Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

'Faster', 'Quicker', and 'More' Are Assassins of the Soul (Thoughts After a Teen's Tragic Death in Portland)

A 15-year-old girl was killed outside one of my favorite cafes in Portland a few weeks back. She crossed Hawthorne Boulevard in the cross walk and was hit by a reckless driver who drove off while she was bleeding to death in the street.

The following day I talked to a young barista in my cafe who had witnessed the crash. "It's the most gruesome thing I'd ever seen in my life," she said, "I'll never forget it, but we have a good community here. People are really coming together."

A few hours after the girl's death, hundreds of flowers were gathered on the sidewalk. The middle lane was occupied by protesters and a sign read, LANE CLOSED UNTIL THE KILLING STOPS. People brought candles, teddy bears, and cards. A few people even camped out. The dead teen from Franklin high school had been in a chorus, and the chorus sang where their friend had died.

The reason why I witnessed some of this is strange. I had attended a medium class in the back room of the cafe where we receive messages from those who have passed. And no, I don't claim to be in touch with her soul, but I know this with 100% certainty: There are no coincidences when it comes to death, and something extremely important will come out of the tragic crash.

First of all, thousands of people have been touched by what happened, and every single of us received a gift: Once more we're reminded of the insane way we live - how dangerous our own impatience is; how easily we get caught up in our self-absorbed problems, and how we forget to appreciate the love and the abundance everywhere: the invaluable gift of a gorgeous dawn, a child or a cat sleeping on our lap, the way the light falls through the window.

There is so much beauty in this world, but we don't see that because we're too busy texting, shouting at the mailman or blaming politicians for the ills of our society. 'Faster', 'quicker', and 'more' are assassins of the soul. Is it really that important we're ten minutes late?  Do we hate our fellow man so much we think we have the right to drive 70 miles down a busy street and take our anger out on the world that hasn't given us what we think we need?  For Christ's sake, let's all slow down, breathe in the sun set, and be human beings first and zombies second.

So yes, fifteen year old Fallon's death was unbelievably tragic, but it wasn't meaningless. Pedestrian safety will improve on the busy street, and her awful demise touched the soul of thousands of people in Portland. Death always serves a larger purpose. We're all here to help each other, and sometimes we become teachers by sacrificing our life through a tragic traffic accident.

None of us know why it's meant to be like that, or why Fallon had to leave her family and friends, but at first any tragedy seems senseless and will be a challenge and a wake up call to a community. So what do we do when the shock and the understandable anger pass?  Do we continue to see life as unfair and brutal (which it definitely is at times), or do we understand that the only way we can honor the dead is by living  more compassionate lives ourselves?

Luckily, the barista who witnessed the fatal crash understood the latter, and even though I don't know her, I got a strong sense that the scar on her soul will make her an even more compassionate soul than she is already.

PS.  Let's all send loving thoughts and prayers to Fallon from Franklin high school and to her grieving family and friends. If this post can help anyone please be kind enough to share!