A Great Disturbance in the Force: The Sequel

{Please see the first part of this post here.}


Why does it sadden me that we cannot be always and intensely aware of the suffering in our world? I suppose it’s because it seems to me that, apart from a public tragedy such as the Boston Marathon bombing or numerous others of which we are all aware, many shy away from those who are hurting, or at the very least the wounded become the forgotten ~ not necessarily on purpose, but simply as a matter of course. (I am guilty of this myself. Most definitely.) I know what it’s like to be on the other side, to be the one who wants someone to bear witness to my suffering, even as others may think I should be ‘over it by now’, or are simply unaware of my struggle.

A great disturbance in the Force deserves a great deal of attention.

I believe we are created for connection, and sometimes connecting to someone means feeling their pain. Just as we rejoice with those who rejoice, we need to weep with those who weep. We need to celebrate with one another when there is cause, and we also need to mourn together when necessary. This isn’t easy. It isn’t pleasant. But it’s right and necessary if we are to fully embrace the entirety of who we were made to be.

We cannot all fly to Boston, or Iran or Pakistan, to comfort those in need or pain. Thankfully we will not all experience the trauma of being present at some type of public disaster so that we can step in to offer aid in the midst of violence or loss. But we can all be aware of those around us, if we so choose.

We can seek out the hurting; we can step in without judgment or verdict. We can set aside our own opinion of what we think those in crisis must do, and simply be. Be with someone whose heart is breaking. Hold their hand. Enter into grief with another, refusing to be scared away by the fact that you do not (and cannot) have all the answers. Sit together in silence. Or ask a question about their loss. You may be surprised to learn that they really want to talk about it. Allow them the necessary depth and length of their grief. You would want no less were you in their situation.

I am not here to debate the Why of any tragedy. Whatever your belief or lack thereof may be, the fact remains that sorrow, loss, and heartache surround us. We live in a world where violence, death, and grief are not new, but are certainly more quickly able to be made known than at any other time in history. We may choose to rail against the injustice of suffering, but that makes us no less culpable in relieving what distress we are able.

We have seen an outpouring of goodness in response to an act of destructive aggression. Individuals, groups, even cities have stepped in to show support and solidarity to those reeling and recovering from the attack. And then there were those Bostonians who opened  their businesses, homes, and hearts in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. They had no answers for those who were suffering. They were simply willing to do the best they could with what they had. They took a risk and chose to enter in. May we be bold enough to daily do the same in our own relationships and communities.


© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013

A Great Disturbance in the Force

Like so many in our country, I am saddened by the recent Boston Marathon bombing. The literal loss of life and limb, plus the trauma experienced by so many, is difficult for us to process.

With the clarification that I am not a Star Wars geek, there is one line from Star Wars: A New Hope that has always stuck with me. As the planet Alderaan is destroyed, Obi Wan claims, “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” (Please don’t ask me to quote anything else from Star Wars. Besides some poorly executed Yoda grammar-mashing, the only other line I know by heart is, “Luke, I am your father.” I even had to Google Obi Wan’s exact words in regards to Alderaan’s explosive ending.)

So what does Obi Wan Kenobi have to do with how I am trying to sort out this difficult situation in my own mind? For so long it has seemed to me that when large scale tragedies occur, we should all be able to sense it, to know that a menacing or malicious act has taken place, that fellow human beings are suffering, hurting, and dying. It seems so wrong, that we aren’t aware, that we don’t immediately feel “a great disturbance in the Force” when tragedy and turmoil strike. Short of living in George Lucas’ invented universe, we won’t. And I’m sure that’s a good thing because the constant, uninterrupted anguish and heartache would surely be our undoing.

These types of events occur regularly throughout the world, so we would constantly be quoting Obi Wan, weary with the exhaustion of grief, fear, and every emotion that haunts us when there is such a catastrophe, either man-made or naturally occurring. Consider for instance the earthquake on the Iran/Pakistan border, which occurred only hours after the Boston Marathon attack, or the one that struck just a week earlier in the same region. And then of course there are those areas of the world where bombings and attacks are a way of life, where children grow up knowing to expect chaos and turmoil every day. Even though my daughters were at the Aurora Theater shooting nine months ago, we still live in relative peace and calm compared to so many others sharing our damaged and hurting world.

Still, I am struck by the fact that such dreadful things can happen, and we only find out about them on the television news, via our Twitter feeds, or by scrolling through our Facebook pages. Shouldn’t we all feel the piercing pain and angst of our fellow mortals, wherever they may be? Why is it that I should be shopping or chatting with a friend while others are losing homes, limbs, livelihoods, and lives?

Beyond the calamities that are newsworthy on an international scale, there are millions of misfortunes happening daily on a much more personal level. How is it that I can be taking a nap or curled up with a good book when someone is burying a beloved parent, or watching their child battle for her life? Why should we be gathered around the dinner table while another family has just been killed by a hit-and-run driver? What about my fellow widows, one of whom was jarred awake early one morning by a phone call informing her of her husband’s death, or another whose husband’s unknown illness took his life one Thanksgiving Day a few years ago?

How do we continue about our lives without feeling a great cosmic disturbance from these tragedies?

It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it? Something along the lines of a severe mercy. Were we all to be constantly and acutely aware of the suffering surrounding us, life as we know it would not exist.

I’m certain that on the Friday night I made the decision to turn off my husband’s life support, there were lots of happy people celebrating the end of a long week. I know that as I signed the admission papers for my daughter at the adolescent psychiatric unit, it was the middle of the night and most of the people in our state (and country, probably) were tucked safely in bed. As my daughters heard the first shots ring out in the theater next to theirs, I was actually falling asleep myself. We can’t know and sense all these things. We can’t.

And I am thankful, even as I am slightly saddened.


{Please see the conclusion to this post here.}


© Monica Simpson and Help To Hope, 2013