June 3, 2020
As a Celebrant, Chaplain or Spiritual Care Counselor; as well as a human being, grief is something I embrace. After someone dies, I am called, and I listen to the grief shared by the loved ones left behind.
A lot of what I do with the listening is hold the pain and loss; and reflect back what I hear the meaning of the deceased person’s life was, to those left behind. When someone dies suddenly, or through violence; that is part of the story. And that pain will continue to shape the onward journey of those left behind.
Yesterday I watched a press conference, in which Roxie Washington, Mother of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, spoke.
She said, tearfully, as her daughter stood by her side,
“I wanted everybody to know… this is what those officers took.
At the end of the day, they get to go home and be with their families.
Gianna does not have a father.
He will never see her grow up; graduate.
He will never walk her down the aisle.
If there’s a problem she’s having and she needs her dad, she does not have that anymore.”
The family of George Floyd’s grief is unique. Each death is unique. And at the same time, the loss lifts up that which binds all human beings. Having those you love present to celebrate and be celebrated by. And how unfair to have that person taken away too soon, and feel their absence.
Today I watched two different interviews with Lora King; daughter of Rodney King.
She was about the same age as Gianna when camera’s captured her Dad being beaten by police officers. In 1992, riots broke out after the acquittal of those officers.
Lora King was asked about her feelings. “My feeling is real frustration, real anger, real numbness.” She described the physical and mental pain over the video showing George Floyd’s death, and said she could not watch the entire video.
Grief never leaves us, and can feel managed; until something reminds us. In this case, the trauma of yet another person unjustly treated by police officers, and resulting in death, triggered Lora King’s grief.
She shared, there is “nothing you can say.
Nothing you can do to make her feel better.” when asked about what she might say to George Floyd’s young daughter.
Lora continued, lamenting Gianna’s loss of her father, and saying that even though Rodney King did not die; Lora lost a part of him. He was never the same. Lora said at least she could hug her father and stated for Gianna, “She will never get that opportunity.”
And then Lora listed the communal grief of all those who have had a loved one experience violence from police; and lose their life, and the multitudes of loved ones that will never have an opportunity to journey with their fallen family member, ever again. And worse… that with videos of these attacks and deaths, the violence is on the internet. As she said, “we are stuck with it over and over again.”
Lora said it seemed like America woke up in 1991 when her Dad was beaten; but we are still in the same place. “We should not be where we are 30 years later”, she said.
Grief is a very personal thing. There is no timeline or way it works. It is not something one gets over. Grief takes the place of the loved one lost, to fill their void. It can be away for awhile, and then unexpectedly show up.
As Lora King said,
“I can’t tell people how to express their anger or hurt.
I can only speak for myself.”
Watching Lora King speak and feeling her spirit, I thought of the words I often share with those who are grieving… you are now the legacy of your loved one. They have planted seeds within you that will blossom, and keep them alive. My heart breaks for the grief Lora King has had and still has; and my heart celebrates the legacy she shines. May Gianna be held as she finds her path and the ways she will share her Dad, George Floyd’s legacy.
My prayer this night
is for all the secondary victims of violence and killing
May they grieve and express their loss and pain
in their own way.
May we all understand that grief encompasses all kinds of loss;
and one loss can add to another:
Loss of life,
Loss of relationship,
Loss of employment,
Loss of safety,
Loss of hope,
Loss of dreams.
May there be people for those grieving,
that are placed on their path,
to shelter and protect,
to allow the rage and the tears.
to celebrate them as they press on… and live.
May it be so…