Tragic Weekend

By all reports it should have been wonderful. The weatherman had predicted perfect summer weather, just right for a picnic in the park or kayak excursion on the lake. I had invited friends for dinner: the house was ready, shopping was complete except for garden veggies from the local farmer, and freshly baked oatmeal-nut bread was cooling on a rack.
The table was set with blue willow china, a gift from my mother, and I had even dusted and reorganized the shelves of the old corner cupboard. It has a beauty of its own and displays impractical but beloved items, such as a large crystal bowl given by a friend, a pair of tiny Blumenkinder figures purchased in Germany, and white china dessert plates edged in platinum. During the dusting process two of the delicate plates slipped from my hands and shattered on the floor. No worries…”I’ll just clean up the pieces. There are still four plates left and others stacked in a cubby in the kitchen.”
Then breaking news appeared on my phone. Another gun event, known as a m… s…, as if it should have a common name. How many times does it take? Proposed legislation that would help deter such violence gathers dust on desks in fancy offices while our elected leaders enjoy their summer leave. Shock and collective sadness, prayers, and conversation occur after each event, and yet nothing changes. Shortly after the first reported shooting, another occurred in a different city. Unbelievable!
How will history books record these times? I shudder to think of possible chapter headlines.
Mass shootings became commonplace, Americans killing Americans
Gun industry stocks rose at the expense of human life
Politicians were unable to act for the common good due to powerful special interest groups
USA became a dangerous place: freedom without responsibility
The possibilities go on, including Mental health crisis led to frequent mass killings or Violence in the media desensitized citizens.
My little dinner party took place as planned. Guests were jovial, telling stories of good old days and discussing the future. No mention was made of the tragedies that had occurred only hours before. Out of courtesy I let the conversation take its own path during the evening and we enjoyed our friendship! But underneath it all, we knew there were shattered families in sudden grief over lost loved ones, countless individuals suffering physical injuries and uncertain about the days ahead, communities torn apart, and an overwhelming sadness that this is where we are—here in the nation we call home.
I welcome your comments.

…. for the Living

It was an uplifting evening of beautiful music and remembrance. The concert choir of Henderson High School, West Chester, PA, consisting of eighty-nine talented teenagers had paired with a community vocal group, the renowned Brandywine Singers. Their soaring melodies were supported by a fine chamber ensemble, a blend of high school string players and Chesco Pops musicians. Jonathan Kreamer, director, had selected opioid addiction as a focus for the performance, with proceeds benefiting several addiction treatment centers.
Prayers and poems of various religious traditions alternated with inspiring music which floated up to the high rafters of the lovely Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, PA. Special guests spoke of the opioid addiction crisis including Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs of PA, Jennifer Smith. Ms. Smith referred to opioid addiction as a disease that changes the brain. Recovery is possible, but relapse is common. This is a community issue and we all play a role in the solution. She urged families who are dealing with opioid use concerns to acquire a supply of NARCAN (available at local pharmacies without a presciption). The PA hot line for all to remember is 1-800-622-HELP.
The message was heart-breaking, but it clearly raised awareness among the more than five hundred people in the audience — spell-bound during the presentation. Especially important, in my view, was the fact that many young people were present.
A reverent reading of seventeen names followed, friends and loved ones who were lost to the epidemic in 2017. This was a year in which 47,600 Americans died of opioid overdoses. Silence followed and then …….. the ethereal sound of treble strings gently entered the space as the feature composition of the evening began. This work was Dan Forrests’s Requiem for the Living.
It was a masterpiece of beauty; the rich sounds of the choir and orchestra, the energy and emotional involvement of the conductor, the magic cast over the audience ……. perfectly fitting for the solemnity of the occasion. Five movements sung in Latin transported us from the Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, to the Lux Aeterna, place of eternal light.
The joyous proclamation of “Hosanna” rang out repeatedly during the Sanctus. My neighbor in the pew, with whom I had shared a crowded space in the second row, turned with a smile and said, “Isn’t this perfect for the eve of Palm Sunday?” Wiping my eyes, I nodded and smiled. We had shared an amazing event, not to be forgotten.
Boisterous applause and a standing ovation were instant at the close of the performance. Within a few seconds the strings had their bows in place again, and we were treated to an encore of the “Hosanna” portion. Beautiful planning ……. while the urgency of the opioid threat had been imprinted on our minds and hearts, Maestro Kreamer sent us back into the world with joyful sounds of optimism.