I want to thank all of you who have written me after reading that my brother was killed by a stray bullet in a gang killing at Best Buy in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "It just doesn't seem possible that something like this could happen..and of all people, to you," wrote Susie Ellis of SpaFinder.
We all think this way -- "such a thing couldn't happen, and certainly not to me or someone I love." The shootings at the Batman movie in Denver seem even more unlikely and impossible. And yet, horrible things happen, and sometimes to us or people we know and love.
My mother has been a great inspiration to me. After losing her only son, she has spread a message of love and forgiveness. She made a commitment to add the alleged killer to her prayer list. "It's not too late for him to turn his life around," she said. This helped set the tone at the funeral.
The Rev. William Tankersley challenged those who attended the service to turn a terrible tragedy into something positive by finding "a nonviolent way to overcome evil with good." He encouraged people to reach out and bring hope to young people who might otherwise turn to the hopeless gang lifestyle.
I have been greatly comforted by the fact that my family's response was not one of anger and vengeance, but of love and compassion under terrible conditions. I have been touched by the outpouring of support, much of it taking place in the virtual world. The word spread on Facebook and childhood friends especially rushed to extend their love and condolences. One friend spontaneously changed her profile photo to a teal ribbon, the symbol against violence that was chosen by the neighborhood where he lived. I changed mine and invited friends to change theirs, and many did.
It turns out the virtual world is a good place to seek comfort. You can read messages and receive support without being asked to give more than you are able. (Talking to people in person can be draining if they aren't sensitive to your cues.)
"Thank you for sharing this tragedy and even having the presence of mind to mention the value of the spa experience at a time like this when you are going through tremendous grief," wrote Susie Ellis. "I saw many times when widows and others who had sustained a major loss would come to the Golden Door or Rancho La Puerta and there was no doubt that the love and support of the guests and staff helped them get through the unimaginable. It is quite something for you to pass along that message not only after but during this raw and sensitive time."
And I thank all of you for being there for me.
One last thing. If there is someone in your family you don't get along with, consider the fact that they could be taken away from you at any moment. I take great comfort in the fact that my brother and I had a long talk the Sunday before he died. We ended the conversation the way we always did. And "I love you" was the last thing I said to him.