Someone that my husband knew, and worked with years ago, and reconnected with recently and appreciated and laughed with and respected, was shot and killed at work two nights ago. He was staying late to cover for a co-worker who was running late. Two folks, one of whom is still being pursued by authorities, apparently walked into the Rite Aid he managed while he was waiting for his shift to finally end, and after some kind of argument, shot him in the head and left.
He was found dead at the scene.
Just. Like. That.
What. The. Fuck.
I am sick and tired of seeing so many examples of people who have no respect for other people’s lives. Every time, other than two nights ago, the lives that had been disrespected had no link back to me. I just watched, horrified and aching, as the news reported relentlessly on person after person being mowed down – typically by a bullet associated with a motive that wasn’t always clear. Office buildings, grade schools, movie theaters, parks, basketball courts, day time, night time, great neighborhoods, high crime areas, shopping malls, parking lots, colleges and every corner of a community had fallen victim.
And before you answer that, I want you to know that I have no desire to debate socio economic status, mental health, upbringing, age, religion, race or influence. It is an enormous rabbit hole that has no bottom. It’s not a portal where I fall into another world like Alice in Wonderland, I just keep falling, endlessly, without light, without clarity and without any sense of when I’m going to be able to plant my feet back on solid ground.
I know. There is no way to discuss it without bringing those things in.
But those things complicate matters.
And it’s simpler than that.
People should not kill one another. Did you just roll your eyes and mutter about my naiveté? Why? Isn’t that what it all circles back to?
You know, when you watch the news, it almost makes no wrinkle or wave when one person loses his or her life. One life, what’s that? It seems to be barely a blip. It seems to barely matter when so many are being taken out in one fell swoop.
But it does matter.
One person’s life does matter.
They all do.
Think of all of the things that you have encountered in your life. Think of the trying times. Think of how you needed to pay your bills on time to keep your credit intact and missed those two payments because you helped your parents with a bill while your Dad was out of work and you were denied a loan because of it. Think of how you had to go through so much schooling to get a job in the field you wanted only to find out that you didn’t feel connected to it once you graduated. Think of how you had to go to the grocery store to pick up food even though you were exhausted from a double shift because you were so hungry and had nothing in the fridge, and rear ended that person in the parking lot who had no damage but sued you the minute they got home. Think of the pain you felt when your heart was ripped out by your fiancée. Think of the friends that betrayed you. Think of the family that passed away that you still miss so terribly you physically ache when your mind wanders to a memory of them. Think of that day you were unfairly fired. Think of the shit jobs you worked making no money because you needed to so you could barely pay your rent. Think of the doctor’s bills you’re still paying because of that time your insurance lapsed and you broke your arm. Think of whatever it is that you’ve gone through that has made life a challenge. Think of how you couldn’t afford to give your kids a Christmas. Think of the medicine you needed that you had no way to pay for. Think of the hurt. Think of the pain. Think of the weight you carried on your shoulders that got heavier and heavier as you struggled to lug it along while slowly inching forward.
Now think of the things you’ve accomplished. You graduated college. You got your first job. You published a paper. You sold a big client. You added a sunroom to your home. You purchased a home. You enrolled your kids in a highly recommended school. You had another baby. You built a business from the brownies you made in your kitchen that everyone raved about. You went back and got your GED. You found your adoptive Mom and she loved you and wanted to foster a relationship. You adopted a child. Your dog had puppies. You got the promotion. You won the lottery. You marred the man or woman of your dreams. You accepted an award at work that you worked your ass off for as your parents sat in the audience and listened to you accept the accolades while thanking them for making you the person you are today.
Now think of running into someone else while at the movies or at the park or in the mall or on your job. You’re just living your life, putting one foot in front of the other. You’re thinking of what to eat for dinner that night, or how you’re going to afford your car insurance. You’re wondering what to get your husband for his fortieth birthday or where you can find a costume for your daughter’s school play that she’s in the next day. You are just living your life, putting one foot in front of the other and your run into this person. They have had an easy or difficult or fucked up or wretched life. They have struggled with or accomplished any or all of the above and more and for reasons unknown to anyone they make the decision to kill you.
Say goodbye to your parents.
Say goodbye to your plans tomorrow to finally watch that Netflix you were saving for your day off.
Say goodbye to your niece’s birthday party where you were going to dress up like Mickey Mouse because she loves Mickey Mouse.
Say goodbye to that night class you were going to start taking so you could get a better job and save the money needed to move your family out of that cramped crappy apartment.
Say goodbye to that trip you just put a down payment on that you had worked two jobs for two years to afford.
Say goodbye to being the best man in your best friend’s wedding two weeks from tomorrow.
Say goodbye to your dog who you’ve had for the past eleven years who will spend the next year waiting by the door for you every day hoping that you will finally come home and scratch her behind her right ear which is her favorite thing in her whole world.
Who has the right to take that from anyone?
And yet it happens, all of the time.
It is unfair and it is reality today.
After the click of the gun and the thump of your body on the floor, what’s next will undoubtedly be a number of people debating any number of things surrounding your death. They’ll pull things apart. They’ll see how you may possibly be partially responsible. They’ll lament. They’ll argue. They’ll discuss the law and safety and society. They will blow their stance on gun control or violence or mental health or education so far out of proportion that they’ll try to beat each other over the head with your death all the while forgetting about you life.
That is also unfair.
Life is short. People lob that line around all of the time. The problem is, the one time you seem to realize it the most is when you are on the receiving end of something that either stops or limits your clock. Then you take notice. Then you want more minutes. And yet, that option is no longer well, an option. It’s one of the cruelest ironies of life I suppose. You know, as we sat and discussed the death of this kind, warm hearted, easy going, gentle man, my husband, who was in the midst of the heartbreak, explained it in a way that broke my heart. He told me of the few things in his life that he loved more than life itself. He then said that one by one, each would be taken from him until in the end, he was taken himself.
That explanation hit me like a ton of bricks.
And in that moment, I felt his perspective. I understood it. I feared it.
How do you go through life when something that you feel is good and promising is snatched from you in a desperate despicable way? How do you move forward? How do you keep going when you know at any moment someone could do to you what was done two nights ago, and has been done to so many others.
I wasn’t sure.
I had to give it some thought.
Being the natural worrier that I am, the more terrible things that happen, the more I am inclined to hide in my home and never come out. It’s tempting because I feel most safe there.
And then, tonight, it struck me while at dinner for my birthday with my in-laws. We were at a Chinese restaurant and when the fortune cookies were delivered to the table, one of my favorite parts of the meal, I cracked open the sweet shell and grabbed at that tiny slip of paper hoping for something profound. My fortune:
Your luck will completely change today.
Immediately I felt panicked.
I flipped over the fortune to read the word that they also give you the Chinese translation for and it was Watch.
Was Watch a warning about my luck? Did it mean look out…be careful….beware…
As we sat there and I smiled and laughed through the next few minutes I put the fortune on the table. Normally one to take them with me, I thought that bringing it home would bring bad karma into my home. I couldn’t do that. There were too many fucked up things in the world for me to tempt fate that way. And then, I was afraid to leave it on the table thinking that by doing so I was snubbing the Universe. I know that may seem ridiculous but I’m an over thinking worrier with a mind that never stops tumbling.
Finally, it clicked and I grabbed my fortune and tucked it in my purse. The fortune would bear whatever I interpreted it to be. I decided that it was a foreshadowing of great luck and that my perspective was the catalyst for that greatness.
Tonight as I sit here, I feel a mix of emotions. I’m angry. I’m upset. My heart breaks for this man’s family and my husband. I want his killers caught. I want them punished. I want people to start respecting the life of other people. I want to feel more comfortable and safe in the world and I want to have faith that life is full of promise and good and that those things outweigh the bullshit and nonsense and senseless acts of violence that have happened so often lately.
You know, earlier I said that other than two nights ago, the people affected by tragedy didn’t link back to me. I was wrong, they do. Everyone links back to everyone. As a society we’re in this together. What we do affects one another and I for one am going to do my damnedest to have faith that one day that will matter again. For now, I’ll make sure that it matters to me and hopefully that will help it matter to someone else and so on and so forth.
NOTE: I was unsure whether I would write this or not as it was very personal and hit hard here at home. Watching my husband try to process such a tragic loss of someone who he felt embodied the the very idea of the nice guy through and through, I didn’t know if publicly speaking about it was the right thing to do. I was then scrolling through the Blogs I Follow thread and saw the Daily Post from WordPress prompting us to write about something that was unfair and how we would rectify it. Immediately I sat down and wrote this without stopping until I was finished. I asked my husband to read it and once he did he, he was fully supportive of my publishing it…so I did. This is the latest news on Jason’s death.