One year ago (before this blog existed) horror stricken from trauma and mired in the depths of my grief, I wrote the entry below on Facebook. One year ago, the air was charged with social and political unrest and neighbors were hurling hateful words across keyboards and screens towards each other. People were uncertain and scared and angry and it seems that we are back here again, or maybe we didn’t ever stop. Maybe we only paused in the face of tragedy.
It’s hard to not let this crazy world harden you. Trust me, I am angry, and hurt, and scared and I have no idea what is right and what is true and what I should believe. And I have every right to be, after the painful injustice of losing my daughter. But, the one thing I know is that Abigael’s legacy—the way she thought of people, and their ability to change the way they walk in this world—should not be lost in Facebook memories.
What if we were able to see past each other’s ideologies and see the bruises, scrapes, cuts and scars to truly SEE our neighbors? To once again, let tragedy (go ahead…pick one, there are plenty in our midst) bind us together? What if we displayed flags that said “Hey, we are in this thing together!” rather than flags that say “F*ck you if you voted for [insert name here]”? What if we could see one another the way that Abigael saw people? What if it truly was about, above all else, love? Love is the answer. I learned that from my daughter.
•8.17.20• Abigael believed that people had an unlimited capacity for love. She recognized that capacity often got covered up by the bumps and bruises that people endured in their humanity. She was aware that those bumps and bruises manifested themselves in very human traits like insecurity, pettiness, ignorance, fear, and anger. She spoke with me often about it, and wanted to to do something about it.
In her tender age, within the past couple of years, she had the desire to help people people peel back the layers of hurt that the bumps and bruises of life created. Ultimately her goal, professionally, personally and spiritually was to give people a safe space to learn more about what caused their love and their light to dim. I believe she would have accomplished that here on Earth on a much larger scale had she been given more time.
In this world that appears to be pervaded with divisiveness and hate and uncertainty, with her loss, entire communities have simply stopped–the sides being taken, the politics, the right/wrong polarity, and they have poured love and light out–into our family, into her friends, into the community, and ultimately, into the world at large.
Community is sort of a big deal to me, and I would like to believe that I, at least in part, passed that on to her. I grew up in a military household and we moved frequently. Though you might not think that lifestyle would not support community, military families know how to take care of each other. I joined a sorority my freshman year of college, because I knew I needed a community of sisters to lean into, after the tight-knit feeling of growing up on a military base. I joined an online parenting group when the internet first started because I craved that community.
When we moved to Chambersburg from Pittsburgh, I found it difficult at first to find MY community. People in this little town have often walked beside each other since they left the maternity ward in their mama’s arms, and those circles are TIGHT. But, our girls have grown up here, and I, of course, managed to find my way and create my place in this town.
And now, I will never view community in the same way. My heart and soul has been immeasurably touched by the community that is walking this walk with me, and my loved ones. I am forever changed. I think I have always been kind, at least I strive to be. But, now I will never be so busy or distracted or uncomfortable that I am unable to be a part of community, whatever that looks like.
The latin root word of community is communis, which at least one translation suggests means shared by many. The community that has chosen to share this piercing pain with me has completely changed me–for the better. I am indebted to everyone walking beside me, in all the ways they are walking– the small, gentle gestures, the respectful silence, the outpouring of gifts, the businesses making our daily lives a tiny bit less challenging, the friends and neighbors simply doing without our asking, the communities from years ago and across the country, all of it.
It is a cosmic irony that Abigael’s passing has allowed so many people to increase their capacity to love and spread light, and it is simultaneously incredibly painful and beautiful to be in the midst of. She knew. She knew humans are better than face value.