Catching Icarus

Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

Photo Credit: Deborah Parrish

Icarus flew too close to the sun and fell into the sea when his waxed wings melted. Overcome by the freedom that flying afforded him, Icarus soared through the sky like a bird, but the heat of the sun melted the wax and the feathers fell away. He fluttered his naked wings to no avail and as he realized he was only flapping his bare arms, Icarus fell into the sea.

I’ve been feeling a lot like Icarus in the past couple of days as we returned home from our wonderful vacation. Stories swirl about people who’ve found their way into that special place of timelessness, and upon their return, the speed of time sweeps them off their feet and they fall into an abyss.

Our days aboard the Portland Rose brought many magical moments that I will treasure forever, but coming back down to earth, clocking into the time stream of normal life, I was caught by surprise. I’ve been struggling with waves of shocking news received when we touched down, overwhelming loss of life and, less importantly, the loss of the job that I waited for so patiently.

In the face of unspeakable events as we travelled closer to our destination, only a few short hours before we were to disembark from our train trip and go back to our lives, a car was struck on the tracks. Tragic, yes, horrible, yes. But, in the midst, there was a deep generosity that began with a ukulele player named Mar, who, before she began her song, pulled out a $100 bill, threw it on the floor in front of her and asked for us to join her in giving money to a woman we didn’t know. While she sang her sweet song, smiling as she played, people began to bring money up to the front. I’m told there was more than $1800 gathered in a short time to be given to the family of the people who were killed. Could that money take away their loss, their pain? No, not even a little bit, but could it help? Absolutely. And it warmed my heart to witness such an act. We were strangers to the woman who lost her family that afternoon in the broccoli field. But we knew grief, and we knew that she might never know about the people on the back of that train who witnessed her family being shattered in front of her. We couldn’t give her back her husband and child, but we could give her something, what little we had, even if it was by some comparisons only a small piece of what she needed. The miracle was that people who didn’t even know her cared enough to reach down into their pockets and give what they could.

I wish that had been the end of the news. But we were in for more. In our neighboring town of Petaluma, only days before, a man shot his wife in front of her divorce attorney, on the street. And yesterday as we were heading home, a young man, an acquaintance and a close friend of our own close friends, a local business owner considered a pillar of our community had a sudden heart attack and died.

I can’t bear to tell all the details of these stories here. It’s too raw, too hard to handle. But they are present and a foggy sadness has set in.

Today I received some bad news. A job that I’d been waiting for, had been promised, did not come to fruition. I was sad, I was mad, I was afraid and yet, I realized it was just a job, just a measly job. It was not my life, or the life of my loved ones. It’s all about perspective. I can’t allow myself to wallow in this mire of sadness and feel sorry for myself. There are other people around me who are dealing with the most difficult of circumstances, and I’ve only lost the possibility of a job.

Lingering questions about the elusive job: What did I do wrong? Should I have let go earlier? When is it appropriate to have faith in a “process?” The rug ripped out from under me, my little world quivers with uncertainty. In the scheme of things, given what my friends are facing now with these many tragic losses in my immediate community, I have pondered deeply what to write about with a deep appreciation for how people cope with the darkness of life. We all have it, the challenges that life delivers, and yet, there are silver linings everywhere…

For now, I want to focus not on the tragedies, but on the bright light of generosity and outpouring of love when things go wrong. Tonight, a dear friend posted this, “What would I do without my family and friends?” My answer was, “You wouldn’t….”

What if I didn’t have my loved ones to reach out to when things got hard, when things go wrong? What if I was all alone in this messy thing called life? As I was pacing in my room after receiving yet another spate of bad news, I reached for the phone and made a call. One of my dearest friends answered the call and walked with me in the dark. Sometimes we all need a hand in the darkness.

For me this is the greatest gift of all…the gift of love, generosity, and caring that comes only from a friend, or even a stranger, who knows the silence and despair of darkness. It doesn’t matter what brought you there, but you’re there, and your friend’s voice, touch, presence lets you know you’re not alone.

Tonight I’m most grateful for the arms that hold me, the voices that comfort me, the hearts that love me. Tonight…I’m not alone and I know that the words, “it will all be okay” mean something. Because it will all be okay. It won’t be the same, but it will be okay on the other side.