“Death may come invisible or in a holy wall of fire / In the breath between the markers on some black I-80 mile / From the madness of the governments to the vengeance of the sea / Everything is eclipsed by the shape of destiny.” Bright Eyes
Though my world has contracted lately into the shape of a cancer cell, the dread of the microscopic, essentially invisible, threat of death plaguing my dreams, the truth is we die in many ways.
Yesterday, three people died in a wall of fire at the Boston Marathon, an inexplicable, devastating explosion. All around them was suffering, blood, severed limbs, injury, pain, fear, and shock.
I saw in the online videos two people who had been brought to their knees, one 78-year-old runner shaken to the ground at the finish line and one woman collapsed into prayer and horror. We can not stand on this ground or look at these sights.
Yet, still, some ran toward the suffering. Some ran to local hospitals to give blood. Some ran to their families. Some ran across the finish line, confused by the chaos.
For some people yesterday the running began with the goal of raising money for cancer. Some people ran away from the cancer inside, signaling to the universe that their bodies and spirits would fight back. Some ran yesterday because of the joy of running or the compulsion of running.
Families and friends, fans and tourists, journalists and volunteers watched the runners. They cheered. They were nervous. They were ready to see some particular person complete the race or chase down a personal best.
We will watch over and over again how the world betrayed us. We will know that children died and suffered on a day and in a place that celebrated strength and freedom and a day off from school.
Like everyone else yesterday, I called the people I know in Boston. My brother and his partner were safe. And then the horror of remembering that my niece is in college there. Thank god for Facebook, where she reported that she was safe. And former students reported on what they’d seen there, where they were, what they knew. The relief allowed me to exhale, but then guilt and grief descended.
The suffering is not momentary. It will go on and on. Some will be resilient and some will be unable to trust or function. For all of those in the midst of all this, for all of those surrounding them, for all of us wondering what the fuck just happened, hold close to each other. Presence is the better part of support. Just being there matters the world. Trust me on that.
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