I write about her every year on or around this day. If you'd like some background on what happened, click here.

I remember how her death came when we were on the cusp of a new century and new millenium. How, in the midst of all that possibility of technology and growth, there was this senseless, awful tragedy to reckon with. How my entire hometown struggled to make sense of what had happened. How shocked and frozen I felt upon hearing the news. How I watched her broken-hearted parents walk down the aisle at the church where they held her funeral.

Ten years later, I'd be surprised if anyone really understood the meaning behind her murder. It's just one of those things that does not make more sense no matter how much time passes. The murder of a 20-year-old by handgun is not one of those things that can ever be explained or "gotten over." It just doesn't work like that. Death, no matter how it happened or who it happened to, is hard fact of life. I think the finality of losing someone is one of those things you have to learn to live with. You have to make a space for that loss in your life. You have to acknowledge that it's there in order to move on.

But today I want to talk about life, not death.

I think many, many people (myself included) get bogged down by everyday life. There's marriage and work and kids and school and bills and a failing economy and not enough hours in the day. It's hard not to be overwhelmed by our responsibilities. But I think it's important to remember what our real responsibilities are. They do not include money, a job, a house, or the overdue bills. I'm talking about something a little more elementary. I'm talking about spending time with those we love, saying "I love you," following our deepest dreams, and trying to be healthy (in all ways).

It seems that we spend so much time trying to get to the right place at the right time that we forget to look around and say, "Hey, I'm here right now. I'm going to enjoy this." Before we know it, the moment has passed and we are on to the next thing.

But the truth is, I'm tired of letting the moments pass me by. I complain a lot about things sometimes, and while needing to vent is certainly valid, I wish I had the wisdom to really understand that where I am is where I am and that I shouldn't get upset with myself for not being where I think I should be.

But I am not wise. I'm just human. Completely and irrevocably flawed. A creature of hindsight, not foresight.

However, I have always been keenly attuned to the idea of death. It is not some abstract thing to me. It is a reality. Since I was a young girl, I have known that my time on this Earth is limited and that if I'm going to live, I better do it now and do it as well as I can. Still, it took me forever to realize that while I was waiting for my life to start, it had actually already started and begun to play out.

In three months or so, Roy and I will have a real live baby to care for. Charlie is going to complicate and change our lives in ways we probably haven't even begun to anticipate, but one thing I know is that Charlie will instill in us an amazing amount of love and hope for all of life's possibilities. Ultimately, I think love and hope are what keep us holding on when times are hard; they propel us forward and keep us afloat. And yeah, I think one of our main responsibilities in life is to give that love and hope to others. You never know who might need it.

One thing that I want to remember today is that a 20-year-old girl died 10 years ago, and she had no choice in the matter. It's only fair to her (and to the others that have passed on) that we live and that we do it well, with love and hope in our hearts. And that's another reason why I'm doing Love Week this coming week. I need to remember how lucky I am. I need to remind myself that every day is a gift, as cliche as it sounds. I need to know that the world can be as beautiful as it is cruel. And ultimately, I need to be reminded of the fact that love and time are the ultimate healers of our pain and sorrow.

Thanks for listening.


Angie Eats Peace said...

Thanks for this reminder.
I know lately, I have been dwelling far too much on what I do not like about life, rather than all the many things there is to love.

tootie said...

You are so right. It's easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day frustrations of life. But it's important to remember how lucky we are to have our health, loved ones, and many other blessings.

Thanks for writing this!

Eric's Mommy said...

I can totally relate to your story. In Sept. this year a friend of mine that I grew up with was murdered in Florida, shot in the head. He was 24 years old, it was so strange. We had drifted apart in high school, but the fact that somebody I knew and grew up with was murdered was so shocking.

amber said...

beautiful post.

Leslie said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Eric's Mommy - I'm sorry to hear about the death of your friend. It is never an easy thing to reckon with, especially when there's so much violence involved.

Erika said...

Thanks for this beautiful post.

It hurts me to know that Paula has left this earth so suddenly....she had her whole life ahead of her.

Its sad.

I'm sure she appreciates you thinking about her.