Monday, September 14, 2009

You Just Never Know...

We've all been there, driving or riding in a car when some lunatic cuts us off, scaring the crap out of us and inspiring a few choice words or hand gestures. Or maybe you have been standing in a checkout when some inconsiderate scatterbrain decides to wait til the last minute to take out her checkbook or coupons. Or maybe you've been the target of a stranger with no patience for a mistake you've made and who lashes out at you. These types of behaviors drive me crazy sometimes, but nowadays, more often than not, I can tolerate them, because of something I learned from Molly. [I write this post not to judge anyone, but to maybe inspire a fresh way of looking at this.]

My friend Molly lost her son last year. In the weeks and months that followed Ryan's death, she felt incredibly vulnerable when out in public. Imagine going to a grocery store with a wide, gaping hole in your chest; a feeling of vulnerability so great that you can't breathe properly and just wish that you were invisible. She willed people to avoid her. A simple question of "Did you find everything you needed?" from a checker could release an internal floodgate that threatened to drop her to her knees. Simple errands of everyday life were seemingly too difficult to attempt and took every ounce of her strength to accomplish sometimes.

Molly has healed a lot since then, but the lesson she learned from that time stays with her; she now has an entirely different perspective on strangers in public, who used to drive her crazy with their seemingly-irrational behaviors. She knows that the "fool" who sits at a stop sign beyond a reasonable amount of time may be paralyzed with grief over something; a lost family member, a failing marriage, a sick spouse, a devastating financial burden, or worse. The aggressive driver may be struggling to accept horrible news or suffering great emotional turmoil. We just never know what some people are going through.

Anger is a very natural reaction to fear. When people drive dangerously, it's completely understandable to react defensively and want to strike out at the person who caused that fear. In times like that, it's more difficult to find compassion for the other drivers, so I won't pretend to be Mother Theresa on that front. Of course, I'm not perfect, so I still complain about people who annoy me in public, but more often than not, I don't, and instead say a prayer for what they might be going through at that moment. Doing so brings me peace while I wait and hopefully makes a small difference in that person's life.

For those who have wondered, Molly is back at school. She said it's difficult being there, but also good for her. She has healed from her life-threatening lung issues this year. The anniversary of Ryan's death (October 27th), and the court case for the drug dealer who sold Ryan the lethal dose of heroin begins soon. The defendant, *CG, has plead Not Guilty (he turned down a plea deal), so there will be a trial.

Not Guilty, even though Ryan died, and a witness will testify that
when this scumbag heard the news, he simply shrugged and went back to his video game and later sold from the same supply to three other young people who wound up in the hospital that same week. Not Guilty, as he sits in a courtroom and laughs and talks with his family and friends, right in front of my Molly, who struggles not to charge up to him and choke the life out of him. How dare he laugh in the face of her grief?

Molly will have to do more than watch him smile; she will have to listen as the defense paints an ugly picture of her son, a young man who was an asset to his school and whose funeral visitation was attended by more than a thousand people. Make no mistake--Molly knows that the fault for Ryan's death lies ultimately with Ryan, but that doesn't change CG's culpability.

So Molly, though compassionate for strangers, is not perfect, either, and has no forgiveness for the man who's actions contributed greatly to her son's death. If you've prayed for her this year, thank you so much, and please, please continue in the next six weeks. The trial starts September 23rd and should end within a few days of beginning.

The other trial (Mike and Molly grieving for their son) has no end.

*For the record, I am not putting CG's name here only because I wouldn't want to attract him to my blog if he happened to be Googling himself.

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