“It is the tenderness that breaks our hearts. The loveliness that leaves us stranded on the shore, watching the boats sail away. It is the sweetness that makes us want to reach out and touch the soft skin of another person. And it is the grace that comes to us, undeserving though we may be.” ~ Robert Goolrick, The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life
Hurricane Sandy ripped through the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, leaving behind severe devastation in its wake. New York City was hit hard, especially Lower Manhattan, Staten Island and the Rockaways. Tens of thousands lost power. Many are without food and basic necessities. Some lost everything. A few dozen lost their lives.
I was one of the fortunate ones in the city. Except for a few minor inconveniences, I was not affected by the storm.
But the storm did change my perspective.
Last week, I wanted a better, higher paying job, a bigger place to live, and more money with which to enjoy life. This week, after the storm, all I want is for things to go back to how they were before Sandy destroyed my city.
And I want to sleep a little better, knowing that GP, a firefighter, will come home to me after every shift. He and the rest of the city’s first responders have been working tirelessly all week trying to clean up and salvage what remains after Sandy’s destruction.
When you come face to face with mortality and a sudden uprooting of your everyday life, you are humbled down to wanting only what you really need, and for me, that is G, GP, and the life that I was already blessed to have.
“That’s what birthdays were. Days when you found out where you stood. Who was on your side and who wasn’t. Nothing to do with how old you were.” ~ Rupert Thomson, The Five Gates of Hell
One week ago, I quietly slipped into my forty-first year of life.
There was no big party. No big presents. No candles. There wasn’t even a cake.
I remember prior birthdays — last year, two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago… and all I can take away from those days is how deeply unhappy I was. I was always yearning for something, searching for some deeper meaning to my life, and hoping to grasp onto some semblance of happiness.
I realize that this year, for the first year in God only knows how long, I was happy on my birthday.
After forty-one years, I want what I have, and I have what I want: love, strong family bonds, true friends, and a newly-found love for myself.
I am not quite where I want to be, but I am getting closer.
God willing, I will get there.
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.” ~ Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa
If I had left my apartment a mere two seconds earlier, I would have seen it happen. But I didn’t have to see it. I heard it. And that is more than enough.
I was walking down the stairs to the train platform at the Roosevelt Avenue stop. Mid-way down the stairs, I heard, above all the noise of the crowds, one loud, horrifying, bloodcurdling scream, cut short as the oncoming train came to an abrupt stop.
My stomach tightened as I made it down to the bottom of the stairs. I saw in front of me a group of people standing near the edge of the platform, frantically peering down underneath the stopped train. Some were screaming. Many were crying.
The violent loss of a life occurring so close to you is traumatic. You are left feeling empty and devastated. It doesn’t matter that you never knew the person. It doesn’t matter that you had never even seen him or her. It’s the mere act of taking one’s own life, and the questions of “why?” and the effect it leaves behind with those who had been unfortunate to witness the tragic event, and the suffering of the loved ones who are left behind to pick up the pieces.
I pray for his soul, and I give my sympathy to all who loved him and who are now left to cope with the loss of him.