A great and quiet protest

Three years ago my brother died unexpectedly, and each time there is a tragic loss of unsuspecting lives, I can’t help but just curl up on the ground and weep.

There is no way to understand or explain this kind of loss. To our never-ending horror and surprise, it exists. It is devastating. I know healing will take the rest of our lives. What happened this week makes me angry, and overwhelmed, and gut-wrenchingly sad all over again. And unfortunately, grief doesn’t give us an out. My heart yearns to bring back the people who woke up this week and thought it would be life as usual, but whose lives ended in anything but the usual way. I sit and grieve with the people who are trying desperately to get their aching and exhausted souls to sleep, knowing full well that the world they wake up to is unrecognizable from the one they knew before. Three years after my brother’s death, and now just days after Paris and Baghdad, and Beirut, I still find myself ill-equipped to make sense of a world that has stopped making sense.


In the midst of a world that is falling apart under its own brokenness, I also know that people and communities around the world are coming together to support each other. To be present. And to love. I know I have friends who were there to make sure my flight landed safely and who want to be close. I know that my niece was on a playground today pretending to be a flying princess and that both of my parents answered their phones yesterday when I called. And despite my sadness, for all of these good things, I feel immeasurable gratitude.

The tension between this overwhelming gratitude and grief is something I don’t understand. My rational mind has no words to describe it’s complexity. It’s simply something I feel. Daily. And in this tension, my world wakes me up everyday and continues to ask one perplexing question:

How can you wholly embrace the good you experience on one hand while also fully recognizing, acknowledging, and honoring the hurt that you hold in the other?

I have no answers, and yet I find it a courageous question to pursue. It is, I suppose, the paradox of our humanity. We live our daily lives stretched like rubber bands between simultaneous experiences of both goodness and bitterness, compassion and apathy, certainty and ambiguity. We don’t often acknowledge it, but our world supports both hatred and love. Together. To name one without recognizing the other seems dishonest.

This past year I have been trying to honor the seeming impossibility of things I can’t control and don’t understand. Things like death. And love. And tragedy. I am learning that in this incomprehensible and beautiful mess, it is worthwhile to show up. To be present and let my heart ache over those things that feel so broken, and at the same time seek out and celebrate the people and experiences that fill me with life and make me feel whole again. It is my greatest protest against a world that hasn’t worked out the way I thought it would.