In my little corner of the world – small towns, small communities, and big hearts prevail.
If you tell someone you are from Illinois, someone who doesn’t live here and never has, they will most likely respond with “Is that near Chicago?”
And in my little county here in the Midwest we will dutifully nod our heads and reply “northwest suburbs..about 45 minutes from the city..”
In reality – it might as well be 45 light years away.
We love the bright lights of Chicago, we are die-hard Cubs or Sox, Bears and Blackhawks fans. We love Chicago style pizza (only) and love to hear stories of our parents who lived in the city once-upon-a-time before moving to raise their own children in the burbs.
Yet one way in which we are vastly different from Chicago proper?
Shootings are rare.
Death by shooting in our small towns does not happen often and when it does, we are rocked to the core.
We are known around here for rallying around those who have lost a loved one at the hands of violence or tragedy.
We support, care, carry, weep with and ache for the families who have lost.
We just do.
It isn’t just another headline to us here in the little counties, in the heart of the Midwest, in rural Illinois – it’s one of our own.
We feel deeply.
A couple months ago a local police officer was found shot to death.
The citizens of the small town who lost the officer rallied around the family of the officer and his brothers and sisters in law enforcement.
We loved through prayer, through financial donations, through the showing of support for First Responders, and for the children the officer left behind. As a community we provided supplies for search parties, we wept with his widow and waited anxiously for updates.
We felt. Deeply.
Today, our community heard the final determination from the investigating task force: suicide.
I began to read social media posts, and comments as the news spread.
And it was dreadful.
So much anger, debating, arguing and name calling.
Hey people? Neighbors, friends, people in my town, and that town and all of us that came together for this officer? Please hear me: it doesn’t matter.
We got it right.
We loved. It is never wrong to love as a first response and to love without questions.
A life was lost.
That is painful.
Darkness won and cost us one of our own.
It is never wrong to weep with those who weep, or to mourn over a loss of life.
There seems to be an overwhelming sense that we were duped, fooled, or used.
We were not.
Not because of the type of death, but because we were made to love.
We were made to be in community and to be a family and to support each other.
There is still grieving to do – so go ahead and feel it.
I just wept, again.
I wept because in the early morning hours, a couple months ago, and just a few miles down the road – a man may have found himself so shackled by the choices he made, so trapped, so overwhelmed by despair that hope seem unachieveable and death seemed like a good option.
That is sad.
Cry because we lost one of our own. Feel outraged.
Outrage that a human soul can ever corrode so badly, that pulling a trigger seems like the only way out.
Angry that anyone outside would speak into our community and make us feel shameful, or foolish for grieving as a community.
So sure – be sad, cry, feel outrage and anger and all of those things
But please, PLEASE, let us never NEVER stop being a community who loves.
Because if loving others who are dealing with loss, if loving them fully and without stopping for questions makes us fools? Then I hope we lead the charge in creating an entire nation filled with communities willing to love foolishly.
Grieving without apology and Authentically Yours,
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” Romans 12:15-16