I view the world as a tapestry - different colors and shapes and textures - interwoven and connected. Loose threads weaken and can destroy a tapestry.
This morning I attended the funeral of a man I didn't know . He was my daughter-in-law's uncle, his daughter is a sweet, smart young woman that I am very fond of - she was a bridesmaid at my son's wedding. His sister is a strong and kind woman - the kind of person who grasps your hands when she meets you and looks you in the eye. I first met her at a gathering of this very large, often exclusive family. She met my eyes and immediately came over to me. She exudes warmth and calm surrounds her.
I had some time to adjust to this man's passing - I had comforted my daughter-in-law, offered support and help as we all do at these times.
And so this morning I thought I was attending the funeral out of obligation and respect. Not bad motivators but incomplete - doing nothing for the soul.
As soon as I saw these two women - the dazed young daughter, looking small and pale - and her aunt, exhausted from all the arrangements but solid and dignified - I realized I was there out of love and what I felt at that moment was grief born from empathy.
Empathy is defined (in part) as "the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another". Without empathy it is impossible to connect to others and without connection the tapestry develops loose threads.
I experienced this morning how much this man was loved. He was a father, a brother, an uncle. He worked hard - long hours at a difficult job. Every Sunday morning he loaded the trunk of his car with small gifts for his family and made the drive north to Brooklyn to visit. To keep the tapestry tight. To connect with those he loved and who loved him.
This past Sunday he was violently murdered during a petty robbery gone horribly wrong. With the help of an anonymous tip his killers were captured on Tuesday. They had his jacket, his wallet and a few other articles. A life gone for less than $200 of material possesions. A thread pulled loose that can never be fully mended.
His killers are young - both under 25. One of them has a record of violent acts going back to his 14th year on this planet. What happened to these two men? How did they lose their connection to humanity? How loose is the thread that connects them to others that they could do what they did?
I don't think I believe in pure evil. I think every action has a story behind it. Sociopaths (an out of date term for anti-social personality disorder) usually exhibit their disease around 15. They are unable to connect. They have no empathy. They are often violent. Is it possible these two young men are mentally ill? Did they fall through the cracks of an overloaded and often uncaring system? It is easier for me to ask these questions. I did not lose a father, a brother, an uncle.
The people closest to him will need to find their way through all the stages of grief and I fear anger will be a hard one to overcome. There are newspaper stories to try not to read - full of horrible details. There are online news reports where anonymous people feel they have the right to post hurtful erroneous assumptions, where they entertain themselves in abstract discussions of real pain. Examples of their lack of empathy, of their losing their connection, of their being cowardly partcipants in pulling more threads loose.
I share this story not to make you sad or angry - each day the news is full of people shaking their heads and saying they don't know what the world is coming to, you don't need reminding. Instead I tell this story to assure you (and myself) that any small thing you do for one another is important. Every connection you make is critical. Every thread you strengthen keeps the tapestry intact.
The death of an ordinary person goes unnoticed by the world. Had this man had a heart attack or a car accident he wouldn't be news worthy. So I choose to make his passing note worthy in my small way. Not by how he died but by how he lived. A father, a brother, an uncle. He was a small but strong thread in a giant tapestry. And on the day of his funeral he connected us all in empathy.
In all of the news coverage of this tragedy there is but one sentence worth repeating ...
"He was loved" said his daughter .
Be Kind Out There