With a nod and a wink we used to be able to say, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Unfortunately, that is no longer true. The repercussions and consequences of the senseless massacre on October 1st have certainly not stayed in Vegas. Tens of thousands of lives have been impacted. Even though the violence of that fateful night has all but faded out of the news cycle, sorrowful funerals have been held, victims remain hospitalized, criminal investigations are underway, the search for answers continues, and survivors have returned to their homes and families where life will never, ever be the same. The tentacles of what happened in Vegas have slithered their way through America’s cities and towns, hamlets and burgs, and continue to effect the survivors and their loved ones. For many of them, this will never entirely go away.
I wish to express my deep appreciation to all those who reached out to me, to Barb, and to David during the past two weeks. Your sincere expressions of love and concern remain very meaningful to us, and will never be forgotten. This is neither a short nor an easy journey toward recovery, and it absolutely helps to know that we are not traveling alone. We will continue to lean on you as we progress through the healing process.
We are thankful for small steps. David has returned to his teaching position and has immersed himself in his students. He keeps as busy as possible, so as to at least sometimes be able to stave off the nightmares and flashbacks. What used to be boisterous gatherings of friends to watch football or tailgate at the Horseshoe have become (at least for now) quiet get-togethers with just a few people. His friend, Kody, who stayed with Michelle Vo as she lay in a hospital clinging to life, and became the sole channel of communication to her family in California, will travel to San Jose this week for her funeral. Most of us probably would not attend the funeral of a person we had only known for a few hours, but this is a special instance.
I’m finding that I am in a different state of mind these days. Life has taken on a more somber tone. I’m laughing less (not like me) and crying more (mostly when I see or read about a compassionate deed or an example of unconditional love). I wonder if that’s because it feels like these acts of kindness are too often being overshadowed by hatred. I lament that mass shootings have become an unwanted strand in the fabric of our society, and it appears we’re just going to allow them to keep happening. As caretakers of the culture, what messages are we sending to our children?
I have become more easily distracted, and my mind wanders more than normal. I have to work harder to stay focused. Priorities have shifted, and what seemed important just a few short weeks ago no longer feels so urgent. To cope I have turned continually to Psalm 139 and to a prayer written for me by a very dear friend. I find it comforting to hear again and again the words of the psalmist:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me… You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways… You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb… In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed… I come to the end – I am still with you.
It is reassuring to know that no matter where we go, no matter where unwanted thoughts and memories may take us, no matter how horrific and terrifying life may become, God is present in the midst of it all. We cannot escape the unconditional love of God who promises to have mercy especially on those who are weak and broken hearted, and those whose lives have been shattered by unthinkable circumstances.
For all the people who have been touched in any way by the tragedy of the Las Vegas massacre, life will never be exactly the same, with one exception. God is still here, and I’m convinced that we must hold onto this truth in order to survive.