April 19, 1995
I skipped first hour.  Slept in. Felt a boom, in my bedroom and I think like many Oklahomans that day, in my heart.  It was so surreal- those next 48 hours.  I was a senior and a piece of the wanderlust- the allure of life after graduationwas snatched away in that moment I found out what anger, hatred, and resentment can do.  The bomb hit downtown, the bomb hit our hearts, the reverberations of that morning echo still when we least expect it-
That night in 1995, April 19 into the wee hours of April 20th, I went downtown with my dad to deliver blankets.  The Red Cross workers shuffled us through to ground zero to make circles around what had been a few hours before a stalwart Federal Building. We offered weary workers coffee and blankets the unexpected shuffle from what we had planned: dropping off blankets, to the unplanned: putting blankets on weary souls at ground zero. 
H was there too that night, and the next day.  We didnt realize the impact of the shared experience until far later. 
April 19, 2009
I had the humbling opportunity to co-write a song for the Oklahoma City National Memorial that year.  The morning of April 19, a Sunday, our family was going to head downtown together to be a part and listen to Jami Smith sing our Stand Together.  The days leading up to this were full of meaning and sense of accomplishmentH was an Oklahoma City Police Officerwe were all so proud of him and his resoluteness in fulfilling this dream to protect and serve.  This was a direct result of witnessing the OCPD protect and serve and search, tirelessly, at ground zero. 
We had finally come to some semblance of normal.  Eight days on, six days off. The boys and I had gotten into a rhythm with Hs odd schedule, we had our way of saying goodbyes around nine p.m., watching dad head out into the dark night with uniform perfectly pressed, bullet proof vest strapped firmly underneath, flashlight amongst other necessities in belt. 
We found a rhythm.  This after some discordant years of financial, relational, emotional insecurity, postpartum, more than a dozen jobs to make ends meet, amongst other onerous events.
The morning of the Memorial ceremony was going to be a culmination of growing together through all those things as a family. A closure per se.  When we couldve and shouldve at many times have grown apart.  We made it through some of our own ground zero moments, H was living out a dream, and I might be about to embark upon one of mine.
But instead, that morning H came home from third shift with a massive headache.  This headache coupled suddenly with another onslaught of kidney stones.  He stayed home to try to sleep off the pain, I put water by the bed, kissed the boys who skipped over to Hannys, and I headed downtown alone. 
When I returned home just a couple of hours later, it was evident Hs pain had increased rather than decreased, and to a shocking level.  I dont remember how I got him into the car and I dont remember the drive to the first hospital experience of the day, but I remember the shock, like a bomb dropped when we least expected it, and the aftershock was greater than what we could have ever planned for.  Confronted again with the unexpected problem of pain.
I want to say Ive been brave and resilient the last couple of years. But mostly I just feel tired.  I havent found a rhythm since that day.  Ive found some major chords, some fluid moments of a concordant melody, but mostly the aftershock of watching my husband almost lose his life from a strep infection and blood clots, watching his OCPD dream vanish, watching our finances siphon away through medical bills, watching the boys have to adapt to more changes and unknowns  aftershock.
Perhaps these are minor chords; in between there have been major chord harmonious moments that have emerged in fortuitous ways as well- wonderful opportunities that wouldnt have otherwise emerged.  Many good things.   
And yet still, Im tired of aftershock. Im tired of trying to make sense of the constantly changing tunes; tired of trying to learn the melody only to find it has changed again.  Im tired of trauma and sickness and chronically tense shoulders.  Tired of feeling helpless against these tsunamis and storms.
Or maybe Im just tired of not being able to help those in their own aftershock as much as Id like. Because I know what it feels like- the loneliness of grief, the grrrrr of life interrupted by sickness, the struggle to make sense of seemingly senseless events.  And I want to help.  But many times do not know how.  And often dont know how to mend my own melody still.
April 19, 2011
Life is a gift. Family is a gift. Breath is a gift. Mystery is a gift. Tears are a gift. Laughter is a gift.
I dont understand why they shuffled my dad and me with blankets and coffee in tow and sent us down to ground zero to that deafening silence, with those unthinkable sights.  But Im grateful because its part of the story.
I dont understand why at the least expected moment H got sick and we almost lost everything.  But we gained so many unexpected blessings in the aftermath- like time- especially H and the boys- getting lavish time to connect and be, present father and sons, that third shift might never have provided.  Im grateful, even in the aftershock, because its part of the story.
I feel like an observer.  Like I havent yet been able to connect to aspects of life since 2009.  Or havent been able to re-attach myself to dreams I felt so sure of before. 
I have no wise words or expertise.  I have very little common sense or know-how regarding this thing called life.  But for whatever its worth today-
To the ones in pain- whether physical or emotional- you are heroic in your unseen battle you fight.  You are the strong ones, you are the survivors, you deserve all the respite and refreshment life has to offer.  I wish I could pour all the needed peace and relief over you to enliven your step today and take some of the pain away.  Know today that if your pain is great, your strength is greater- what you are enduring is a battle and you are a valiant champion fighting it, often unseen and without the accolades and compassion you deserve.  I see you. You are a wonder.
To the ones who have lost everything it seems- you are in for a unique perspective on lifethat in the mess of loss- whatever the loss may be may you find a release and relief from the feeling of having to keep up with the Jones or the incessant race to the top of whatever however  I hope you can find reassurance in the little things, renewal in simplicity, regeneration in letting go of old and finding meaning rather than despair in the mystery of the new.  I hope for lightness for your soul in the letting go. And a wave of possibilities to breeze through you like wind through trees.
Ive lost almost everything- only to find the most essential things present like never before.  Ive tiptoed sanity- only to find peace comes in the present, nothing in the future is for sure, no matter how good I am, my achievements or how well Ive mapped out a grand plan. 
If you feel alone with the weight of the world on your shoulders or pain tucked in your pocket so no one will see or lost everything and can barely breatheyou are not alone. And you are braving so brave. You are the heroic ones today and I hope you find smiles on strangers faces, peace in random places, unexplained joy pitter-patters in your heart, beauty for the ashes, a pleasant song to assuage any grief, and hope perching on your shoulder every moment of every day until the aftershock dissipates
From Viktor Frankl’s Man Search For Meaning, p.135
"We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation…we are challenged to change ourselves." 


Lauren Sargeant said...

Beautiful, as always, Ali! I love your perspective and you!

Kathryn said...

Thank you for your healing words. You've challenged me once again to quit dragging my boxing gloves on the ground, and continue fighting... knocking down those nasty giants! I'm a champion!

skemiloo said...

thank you for saying this.