As I was going through the checkout a few weeks ago, a lady commented on the national paper that lay across my groceries. “Tragedy. It’s everywhere!” Her remark referred to an inferno-like picture of a truck crash in Singleton after it had been stolen and driven recklessly down the New England Highway causing chaos along the way.
She went on to comment about many of the other tragic stories, that now seem commonplace, sprawled across our media. Floods, fires, family violence, and of course the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
I was married in Las Vegas so it will always have a special connection for me. But for others, it is now connected with bloodshed and death as it takes its place in America’s modern history as the worst mass shooting. Not a title anyone wants to read about, let alone own.
Two days ago we opened our newspapers and turned on our TV’s to find yet another terror attack has occurred. And of all places in New York, not far from the World Trade Centre.
While I write this I am experiencing a familiar eerie feeling. The same feeling I had when I wrote my weekly column for Griffith’s The Area News within days of Stephanie Scott’s body being found. The Leeton schoolteacher was murdered shortly before she was due to be married. Just like I did then, as a community was grieving and searching for answers, I’m trying again to find the meaning in tragedy for all of us. The sentiment of that column rings true here today:
“As I began writing, I was flooded with a heartfelt desire to bring peace and comfort where there has been so much pain, sorrow…and disbelief. There are many questions that have no answers. ‘Why should this happen?’ produces emptiness rather than explanation. The inner dialogue that offered a glimmer of light in the dark for me was, ‘Do tragedies like this encourage us to enjoy the fullness of the precious life we have? Yes. Might we complain a little less about petty matters? I’d like to think so. Does an embrace from a loved one or the words, I love you carry more meaning now? Absolutely!’ I’ve accepted that we won’t be able to get our heads around a tragedy that rips at our hearts like this.”
It seems the lady in the checkout is right: there is tragedy everywhere. But while I feel deep empathy and compassion for the victims of tragedies, I can’t help but think that we as a society need to do something constructive with it. To somehow turn tragedy into transformation.
Grieving is an essential part of the process, but wallowing or harping on the negativity that is so prevalent seems to only breed more negativity and despair. For inspiration, we’ve only got to look to our national torchbearer against domestic violence, Rosie Batty. If she can turn her tragic event into something positive, then surely so can we.
So what can we do? We can light a candle and send prayers to the victims and their families – don’t underestimate the power of love. (There have been studies demonstrating the power of prayer and energy healing. And if it’s our natural response in a crisis, then we need to go with it.) We can take action on matters that matter to us by writing to our federal representatives. In this small, but pivotal way we may be able to have influence over critical issues such as gun control. In light of recent events, surely preventing another Port Arthur massacre must remain a priority in this country.
We can also live life to the fullest, each and every day. It may sound clichéd but it’s true. No one knows for sure when their time will be up…so we might as well make the most of what we have. Spend time with family; take up that hobby you’ve always been interested in; see the world; follow those dreams; hug more; laugh more; find joy in your work; and be thankful as often as possible.
This very moment I had to break from my writing to bring our four-year-old, who’s just woken up, into the ‘big’ bed with us for a cuddle. These are precious moments I cherish. I urge you to cherish yours. And then no death can be in vain.