National Day of Mourning

Is it time for America to create a National Day of Mourning for gun violence victims?

Think about that.

Memorial Day I wrote a piece about how children’s funerals create memories that cannot be forgotten and my difficulty in finding peace in my relationship with God. Sitting in a neighborhood church the evening of September 11, 2001, feels like the last time the ritual of praying and singing in community brought calm. The day the world changed, and innocent people became the hunted of those with evil in their plans.

 My final paragraph of the original work was my main message: If there is a way to create calm or comfort for those mourning in Uvalde, please let that happen. For the near future, lets put guns in the safes and do gun related political theater in backrooms. These are days to stand with the grieving and honor the children and their teachers. 

Tuesday stats about gun violence across the country over Memorial Weekend were published. Wednesday a lone gunman took lives in Tulsa. And local schools cancelled their last days of school because of shooter threats. Babies being buried in one state and grieving beginning in others. The circle doesn’t close. Violent gun carriers, particularly those with assault guns, don’t give us a day off.

Perhaps it is time for America to create a National Day of Mourning for gun victims. Place the day somewhere in a quiet month like March where it won’t morph into a cookout festival. And make it a Wednesday so the travel industry won’t advertise three-day weekends in happy places. Mark the day as special by pairing it with a mandatory national service initiative. Support those who grieve and remember the potential our nation lost in each of those unnatural deaths. If there is no way to control the killing, let us at least honor our dead and remember their names.

Wishing and Hoping

We know better. Outdoor party plans don’t guarantee sunshine and soft breezes. We can hope for the best, but best be prepared for rain and thunder. We can wish that just this one time, the weather gods will spin the right number so our guests can enjoy walking and talking in the gardens.

Feels like wishing and hoping might be what’s left as what regular people can do about more and more truly large decisions or actions that impact their lives. With masks and vaccinations, many hope to escape sneaky Covid variations.  Powerful men chose to scrape other people from the face of the earth although everyone hoped the threat was just that. Partisan hatred locks decision making amidst the people we elected hoping they might work together. They tie up the executive branch where folks are wishing things would start improving. Then what was once the most solemn of our nation’s institutions spits out a hateful decision on all those who hoped the laws of the land would be upheld or wished for a miracle from the stacked bench.

Sure seems like miracles have followed the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus to fantasy land. Appeals for contributions to protect the environment, protect freedom of speech, protect women’s health, or many other threatened values mostly keep people employed in the gigantic rat race called the great democratic experiment with no guarantee of positive results. 

So many groups stand outside, disenchanted and disenfranchised, hoping for a sunny day in Washington, D.C. when the politicians and policy makers might come out of their buildings, shake off whatever protects them from the stuff normal folks deal with and breathe in some real air. 

I’m wishing they would come live with regular people for a couple of months, sit in a public school classroom for a full day, plan two weeks of meals before grocery shopping on a budget, deal with the endless impersonal bureaucracy everywhere from making a doctor appointment to asking about a bill. That’s just a start. And hope they could walk city streets safely among those tired of disappointment in government and feel the strength and anger of their action. 

Not hoping for daily sunshine and soft breezes or wishing for more than our fair share. Just reminding those who govern that it is at the will of the people who expect some respect for what we hold as truth. 

In Any Way You Can

“The war. What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people…Our parents are happy to wake up in the morning in bomb shelters—but alive. Our loved ones don’t know if we will be together again. The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence….Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about this war on your social networks, on TV. Support us, in any way you can. Any – but not silence. And then peace will come.”

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Grammy Awards Speech

A hand in its winter glove. Shoes and ankles poking from the earth. Blocks of a modern city reduced to rubble. Couples saying good-bye. Mothers, eyes devoid of emotion, carrying babies and leading tiny children wearing bright snowsuits across miles of empty streets. Old women crying.

Baby Boomers grew up reading about WW II and the Korean conflict because fathers, uncles, or grandfathers would not talk about what their experience. Pictures from the concentration camps and what we were taught was so vivid, I thought Anne Frank was a contemporary. Evening news in the 1960s and 1970s carried pictures of body bags, scorched lands, a young girl running naked through chemical-filled air in Vietnam. While the first wave of Boomer males received draft numbers and one-way tickets to Vietnam, many of their generation took to the streets to demand no more war.

But men in power can’t seem to walk away from using weapons and terror to grab a piece of land, access to a bit more wealth, deny the right to life for people from different nationalities or faith. Their march of destruction and the death of innocent fellow humans screams evil. For the Greatest Generation and the Boomers, today’s television triggers memories of skeletal survivors walking Europe’s burned fields, of staggering death tolls on Pacific islands, a mushroom cloud over Japan, young vets missing limbs. I had not heard the language of genocide until watching interviews with Russian citizens who spoke about the need to wipe Ukraine and its people off the earth. I cannot forget it.

As regular people, we are played by the intellectual powers of all sides. Russia probably claims success for each person frightened by images from their brutality in Ukraine.  Our government probably balances the need to keep Ukraine’s misery in citizens’ minds while controlling fear. No matter who manipulates the message, the Ukrainians own it in their daily fight for freedom. 

Ink on Paper

We opened most of the Christmas cards around January twenty-eighth. That’s not a tradition or a day of any significance. I just stopped procrastinating about opening the rest of the cards and putting away the last bit of the holidays. 

As cards arrived, we always look at the envelopes and talk about connection with each individual or family. Not so much connection with our HVAC contractor, eye doctor, car service place and insurance agent. I am family ‘owner’ of holiday cards, so I own that each day I planned to open the cards after dinner and enjoy pictures or notes. We had produced a virtual card to most of our list with a video of a holiday song which kind of changed the rhythm of our traditional card handling.

I hadn’t noticed one holiday card addressed to me alone during my daily shuffle. My amazing daughter-in-law had sent me a card with a note that fed my heart. The best Christmas gift. The best. Maybe even better opened in the quiet of winter after the rush.

An unexpected Valentine postcard from a friend, an untraditional card sent to my on my birthday, certain travel postcards from friends and relatives inspired me to design a decorative wide ribbon where I could hang these treasures in my office. Some of the ribbon is in my credenza along with a bag of tiny brass clips, but the completed project remains in my mind. The treasures are in a tray along with letters from my mother-in-law and one from my father before I was married.

Kind emails and texts mean so much often because the message is unexpected. The gift of a caring personal message in ink, on paper, which is then mailed delivers a flush of happiness followed by days or weeks of remembering each word. Coming from the era of pen pals and mailed greeting cards for every special day from Valentine’s Day to Easter to Halloween and Thanksgiving, I appreciate the effort taken to shop, write, and mail. 

Though we’re all past the age of decorated shoe boxes to hold our Valentines, I hope you find happiness in sending a text, an ecard, or paper card to a person you value, or a whole lot of friends and family members who might need a smile.

Happy January Birthdays

January, a month of fewest births and most deaths, is where we stand fighting the latest variant of Covid. How wearying to be still writing about this unwelcome virus. But like glitter left from wrapping paper or cards, it won’t be dusted, swept, vacuumed, washed, or wished away. Lots of people have stories about trying to rid the nasty stuff from clothes or rugs or skin, but no one really knows the secret to beat the stuff. Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay inside, but the hated Covid, like unwanted glitter, stays in the air. 

Our family has a tradition of January births, even among in-laws. The older generation of January birthday holders has mostly passed, many on December dates, but there are four of us who are happy to celebrate. Birthday cake is a nice treat after holiday chocolates and cookies. Maybe there’ll be one more chance to get that sweater or book that wasn’t under the Christmas tree. Even better, everything is discounted and can be bought for yourself with little guilt. Even if there can’t be a party, there are safe ways to gather family or friends. If all fails, Zoom offers forty free minutes to talk with your relatives in sunny Florida. 

“In the Bleak Mid-Winter” by Christina Rossetti and Gustav Holst often runs through my mind at this time of year.  Rossetti’s beautiful words describe winter: “Icy wind may moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like stone…” and that often experienced January weather of “Snow on snow on snow.” As soft and gentle as January is icy and lonely, versions by Sarah McLachlan and James Taylor and others fill my blue light time when it is neither day nor night. You have to sing through to the end of the song for its encouragement that “as empty as I am (of gifts for the Baby Jesus), I must give my heart.” 

That is a magic message. If our basic physical needs are met, then we can push through January, holding each other tight inside our hearts until free once more to meet personally during spring’s warmer days. Until then call a friend, send a note, take a walk. We’ve figured this out and know how to make the weeks pass. In honor of the friends and family who are no longer with us to celebrate these January birthdays, I will treasure mine.