The day that my siblings and I gathered at the hospital to say goodbye to my mom was pretty intense. We did a lot of shuffling around, mumbling about hospice and next steps and staring at each other’s empty eyes. There was a particularly bad moment in her room that we all needed a break from. You know what we did when we were gathered outside her room preparing ourselves for the rest of this ride?
We laughed. We stood outside our dying mother’s door and my siblings and I found stupid things to laugh about. I remember thinking that the staff was going to think we were heartless fools. But they didn’t. They allowed us whatever we needed to keep moving forward at the worst time of our lives-even if it was inappropriately laughing. We found survival in laughter.
I watch too many of those real life crime shows. I always get so mad when the police bring in the spouse as a main suspect because, “they didn’t react the right way”. The Jurors who convict always say, “they didn’t cry and it just seemed so cold.”
Let me tell you what, I fall into the cold category when it comes to tragedy. I know from experience that when something awful happens I stash all emotion under serious lock and key and proceed in full blown automaton mode. I organize. I question. I try to create order where everything feels out of control. I would be suspect number one as I become a seemingly heartless, picture of efficiency when tragedy strikes. The police would say my reactions weren’t right. The jurors would call me cold.
Watching the President speak in Arizona last week, I’ll admit I gasped in mini-horror when the crowd started cheering. It seemed the wrong reaction to death. First, I blamed it on the fact that they were students. Then, I slowly realized that I was doing the thing I hate most-judging people’s grief.
For those people gathered in Arizona were grieving, just like we all were that Tuesday in September all those years ago. Even if we weren’t personally related to any of the victims, we were torn apart with grief back then. The Tucson community members gathered at that memorial service were mourning their people and who was I to think I knew the proper way for them to do it. If they needed to cheer for hope, then so be it. If they needed standing ovations and raucous applause to help them move forward, then that is what they should have the right to do.
Just like my family laughed, just like I turn into a robot, every one has the right to mourn and grieve the way they see fit.
Without judgment from any of us.
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