It seems that life has been happening so fast I have not had, or taken the time to chew the cud lately. I haven’t metabolized much of anything that has been going on. Life is like that though, isn’t it. You rock along thinking the pace is manageable and that everything is going to stay in balance and then all of a sudden you realize you’ve just been treading water. I feel like that anyway. Oh, I have wonderful times since I wrote to you last and have so many things to be thankful for. However, there are also big things going on in the world and in the lives of the people I know and even my own little corner of humanity and I can hardly take it all in. Life offers so much more than I can hold on my own.
Recently my family enjoyed a vacation in Galveston. We rented a house and spent the week with our daughter and son in law and two precious granddaughters. It was a piece of heaven. The house was great. The weather was great. The beach was great…no seaweed, no tar, no trash. No, really! I almost didn’t recognize that it was the Galveston piece of the Texas Gulf. The company was great. We all got along and had fun together. Of course with three year old Eloise and one year old Avery one would have to be made of stone not to have fun. Watching them playing in the sand and water made my heart feel young again. Oh, and we celebrated my 61st birthday while we were there, complete with hula napkins and leis and cupcakes. And a beautiful round (or two or three) of happy birthday to Mimi. Best birthday ever. We also had great food and everyone worked in the kitchen well. And that’s not always an easy thing for families on vacation to do! I think our success was due to my daughter, Lauren’s, gift for organization. She had planned a menu and grocery list so that, other than some quick trips to the market for ice and beer, we ate like royalty all week without any grocery shopping. She did not get this gift of organization from me. If left up to me we’d have been eating frozen pizza or eating out most nights, with me apologizing the whole time. But, that’s a whole ‘nother post.
There is something about the beach, the water, the breeze, the open pace that brings me such peace. I can feel my blood pressure slow to a healthy flow and my creative juices, which sometimes become stagnant in daily life, begin to shake loose and flow. But this time at the beach I was reminded that life’s moments of light are always held in tandem with the darker more difficult ones.
On Saturday of that week, Tom and I left our beach haven and drove to Corpus Christ to attend the memorial service for five of the Wimberley flood victims, the Carey and Charba families. I seriously doubt that anyone in attendance had ever been to a service to grieve and honor five people at the same time. It was surreal. I was thankful that the burials had been done at a different time. And I was happy to be sitting in the overflow room where everything seemed to be just a little bit distanced from the pain. Otherwise I think it would have been too much to experience at once. I feel shallow and selfish even writing those words. The service was full of hope and life and love and laughter, just the way I remember this family being.
We had known the Carey family since our days in Corpus back in the 80’s when we were young and raising Lauren. It had been a magical time for us and when we had to move from Corpus I went kicking and screaming. Sorry to admit, that is a literal statement. While I won’t be so bold to claim that we were close friends of the Careys, we were appreciative of the privilege of knowing them and always enjoyed when we were in their company. They were the kind of family that made everyone feel welcomed. Part of the reason we love Corpus so much to this day is because of folks like them. Through the years when we would return to visit close friends or attend a function we would see Ralph and Sue or Michelle or Cristen and be reminded once again of their gift as a family of hospitality, always making others feel comfortable in their presence. Tom, Lauren, and I also had many opportunities through the years to spend time with them in the lazy waters outside of their river home in Wimberley. Some of our best friends from Corpus had a home across the river from the Careys and whenever we would go visit them we’d all gather at the river for a day of relaxation, conversation, and fun. And some liquid refreshment. I have an almost impossible time of trying to get my head wrapped around how that beautiful peaceful tree lined river could have turned so violent so quickly. I have a much harder time getting my heart wrapped around what they all endured during those final terrifying moments of their lives. My imagination takes me to a place that I don’t want to go, but sadly have returned to time and time again. Each time I’m left in tears and clinging to the promise that God was there with, more significantly for, them every step of the way.
Our dear friends that we used to visit at the river also lost their home of 40+ years that night. The difference was they escaped safely with only minutes to spare. I cry about this also, but with gratitude. I can’t and won’t imagine life without them. On a normal day they would grieve the loss of their log cabin, and I imagine they still will at some point. But for now, their grief for their lost loved ones is far too acute to think of much else. They were life-long close friends of the families who were lost and the loss of seeing their joyful faces will overshadow the property loss they experienced. Houses can be replaced. More trees can be planted. But, people. There can be no replacing of people. There is mourning. There is remembering. There is honoring. There is continuing to love. There is claiming the promise of being reunited one day. But there is no replacing.
If you have read or heard news anytime in the last couple of months you will have no doubt heard about these families gathered in Wimberley for Memorial Day weekend when a flood, of historical and “biblical” proportions created such a wall of water as to literally wash the house in which they were staying down the river. Upon hitting a bridge the house broke open and nine people were made vulnerable to the power of the rushing waters and debris. One man, husband and father, survived with severe injuries. His wife and two children were lost. I cry for this young man and for the weight of the pain he no doubt endures. Eight out of nine people gone with a wave. To make things worse, as of this writing, they still have not been able to locate the bodies of two of the children, Will age 6, Leighton age 4. But it’s not for lack of trying. Thousands of people have been pouring their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls into the quest to locate all. First with hopes of finding survivors. Now with the yearning to honor these little bodies and bring them home. There has been an uprising of love, a flood of compassion that, while it cannot undo the damage of the Blanco River, it has provided a soothing balm of comfort to the families and friends and to countless others who have no relationship with these families but are now connected through the common bond of humanity. Through grief. Through hope. It is through times such as these that we realize we are made to do this hard thing of life together. That it is much too great of a burden to bear alone. And it is through this outpouring of love in “biblical” proportions that I am understanding on a whole new level what the command to love God and love neighbor may be about. How they are two threads of the same commandment.
A friend cried to me in the aftermath of this horrific event as she desperately sought answers. “Where is the lesson? I just don’t get it. Where is the lesson in all of this?” And I heard others, grasping for reason, say God just needed some extra special angels and that is why they were taken. I understand that this is us, fragile humanity, trying to make sense out of what we can’t possibly understand. I understand that this is us trying to reason the unreasonable. I understand this is us, trying to regain balance in the uneven ridges of grief. This is us trying to understand, because to NOT understand reminds us that we live in the reality of uncertainty. And to admit uncertainty. Well, that’s just too damn hard. But in my gut I feel there is no lesson. I know that may fly in the face of some peoples’ theology but, there is nothing in the nature of Jesus, who is God incarnate, which would suggest violence is God’s way of teaching us a lesson. Quite the opposite. Jesus absorbed our violence in order to teach us about Love.
No, I don’t think there is a lesson to this tragedy but, there are opportunities in the midst of the darkness this tragedy brings. Opportunities to be gathered in once again by the waters of grace and to be reminded of the gift of being able to carry that grace forward together. I have been inspired by the things I have witnessed and heard as so many have come forward to offer whatever they can to support and encourage these grieving families and friends. And it’s nothing short of amazing to see how these families have reached out to thousands in gratitude and in awareness that this grief they experience is also being held and experienced by so many, even complete strangers. So, while there is no lesson that explains the dark, there is Light that teaches us through the dark.
After the memorial service, we traveled back “home” to our beach house and arrived right at dusk to see our oldest granddaughter on the deck jumping up and down with joy as she saw our car approach. She was smiling with delight, so much life in her smile, in her presence. Both Tom and I welled up with tears at such a homecoming. Life….so rich, so hard, so much dark, such loving light.