Aurora means dawn.
An unblemished opportunity to start anew.
I am not a morning person, but I do value the chance for a new beginning, and am especially grateful that I get my chance every single day.
One doesn’t associate tragedy and terror with the dawn, but in an American suburb called Aurora that is exactly what was realized when an individual – who for unknown and impossible to understand reasons – took the lives of twelve people, injured dozens more, and ultimately succeeded in causing thousands of men, women and children severe emotional and physical pain.
The reach of this incident is yet unknown. In the early days after unexpected loss, the days are spent doing and deciding… how and where and when to bury the dead, who to inform, what to include in the obituary, and how to handle the attention received from friends and family. In the Aurora case, families are also being contacted and questioned by strangers, public, media, and law enforcement.
Survivors don’t get to feel much in the rush of so much doing.
They are doing. They are not yet being.
Many people have already written about the young man who entered a movie theatre a few days ago at midnight. The speculation about whether he will be found guilty and sentenced to death in a “death penalty” state like Colorado is just beginning.
I wasn’t going to write about it.
But I find myself compelled to write about the survival that has already begun in many homes and hearts across the nation.
The girlfriend whose 18-year-old boyfriend was killed is a survivor.
The two teenage children of the 51-year-old father who was killed are survivors.
The father of a 32-year-old mother of two young children is a survivor.
The great-aunt of Veronica, age six, is a survivor. The dead child’s mother’s fate remains uncertain.
None of these people asked or expected to become survivors. And I suspect many of them think that they won’t be able to survive it – not the depth of the loss nor the crushing pain and overwhelming emptiness that now marks their lives.
But they will survive it.
And they will need our support.
The media attention will subside after a few weeks, and may dust up a bit if there is a trial. The heartbreaking memorials will eventually be over. Survivors of the attack and their family members will return to work. Their colleagues will be gentle with them. After offering their condolences, they might pretend like everything is back to normal.
I don’t judge them for doing so, but I challenge our collective response to grief. The survivors of the Aurora tragedy are taking baby steps into a world unknown, unexplored and unwanted. In order to do what they need to do, they will discover strength that they had no idea they possessed.
Different coping strategies work for different people.
Let’s also remember that all around the world, people are dying tragically – not just in Aurora. The death toll in Syria, Bulgaria and Mexico comes to mind. It’s horrifying.
For those of us on the outside – friends, strangers, newspaper-readers, taxi drivers, teachers - please don’t judge if the survivors don’t wish to talk. Or if they drink too much. Or if they don’t drink anything. Or if they eat. Or if they return to church. Or sleep too much. Or if they shake with fear and grief and anger for a long, long time.
Please don’t blame them for wishing nothing less than hell upon the person who did this to them.
And please don’t shake your head if they… now or someday down the road on which they are traveling… opt to forgive that same person.
Sometimes it’s impossible to know what is right or reasonable when your loved one is taken away.
Let’s remember to hold the survivors in our hearts tonight, and in the days to come… and you know what? Let’s hold them forever. That’s one thing we, on the outside, can do.
This is my plea.
We can hold them, we can lift up the survivors in their grief, walk beside them, and listen to their stories as they move gingerly forward in the forever journey that is called healing.