Texas town joins sad fra­ter­nity

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - MAL­COLM GRA­HAM Guest Colum­nist Gra­ham is a for­mer Char­lotte City Coun­cil mem­ber and North Carolina state sen­a­tor

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.

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