One of my dearest, most beloved friends Bri wrote this piece, somehow exactly explaining how I, and many other people, have felt in the wake of the events that have taken place over the course of the last few days. My deepest condolences to those in attendance of last night's gig, and to the families & friends of those who have had their loved ones senselessly robbed of them. Love to all.
Finding Love Through Loss by Brianna Simpkins
On the 29th of April, I woke up in my college dorm room 4 hours away from home to the last phone call I wanted to hear.
On the 22nd of May, thousands of young girls stormed the streets in screams after terror struck their bodies.
Two very different events occurred these days. Two different parts of the world. Yet I experienced two very, very close deaths.
No one likes talking about death. We all know it happens. We all know that it is a part of life. We also know that we don't know when it's coming. Yet, instead of addressing the inevitable, but understandable fears that come with death, we let it loom like a thick, damp fog on a winding road, just turning the headlights on our cars brighter to look past it. We let it creep up, scatter across our tied laces and zippers like a pesky insect, shooing it away so it doesn't remind us of its constant presence. Yet, we can't turn on all hazards and swat all bugs.
The avoidance of the discussion of death makes it harder for people to mourn. At least, I find this to be the case for me and a lot of people I'm close with. We don't know how to talk about it, or even how to start off that discussion, so the conversation never happens; but, when it finally comes, we never know how to properly address it or convey the feelings we have. Naturally, coming with this is both the pressure to say the right thing at the right time, but also be the one who can prove themselves to be stronger than death. The one who didn't let death defeat them. Through words, convictions and composure, we try to be invincible to death. None of us ever are.
As I stood in the front of a funeral parlor on a Thursday afternoon and evening, I appeared invincible. I greeted, hugged, kissed and shook hands with hundreds— yes, hundreds— of people who came to see my aunt that had passed away and pay their respects. Some of them I knew, some I never met, but I treated everyone just the same: warm smiles, sincere gratitude for condolences, and well wishes. I am not saying that none of these behaviors weren't genuine, as I did appreciate the amount of support I received this day, but a large part of it was me on auto-pilot. I would feel bad for my parents if I sat in the corner of the room crying for 6 hours over my aunt's death as they had to brave the large crowds. I would feel bad for MYSELF if I did that, because I hated putting myself in a position of vulnerability, especially in a place so public. And, like I had explained previously, I didn't know how to talk about death, even more so in this case because this was the closest relative I had ever lost. So I tried to put my aunt in the back of my mind as she laid in a casket a few feet away. I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to address it. So I distracted myself by playing hostess.
Across the pond, I scrolled frantically through my social media profiles as word came out that an explosion had gone off at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK. Not necessarily just as a fan of Ms. Grande, but as a fan of music and frequent concert goer in general, I experienced 22 painful social deaths manifested by the physical death of 22 fans, just like me, who went to an arena just to enjoy a night of live music. See, I didn't lose anyone personally, and first and foremost, my greatest sympathies are to those who were physically lost in this tragedy, but I would be lying to myself if I didn't say I felt like a part of myself died. Concerts have very much shaped who I am as an individual. Besides great music, concerts gave me great friends. Great memories. Great stories. Even most importantly, they gave me great safety. Not only safety in terms of security, but safety to express myself as an unapologetic individual who didn't have a care in the world for about 3 hours what her insecurities were. That safety net died that night. My sanctuary died that night. My old normal died that night and a new normal was re-birthed, but this one had a defect. Yet, once again, I didn't know how to explain this to people except those who I have become friends because of this space that was so sacred to us. I didn't know how to phrase things correctly and say the right thing, that way I make sure that no one thinks that I’m making a tragedy about myself. So, I shared links and hashtags. I posted statuses about sending prayers and love. I gave short, but eloquent statements about how this changes the general world population. But I didn't address how these deaths caused a part of me to die as well. It was too personal. I felt too violated. I went on auto-pilot again.
Death will never really get any easier. It's always going to be hard to deal with and it will always take time to mourn, to grieve, and to feel sorrow both during the hustle and bustle and when the silence sets in. But when the silence comes, when silence brings it's friend death along as it's plus one, we have to stop revoking their invitation at the last minute. We need to sit down and have dinner. An awful, bland, but also bitter dinner that will leave a nasty aftertaste. We need to admit to ourselves that it's hard. We need to admit to ourselves that almost always, it is never going to make any sense. In simpler terms, we need to admit that it just sucks. However, it is through admitting our fears and facing our realities that we find community. We find healing. We find love. We see that even though tomorrow is not certain, we can try and enjoy the time we have, the good and the bad. Love is the only thing that can truly power us through loss. Love for something bigger than ourselves and bigger than our beings keeps us going. Love can be found; it will be found, and love will make us stronger because we accepted it when we needed it most.
"Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside." - Lin-Manuel Miranda