Saturday, September 10, 2011
I refuse to do either. I'm all for commemorations. But a collective dwelling in the past will not move us toward a future that we desperately need. I'm sure I won't win any fans - in fact I may have lost a few already - but here is my reasoning.
Yes, the events of 9/11 were a great tragedy, not only for the USA, but worldwide. However, in the past decade, there have been other great tragedies. There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drug overdoses, and wars - all of which have lead to massive loss of life. In the last decade, I have lost three dear ones to various cancers.
I'm not saying it is wrong to grieve. I'd be the first to tell you that there is no time limit to grieving. I grieve daily. I grieve for the losses experienced by Native Americans. I grieve for losses experienced by Australian Aboriginals. I grieve for the father I lost nearly 30 years ago. I grieve for generations of intelligent, loving people lost to a Holocaust that happened a quarter of a century before I was put forth on this earth. I grieve for those who have been stereotyped and persecuted because of their skin color or beliefs. I have shed enough tears to replenish oceans.
However, there is a time to set mourning aside. And there are better ways to honor our dead than carrying their pictures around and remaining silent.
We honor our dead by continuing to live and by living well. We owe it to them to shout with every fiber of our being, "I'm still here and I am alive!" The very least we can do in the face of their tremendous sacrifices is to continue to make our world(s) better places to live. We do this by reaching out to others, not by staying silent. We do this by continuing to improve ourselves, not by sitting and doing nothing for two hours. We repay the debt in our laughter, in the meals we share, in a handshake or a hug, in loving, in holding open a door for someone else, in seeing beauty in the mundane.
We often hear Dylan Thomas's words that he wrote for his dying father:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
For a long time I thought of those words as an imperative for the dying to fight death. But in the past few years, I've taken them on as a battle cry of my own. Not as a litany against my own death, but as a declaration that I still have living to do, that the deaths of those I've known are a command that I continue, that I move on, that I make my voice heard while I still have a voice. That I rage against the dying of their light.
We were born into death, every one of us. Death is no respecter of persons. We are, each of us, dying every single day and no amount of days will ever be enough. So, while we're still here, while we're still blessedly aware enough to have the beautiful burden of grieving for those who have gone on, we need to make exquisite noise.
Every moment we have is precious. Every single one.
So, if I'm awake during those hours tomorrow morning, and if I have opportunity, I will log on to facebook. My profile picture will be my face, as it always is, and I will say hello to the friends and family I love and hold so dearly.
I will also take a few minutes to look inside myself and check that I am honoring the dead in how I choose to live.
As my friend Kit so profoundly said, "It's 3 AM... time to close the door."