Last night I was blessed to sit with people in pain following the pointless murder of two and the suicide of another.
The Willow Creek LDS Stake, here in Sandy, Utah, hosted an hour of reflection and counseling following the murder/suicide near Brookwood Elementary School this past Tuesday.
The speakers were diverse, and represented many points of view. Mayor Tom Dolan and Police Chief Kevin Thacker spoke from the leadership of Sandy City. Other speakers included voices from Canyons School District, the neighborhood itself, a social worker, and faith leaders. The faith leaders were LDS, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and non-denominational.
There were some common themes.
- Grief is highly personal; it is not alike for any two people. Not said, but I read an article yesterday that compared grief to snowflakes and fingerprints. No two snowflakes or fingerprints are alike. No grief situation is just like someone else’s. Grief is highly personal.
- Be careful of bromides. Trying to explain the unexplainable is risky. Yes, we believe that there is a resurrection, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t emptiness in this world, at this time, due to this loss.
Paul speaks in Romans about how through God, all things can work for good. It doesn’t even start to mean that God made this event happen, but how do we draw from this senseless act, good? That was the question of Father John from Saint Thomas More Roman Catholic Church, ‘what do we expect the outcome of this to be?’
Let me offer a few:
- Celebrate what we have, when we have it. I have offered several times that the sudden passing of my brother prompted me to suggest to many the need to tell those you love, that you do indeed love them.
- Those in law enforcement and fire protection take these kinds of things very seriously. They ask ‘what could we have done better?’ Here, I think nothing. Three are dead, and it is possible that without very prompt action by those first responders, two more might have died. When you see people in law enforcement, tell them, in your own words, you appreciate their sacrifice and service.
- Communities are important to how we are buoyed up in hard times. The Anglican priest Jon Donne said that ‘no man is an island’ but how many of us try and turn ourselves into islands?
- Get to forgiveness. If we are not careful, lack of forgiveness can diminish our very souls. It can draw energy from us in our anger. But, encourage others to safely, for the angry and the innocent, get to forgiveness along their path in their timetable. Just as grief can be like a snowflake or a fingerprint, getting to forgiveness is not a cookie cutter we can pull out and magically produce healing. The more senseless, the longer and harder it will be.
God did not cause these murders and suicide. But God can help us in our grief and emptiness.
Selah, Pastor Dennis