Texas town joins sad fraternity
Dear Sutherland Springs and First Baptist Church:
Welcome to a club you never wanted to join. I’m so sorry. I feel your pain. I have been where you are.
Over the past 1,000 days our ranks have been growing. Las Vegas. Dallas. San Bernardino, Calif. Colorado Springs, Colo. Roseburg, Ore. Chattanooga, Tenn.
My hometown, Charleston, S.C., joined on June 17, 2015. My sister, Cynthia Graham Hurd, and eight others were shot dead during a prayer meeting in my childhood church, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
This time it’s your community, your friends, your loved ones.
Membership into our sad fraternity knows no bounds. We’re on track for unstoppable growth. #PrayFor(InsertCityHere).
As you’re painfully aware, thoughts and prayers aren’t bringing back your loved ones.
The prayers of others — in person, at my church, at home with my family — have healed me, or started to heal what is left of me. Prayers can’t be cast lightly. They aren’t to be tweeted. You know this.
But know that I am praying for you — for grace, peace and comfort. When I wake in the middle of the night, I think of you. It takes me into my own grief.
I miss my sister every single day. Cynthia was just three years older than me, but she served as a second mother after our mom died when we were in our early 20s. I went to her before making every major life move — from getting engaged to my wife, Kim, to deciding whether to enter politics. Cynthia was my go-to person, my life coach, my champion.
I think now about all the special people who have been lost in your community. You are at the beginning of lifelong grieving. It’s so early for you. It will be hard, and there’s no way around that.
I can only tell you some of the most important things I have learned over the past two years:
Be kind to yourself. Let others be kind to you. People want to help. People don’t always know what to say or how to offer comfort after such unimaginable tragedy. But let them try. They’re grieving for their community and our country, too.
Show up. Live each day as if there won’t be another. This is hard for most people to do. If there is any blessing to come out of this, it’s that it may not be as hard for you anymore. Before Cynthia was taken so tragically, I might have skipped a family event because I was “too busy.” I left things undone, unsaid, because I thought we had more time. I don’t take things for granted now.
Keep busy. Keep working. Speak out in a forceful manner. Speak truth to power, give voice to the victims. We’re caught in an endless cycle of gun violence and mass shootings. We need your voices.
Don’t lose faith. God is good, and he has not forsaken you. Pray for wisdom for the elected leaders of our country, which so desperately needs unity. Pray for the other members of our fraternity. We continue to struggle.
Lastly, and this is the most important, remember your loved ones as they lived, not how they died.