If you want to go fast, go alone; but, if you want to go far, go together.
If you are a lover of dynamic orations of intricately, elouqent written words, then you are probably feeling pretty tired right now. Tonight marks the 8th night in the last two weeks that some of the most gifted in the nation (some more than others) have had a primetime audience sharing their talents and gifts with us all. I have stayed up well past my bedtime each night glued to the television. In the vein of keeping it real, I have watched some evenings looking for some speakers to incite a debate with me from my couch. The majority of nights, I have watched, with tears streaming down my face, full of love and hope for our nation, shouting more, “Amen, hallelujers!” than Madea herself.
I know that there is much debate over the efficacy of the electoral college, but man! These conventions make me love the way we do it! You watch candidates from both parties fight it out on campaign trails for months and months and months and months and months…. and months. I can’t help but get chills at the roll calls, when the parties start to unify behind the frontrunners. Tuesday night, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be beautiful if on election night, the country could come together like they do at the conventions to back whichever person is elected?” I think Lee Greenwood would have to make another verse of I’m Proud to be an American if we could unify on election night like we do on roll call nights! (If anyone knows Mr. Greenwood, I humbly volunteer to do ribbon dancing to his new verse.) I continued to watch Tuesday evening after the roll call, anxious to hear from Senator Corey Booker. I remember watching an interview with him years ago, when he was a young mayor of Newark. Learning about how he lived in one of the worst neighborhoods in Newark during his term inspired me and resonated with this (former) inner-city school teacher. During his speech this week, I realized that we actually are best friends who haven’t met yet when parts of his speech mirrored my thoughts from an hour before. When I listened to his speech several times the next day, I realized he was speaking to this hard-headed, independent brat, and to grieving families.
Senator Booker quoted an old, African saying when he said, “If you want to go fast, go alone; but, if you want to go far, go together.” Yes, this is something we should all think about between Election Day and Inauguration Day, but it also should be tattooed on the arms of families who begin the grief journey.
When Molly died, I was a few days away from beginning my last stage of graduate school. The lapse in time from undergraduate to graduate school had been enough time for a studious, intense scholar to develop from the girl who skipped class if it rained or if a friend wanted to go to lunch in college. Technically, I could have pulled up my bootstraps, headed north on 75, and thrown myself into finishing school. I could have left those shells of my parents and brother in Carrollton, and crawled into a cocoon of school, licking my wounds, but not dealing with my pain. Instead, I pushed my internship off until the fall semester, and signed up for a couple of online classes so that all four of our shells could try to fill ourselves again. I would have gotten back into the driving lane of life faster by myself, but I have no doubt that it would have ended in a fiery crash. Maybe not that spring, maybe not even the next spring, but it would have been ugly and I might not have survived.
The immediate days and weeks after Moly died, I was certain that my parents’ seemingly rock-solid marriage was a mere mirage. I would go back and forth between the haunting weeps and wails of my once invincible Daddy in his study, to my tender-spirited, quietly sobbing Mama in the living room, who was too weak to even sit up to hug people. Once the initial shock gave us a minuscule break, both of my parents explained to me that they couldn’t bare to see the other hurting so badly, and that’s why they were in different rooms for so long. I worried they’d never be able to look at each other again. That’s when my Dad once again lived up to the famous bit we did when I was a little girl:
Daddy: Who’s the smartest man in the world?
Me: My Daddy!
Daddy: What are you scared of when you’re with me?
He looked at me about a week or so after Molly died and said, “You can’t go back. The only thing that matters is us. We’re all we have.” I knew he didn’t mean I couldn’t go back ever, but perhaps he’d heard that African saying even before Senator Booker. I stayed home for 8 months, going back to Nashville with an entourage a few times for a Saturday class. Daddy and I sat on the front porch with glasses of wine that winter and wrote papers for my online classes. We spent our days surrounded by our best friends for months, writing thank you notes, crying, laughing, and being together Mama and Daddy turned in to each other as they’d always done, they pulled me and Griffin in, and we subconsciously lived out: if you want to go far, go together.
Going together does not mean going the same. We all made an agreement that forevermore, we would do only what we could do. We recognized that we would all deal with this differently. We all would process and heal in different ways. We’d all grow into different people than those who went to sleep on the evening of December 28, 2009. Our going has sometimes been pedaling a unicycle in quicksand, running barefoot over hot coals, or even doing the crab walk on beds of needles and rarely any two of us traveling in the same manner on any given day. But, we love and cheer each other on through the quicksand. We hold our hand out to help pull them out if they want, or just to squeeze until they reach the end of the pit. We are so fortunate to have dear friends who have continued to go through these pits with us. Without their support and love for these 6 years (and forever), we couldn’t love each other through this.
I wish that I could stand in front of the country and tell them to heed Senator Booker’s warning. It would make our nation so much more peaceful if we could do it. More importantly, if you are a family dealing with grief, especially traumatic grief, I beg you to inscribe these words on your heart. Go together. It’s painful and it’s slow, but one day, you’ll all be able to look back and see just how far you’ve come.
More than meat loves salt,