Weeks like the one just gone by are rare. Praise the Good Lord. This was a week so awful I still have a hard time making sense of it.
On Thursday, just before our Core Group meeting, we got word that the mother of one of our CVT boys had committed suicide. We stood around the room in stunned silence, trying to register the shocking, sickening news. Atish, her son, has been with us for over ten years. We all knew his Mom well (or we thought we did - now suddenly, we knew we had never had a clue) - it was unthinkable that she had taken her own life.
We lurched through our meeting as best we could. Our Advisory Committee was coming the next day and we had to get ready so we summoned our strength and our wits and went on with the show. But Lord, it did feel like a show. Over the next few days, we talked about the stress she had been under and our own feelings of helplessness and regret at not having been able to alleviate it for her. We reflected on all that she had had going for her and the terrible void she had left in her family and the impossibility of anyone ever filling it - for Atish, for her younger son, for her husband.
Then on Monday night, one of our volunteers was attacked in our guest house. The intruder got inside the place and assaulted her, knocking her over and only leaving when she fought back valiantly - kicking and shouting so fiercely he must have taken fright and decided he was no match for her.
I have thought about these two situations often in the last few days. Though they are, of course, totally different and one compares at one's peril, I can't help thinking that Atish's Mom might have benefited from meeting our brave and spirited volunteer. "You will not beat me," she said in words of one syllable, so clearly even a cowardly would-be rapist could understand. "I am precious. I am unrepeatable. I have a place in this world and you will not take it from me."
She is 23 years old and we have so much to learn from her: how to fight against injustice, how to stand up for what we believe in, how to take the world in both hands and say "Yes! This is who I am. This is what is right."
I wish Atish's mom could have done that. I wish we could have helped her more.
This photo - of flowers cascading over an iron fence - is an image of what we need to create: beauty and strength; the fragile face of love, compassion and concern coupled with the hard, demanding challenge of accountability, responsibility and awareness.
It isn't easy, and no one ever said it would be. We earn our salvation one little step at a time. There are no short-cuts, no quick and clever way around the facts. I don't stand in judgment over Atish's Mom. She came to her end for reasons only she can know. But for a guide in this crazy world of challenge and hardship, I'll take our volunteer's response every time. We have to fight. We have to be ready to say no to the forces of despair; yes to the chorus of life and joy and the victories which are ours if we just believe they belong to us.