I have been heartbroken more than I have been in love. And yet, love is what dominates my life. 7 years ago this past July, my life changed - while living abroad, a man, someone I didn't know, who was someone's son, probably someone's father and husband, broke into my apartment as I was preparing to sleep and nearly beat and strangled me to death. Every year that passes since that fateful day, I struggle a bit more to come up with my reflection This year, the timing was interesting with news of the Colorodo movie theater shooting. Whenever tragedy like that happens, we hear stories of the victims, we learn about the madman, and speculate on what possibly caused him to snap and in that moment, hurt so so many people. We hear stories of heroism, of comraderie and bravery in the face of danger. Out of all of the stories that came out of that shooting, the one that has stuck with me the most has been an account of the shooting from a person in the theater. That random account so accurately reflected something I experienced while facing a life and death situation and which is why, despite the scars the attack left, I am so grateful to have experienced it so early in life.
In the moment of fear, in the moment when all of the hate and evil of one man came to fruition to cause so much pain, the individual talks about the intense feelings of love he felt while dodging bullets. I get it. I get it exactly. Over time, I remember fewer details of the day. The man's face has faded. I don't remember how it feels to be strangled, I do not have visceral reactions any longer upon entering my home after dark, and I do not remember the physical pain caused by the injuries he caused. What I continue to think about, every day of my life, when that day comes into my thinking (and it always does), was the love I felt when I succombed to dying. It really really is the oddest thing. Confusion over what was happening dominated my thoughts at first when that man, that monster appeared at my window. Fear over getting out alive, fear about dying, dominated my thoughts when I realized that despite every kick to the balls I could give him, I was not getting away. And one would expect that when this type of tragic event strikes, that fear and sadness would accompany one to the very end, until the moments of their last breath. But it doesn't. When you look eviil so close in the eye, when you are the recipient of such hurt and pain, the exact opposite is felt---you feel an overwhelming sense of love. One would not expect that as you are being strangled, or pummelted with strikes to your brain that you could possibly feel love. But you do. Because, on the 7th year anniversary of my survival of an event that will live with me forever, I can tell you all with confidence, love is all we have---love for ourselves, love from our family, from friends and from life itself. The feeling of love was so intense in the moment when I gave up my fear of death in the face of it, that I think it has driven my recovery and resilence to this day. It has caused me to not sweat the small stuff, to focus on the good in people, to surround myself with love and to give more deeply to others.
I was given a gift and what I know to be true is that life will all present each of us with tragedy at some time or another. How will you use that gift? How will you honor the lesson? Whatever it is, I know that the message of love will dominate.
~Winter, Washington DC