This topic always takes me back. To the time my life stopped and flipped upside down. I never understood how people could drop to their knees in public and have a moment of agony or grief. I guess the pain I had felt up to that moment was not strong enough to knock me to my knees. But that day … it was enough.
The repeated missed phone calls. The wailing on the other end when she could finally get ahold of me. The desperation. The terror. The horror. The pain.
It would never be the same.
Everything changed right then.
At the moment it actually happened or the moment when we, and then I, found out? I don’t know. I’m not enlightened enough to know if I could feel it before I knew it.
The moments, minutes, hours, and days after follow me and live with me in all that I do. I cannot undo, unsee, unhear or unfeel what happened that day. I also cannot explain it.
But I can show empathy. Understanding. Sympathy. Feeling. Emotion. Love. Hate. And a visceral knowing of pain.
We try so hard to rationalize, justify, or excuse so much of what we and those we love do to others. We also blame, accuse and ridicule what others do to us and those we love. We are often incapable of seeing the hypocrisy in this and instead cling to our need to shield internally and lash out externally.
But what happens when the one you loved was the one who did the unthinkable? The tragic, selfish, cruel, shameful, and criminal act.
Then what? Knowing why or even assuming to know why doesn’t change the course of those actions and does not take away the pain and brutality that these actions have inflicted on another.
So now, as a human, you must rectify the person you thought you knew with the actions demonized by others, and even yourself, as you too are in disbelief that they could take such cruel actions into their hands. Hands that once loved and held you. Hands that helped raise you helped raise those who made you and loved you.
And you must face the discomfort, disbelief, and distraught person looking at you in the mirror. While facing the same looks from those external to you. And then go on living.
But that living is punctuated by that topic. It comes up in hushed tones, outrage, breaking news, and a call to arms about gun violence.
And all you can do is try to show grace. To yourself. To the victims on the other side of the tragedy and to the person who caused the pain.
Knowing that whatever led to that action started long before the act of terror, and that we all must do better. To address that topic. That pain. That access to firearms. That time when your own blood turned that pain into a murder-suicide that lives on in every moment of your life.
That Topic. So easy to turn away from. Uncomfortable. Ugly. Dirty. Embarrassing. Deadly.
That Topic. It must be discussed. It must be dissected, It must be talked about. Openly. Without shame. Talk to me. Talk to us. Talk about That Topic.
Nicole M. King is an anesthesiologist.
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