I heard about a hit-and-run that happened in our area last week from a police officer friend of mine. He was just telling me about it on Saturday night, when I brought him maple syrup from our maple tree tapping outing we went to that day. Four county correctional officers were struck by an SUV while they were jogging Tuesday night. Three of them were injured, but one of them, a 25 year old mother of a 5 month old, died at the scene of the accident.
He was also telling me other horror stories of what goes wrong in this area and on the news. I often wonder if he has any positive stories about anything to talk about. I worked in a crime lab for 5 years, I know all about the horrific things that can happen between people but I don’t go talking about them.
On Sunday, I read more about the story as I was recycling the newspapers. We get the newspaper, but I limit my intake of news as much as possible. I don’t bury my head in the sand, but I do limit how much I want to know about.
As life would have it, there are some things we are made to see. My husband and I were on our way back from lunch and we noticed a few police cars on the road we took home. As we traveled further, we saw a few more and he commented to me that this might be the funeral procession for the fallen officer. We traveled up a bridge and as we crested we could see the flashing blue and red lights of many more police cars, probably about 2 miles long, from local police stations to that of neighboring counties. My first thought was how stunning it was…and my second thought was how tragic it was.
I burst out into tears. I didn’t know this woman at all. But I am a mother of three beautiful girls and I thought about this woman’s child, who would never get to know her mother. And I thought about my own death and hoped that my daughters will not lose me prematurely (it’s one of my worst fears as a mother, second only to losing one of my daughters or my husband). As we watched the procession, not just police cars, but officers on motorcycles and finally civilian cars I thought about how many people were going to be there today, honoring this life cut short.
The newspaper describes her as having a ‘radiant’ smile…pictures at the wake on Sunday that ‘showed the brightness of the life she lived’…that she was the type of person that ‘lit up the room’.
It’s stuff like this that shakes me up a little and makes me want to sure I’m making good on my promises to be a better person. I would hope when it’s my time to go, that I could be remembered like that. Not the times when I was cranky, or the times I was depressed, or the times when I just wasn’t that much fun to be around. I try to be that type of person that always has a ready smile, open arms and spreads a little joy around. I’m not always successful, but I’m getting better at finding my Zen when I need it.
And writing helps some. It, too, helps me focus on what I value. Like people over possessions, like family, friendship and deep connectedness, rather than career and material goods and superficial relationships. I feel sad for this infant child. And, while I’m not judging her mother’s reason for working, it makes you wonder if this woman’s life would have been better spent at home with her child. I can’t help but think that she would still be here had it not been for that work-related incident.
I’m not criticizing working mothers (I was one because my husband was laid off for a year and you have to do what you have to do to get by)…but I am saying that this mother might have been spared if the U.S. had better policies and support for mothers staying at home with the children.
Sometimes, just when I want to be sad that I gave up my career for my daughters, something like this comes along that makes me very, very grateful that I did come home to be with them. Being here to watch them develop has been well worth it. But I’m not a saint. This has been a tough gig to get used to. Long hours, no pay, lack of readily identifiable rewards, the tendency to be isolated because everyone else is busy building careers.
I came home to write this blog post still with fresh tears in my eyes. I realize I’ve turned into my grandmother, who frequently wept at the drop of a hat. I guess I understand it better now that I’m getting older, have lost a few friends to death over the years, I and my family and friends have acquired a few more health problems, and overall feel the fragility of life.
I think it’s time now to turn to the book I just recently purchased but have put off reading in favor of reading other things. The book is called Seeking the Sacred: Transforming Our View of Ourselves and One Another by Stephanie Dowrick.
From the first page:
Our search for the sacred may be as individual as our fingerprints. Yet it connects us effortlessly to all living beings. It lets us discover what is most treasured and transformative in human existence. It lets us see existence itself as entirely precious. What we regard as precious, we naturally protect.
From the sacred, we may learn enough to keep one another safe.
Seeking the sacred does not distance us from the real; it defines the real. Touching the sacred through and within our everyday experiences, we come to a new sense of who and what we are. I see the value of your existence. I see myself with a new gratitude and respect. We become freer to live from the inside out.
The sacred is source as well as inspiration for profound inner transformation – for “waking up”. It is an opening of the heart and a training of the mind. It identifies holiness and brings it. The sacred is the source of being for many and the meaning of life for many more. It may also be “God”, but not inevitably.
I’ve been thinking about living my values lately. I think I get depressed when I veer from them and I feel enormously better when I do live by them and make time to look for the sacred in everyday experiences, or changing up the way I do things. I thought about this while I was making banana bread for the first time in my life yesterday.
Sometimes, it’s these simple things that make my life much more meaningful. I felt a really warm feeling when my daughters asked for a slice of banana bread and said it was yummy. I can’t get that kind of warm fuzzy feeling from any store bought snacks.
Sometimes, while doing something domestic, that small still voice comes up to me and tells me about what I want out of life…which I’ll soon start writing down and planning for. I have a vision of what I’d like to be doing…and just need to make it happen.
And it got me to wondering about my readers [all three of them ;)]
What do you do to seek the sacred in your life?
Are you doing what you want to be doing? Or are you doing what you are because that’s what looks good, pays bills or otherwise ‘have to’ do?
update 3/13/2012 –
I read in the paper today that there were nearly 800 people in attendance of this female officer’s funeral. Incredibly poignant story.