This is the Tragedy of Our Town: written after losing too many of our friends over the last years. Frustrated over lack of conversation about real issues. Aware of so much heartache. Sending love to all the hurt places in our people, always, no matter who or where you are.
I must consider the possibility that all of us in these circles, touched by these deaths, are being taught a lesson. I must consider those who have passed- so many, so tragically, so recently- should be looked upon as teachers, teaching us the hardest of lessons.
It really is we who are left behind that have to feel all the sadness and grief and anger, but can we not take something away from all this as well? Do we know how to? I am not so certain that we do.
In a culture where death is equated with unfairness, life insurance policies, thousands of dollars in costs (a lucrative business that we barely have the option out of), stale funeral homes and a predictable process that rarely gives us closure, how are we to really get to know death? How can we become intimate and accepting of this unknown that we may describe as “haunting,” but in reality sits with each and every one of us daily?
It has been hard to begin to process that Bobby has died. Every time I rewrite or reread those words, my stomach churns. Many, at this point, have described their container for grief as being “just too full.” Emotional burn-out is real, though I believe these containers have an endless holding capacity.
But I think that capacity requires a flexibility of mind and heart that we have very little access to as a collective. We search for answers, we feel betrayed- if we believe in God we may go in deeper, or we may fall from our faith entirely.
There is a separateness breeding amongst us, a forgetting of our need for each other- a forgetting that we do not heal alone.
Some issues surely are private, but for many we seek professionals to show them the parts of us that we see as unfit for the rest of the world to see. I want to say: WE ARE ALL SUFFERING, and only together do we have a chance.
So much of the tragedy we have seen is a direct result of substance abuse- a life, however reckless and exciting and fun- that I’ve lived and (thank God) I’ve left. Most of my time with Bobby (a friendship spanning over 12 years) was spent during the time when he was sober and I was not. To me, an irony of his fiery death is that he used to give me safe rides home from Highland Farms, night after night, while I worked during the month of October and drank more than I could handle just about every evening. He never failed to show up for me- I wish I could have shown up for him, somehow.
A conversation we need to have in this town, a conversation we will honor our dead, our teachers, by having- is how and why is there such a culture of drugs and drinking here? Surely those things have a place in life, but not like this, and not to this extent. For what are we searching, what are we lacking, what emptiness are we trying to fill? Of course, for each this answer is complex and personal, but it seems we are undergoing a Dark Night of the Soul together, struggling under the weight of something too heavy to name.
Thankfully, I listened when that life lost its appeal to me. I very easily could have ignored that soul-call, and in truth there are times when the appeal flares back up as a (temporary) solution to life’s ever-present problems.
Bobby was so smart. He had so much potential. I am happy to know how much joy he spread in his lifetime, but there is no denying that something within held him back.
This is a call to you- to listen to your teachers who are now your angels- Look at your Life. Not in judgment, but with clear eyes and a questioning soul. Be quiet enough to listen within. Do what needs to be done for YOU, and we will all benefit. Our children and our children’s children will benefit. At this time, even though I’m only a town (seems a world) away, I wonder if I even want to raise my children here- Southern RI, this place I love. And surely these problems exist almost everywhere. Our human family needs help. Help in confronting, rather than running from, our issues and ourselves. For our dead and for our living and for our future.
I love you, Bobby. I wish I could see you and talk with you one last time. I hope you forgive my distance and that I forgive myself for it. I hope your memory lives on as a song, as a teaching, and that many turn to listen.
For now, but not forever, we say Goodbye.