What? I Didn’t Cry Enough For Your Liking?
Expressing shock and sadness about the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, but not enough about the others on board, or the thousands of other strangers who die every second of every day, not meeting the invisible bar that someone set up without you knowing there’s a bar in the first place, apparently can cause some indignation.
We live in a, “Nothing you do is good enough” culture. “Yeah? But what about?” “How dare you?” “You failed to meet up to the expectations I have not disclosed to you.”
Don’t Judge Me
I’ve seen my share of dead bodies and people with CPR in progress. People die in airports and on airplanes all the time. More than you would think. At SFO, I responded so often to “dead on arrival” that the corpse retrieval team called me by my first name. People die. And we all respond to it in our own way. There is no right or wrong.
The second dead body ever I saw was someone I knew. He was the custodial supervisor that I had interacted with for years. He was a sweet, friendly older guy who always had a smile for me. One day at the end of our shift, he keeled over, smashed his face against the curb, and died. When they rolled him over, I didn’t even recognize him because his face was so busted up.
Many years later, I attended a memorial service for three strangers. This is what I posted later that day.
Facebook December 16, 2014
I attended a memorial service today for three people I didn’t know. They were an ambulance helicopter crew based at my airport lost in a tragic crash, and I had only ever met one of them, just a couple of times. I attended the service for two reasons. One, because the one I had met, Jamie, was the kind of man who leaves an impression. You couldn’t help but smile after Jamie walked out of the room. And two, because I am the airport manager of the airport they were based at, and it was appropriate for me to represent the airport at their memorial.
I was crying before I had even taken my seat and cried through the whole service. For two people I had never met and one I had only met face to face twice.
I cried because it didn’t matter that I didn’t know them, they were people. Who had been known. Who had been loved. Who are mourned and who will be missed. They had spouses and a boyfriend who was going to propose marriage in a few months.
The service was in the morning, and I spent the rest of the day exhausted for the crying I’d done for people I didn’t even know. How do we watch the news each night about people who perish in war, plane crashes, and third world nations riddled with disease and not feel the sorrow I felt today listening to eulogies of strangers?
Because we only see the news clips. We don’t hear the beautiful celebration of the lives that are lost by those left behind who loved them and will never forget them.
Every one of us is a story. Every one of us is a life. Every one of us is a person who someone loves, someone looks up to, someone will miss. Every one of us is a reason to pay attention.
I am an avowed atheist and those who know me well know that this is true about me. And that I’m not kidding. But when the Rabi today recited in Hebrew and in English Psalm 23:4…
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even when I walk in the valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff-they comfort me. You set a table before me in the presence of my adversaries; You anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for length of days.
…it touched me and I sobbed. It was, for me, not about god. It was about humanity. I don’t believe in god. I believe in humanity. To me, if there is a “god” it is not a being living among the clouds or the ether or the burning bush. To me, god is us. God is the collective humanity, the collective soul that makes us cry for the loss of those we never knew, never will know, but realize, they were among us for a time and touched the lives of those we don’t know and probably never will know. But it doesn’t matter. We are all connected.
Rest in Peace, “Careflight 5”. There are no souls on board. Those souls have gone on.
If You’ve Not Walked in My Shoes, You Don’t Know Where I’ve Been
So, for all those grief shamers, think about what you don’t know. Admit that there’s a difference between a still photo and feature length movie. You don’t know what is in another’s heart or soul.
Put another way, take your indignation and shove it up your ass.