It’s been an intense week from an emotional perspective.
We woke up on Monday morning to hear horrid news out of Las Vegas – a shooter, hiding like a coward in a hotel room, opened fire on a crowd attending a Country Music Festival on “The Strip”. Responses were immediate and intense.
For me, there are three moments in my week that are indelibly burned into my brain.
A Facebook friends posted early in the day on Monday a statement that showed just how angry he was. He basically said that you had no soul if the incident on Sunday night didn’t immediately turn you into an activist for stricter gun laws. I understand his anger and frustration. But not everyone reacts to issues like this in the exact same way.
I found a video that shared the faces of those killed on Sunday night. It’s the only video related to the incident that I’ve watched. As the pictures scrolled by, all I could think about was how different they were. Men and women of different ages and different backgrounds and it’s probably safe to say that they didn’t all think alike about everything and may have even had differing views on things like sports, religion, politics, favorite movies, and so on. But none of that mattered that night. They had a shared love for a particular music genre and that brought them all together for this particular music festival. It doesn’t surprise me. I’ve frequently seen music wipe away the barriers we build to divide ourselves into groups.
Then there was Eric Church’s performance at the Grand Ol’ Opry. He had been the headliner on Friday night at the same festival that was attacked on Sunday. I’ll let him tell his own story in the video below but one thing he said struck me only because I can relate – “The only way I’ve ever fixed anything in me is with music.” The friend I mentioned earlier? He responded in the way that instinctively felt right – he committed himself to activism. For me, my response is much more about talking the issue through with the teens I’m around every day or using music to help process the empathy I feel for those who had a loved one violently taken.
Whatever your response has been to this situation, embrace it. Act on it. To force any other reaction is pointless.
The story goes that Leonard Bernstein was in his office, studying a score and preparing for his rehearsal that night with the New York Philharmonic when he got word that President Kennedy had been killed. He chose to have rehearsal anyway and told his musicians “This will be our reply to violence. To make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”
It’s only been a couple of days since a single shooter, for reasons that are not yet clear, opened fire on a concert taking place on the Las Vegas strip. 59 people were killed, hundreds wounded. He was using an automatic or semi-automatic weapon and firing from the window of a nearby hotel. Of course, gun control has become a discussion again – as it should – and there is some disagreement over exactly which floor he was on, how many weapons he had in the room with him, and no one has offered a hint as to what drove him to commit such an ugly act. He had no prior criminal record and law enforcement officials have not been able to solidly connect him to any radical, extremist groups. So we’re baffled, questioning, maybe even arguing a bit, but we are all hurting for those affected by this horrible night.
I saw a video today of the 59 who lost their lives. I was struck by one thing – the diversity; different genders, ages, ethnicities . . . you get the idea. They weren’t all one “type” of person. But they had come together to share an experience – a concert. They were together to enjoy music. As a lifelong musician, that touches me.
I have a friend who is a choral director at University of Nevada Las Vegas and he has reached out, asking for recordings of choirs – all ages, locations, school groups, church groups, community groups, whatever! – to record themselves singing something you are working on right now, and sending it to him (if you are interested in taking part, leave your email in the comments and I’ll get you some info!). His desire is to share these recordings with his choir students. Imagine the impact of seeing total strangers you may never meet, but with whom you share one thing – you sing. It doesn’t seem like much. But the healing that music can bring about is very real and very powerful. I can speak from experience.
I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about scars and the “events” that cause them. Some scars might make you shake your head a bit. I have a few those “self-induced because I’m a clutz” scars. More than a few if I’m honest. As a mom, I have one scar that I actually cherish. No, I’m not weird. All four of my ducklings were delivered via C-section so that scar is actually kind of a badge of honor in my mind. Scraped knees, a serious cut that needed stitches . . . the adventures of our lives sometimes leave marks behind.
Sometimes those adventures hurt only a little and sometimes . . . well, sometimes we are not sure what will be left when all is said and done. Sometimes the pain is so intense that you are not convinced you will survive. And that old childhood rhyme that starts with “sticks and stones may break my bones . . . “? Yeah, that’s a big fat lie. Words sometimes leave scars so deep and painful that they never seem to fully heal.
I’m not stuck in some sort of morose mood. I’m working through – or trying to work through – a specific thing from my past. A relationship that went very sour very early on and no one knew. No, I wasn’t raped or anything like that. But he did insist on putting his hands places I wasn’t comfortable having them. If I pushed his hands away or told him no, there would be pain. Pulled hair, his hand around my throat, you get the idea. There was a moment where I got up enough courage to tell him that if he didn’t stop what he was doing I would talk to my parents. He backed off at that moment and I thought I’d won. Soon after that, he went with my parents, my siblings and I to visit my grandparents. As we were leaving for church, I hiked my skirt up to just above my knee to adjust my pantyhose. He gasped and covered his eyes as though I was being immodest. My mother was beside herself – her daughter was dating such a modest, morally upright young man! He just smiled at me and as we walked to the car he leaned in and whispered “Who do you think your mother will blame?” and I knew I was stuck.
He was considered one of the leaders in our youth group. His parents were great people. He . . . he made me feel like the only value that I had to offer was my body. Years later, he wrote me a letter owning his wrong and apologizing profusely. I had so blocked the whole thing out that I just tucked it away and never thought about it again. For some strange reason, it survived all these years (and I mean like 30!) and I found it tucked away in a music book when I was doing some purging recently. I re-read the letter and it all came flooding back. The bruises from the pinching, the choking me when I wouldn’t let him do what he wanted . . . all of it. I hate to put a label on what happened to me because “it wasn’t really that bad”. I have had people I care about deeply who have had to recover from rape or years of sexual assault at the hands of a family member. This was a few months of complete misery. It could have been so much worse!
But it was bad enough. It was my freshman year in high school which was just a miserable year in so many ways and the thought of just ending it all crossed my mind more times than I care to count. So I “forgot” it all. I just pretended like it didn’t happen. He eventually broke it off – thank God! – and I moved on. (Part of me wonders if I was no longer attractive because I just stopped fighting back!).
I have no clue where to go from here. I still don’t even know how to describe what happened because the terms I can think of all sound far too severe for what I suffered.
There’s a thing about scars – they are reminders. Not of what you have suffered but what you have overcome. And I promise you, I WILL come out of this stronger on the other side.