These last few months have been rough for my hometown of Stuart, Florida. For those that aren’t local, I’ll sum Stuart up this way: it’s a happy little seaside town (like, officially--Coastal Living ranked it #1 in 2016) that is small enough to retain its charm and character, but developed enough to have plenty to do on a Saturday night. It’s the kind of town you’re too cool to settle in at 18 but lures you back in when you’re building a family of your own and have grown to appreciate its simplicity.
We grow and develop but stay firmly connected to our history. We’re family, friends, and fishing; boat rides, beach walks, and barbeques. It’s where almost everybody knows your name (perfect!) and you’re rarely stuck in traffic (well, at least in the “off-season”).
I love my hometown, and that’s why the past few months have been so hard.
Stuart’s experienced a great deal of tragedy lately in a short period of time. In late September, one of our local middle schools lost a student unexpectedly to suicide. Two weeks ago, we lost a beautiful young mother and a one year-old baby girl in a tragic boat accident. And, last weekend, a pilot set to take part in our annual Air Show was killed when his plane crashed. All of this, mind you, right after dodging a direct hit from a life-threatening category 5 hurricane. Add to this just the daily stresses of life and the smaller scale, non-newsworthy tragedies that go on every day and it’s safe to say the close of 2019 has been stressful for our close-knit community.
Of course no town is immune to tragedy--there are terrible things happening every day in every pocket of the world and I certainly recognize that, on the whole, we as a city have little to complain about. In the grand scheme of things, we live in a safe, clean, healthy, beautiful community and we are lucky for it. But, in light of recent events, there seems to be this (understandable) undercurrent of anxiety that runs beneath as we go about our day to day stuff, unable to shake the weight of these losses. It’s not only the weight of sadness we feel for those involved in these tragedies, but the weight of the reminder that, in an instant, life can be taken from you with no warning whatsoever.
I’ve heard people say that, for this very reason, stories like these are a blessing--they give us perspective, make us appreciate life and take in the little moments more fully, and I agree that they do. But it’s hard to hear stories like these and immediately jump to that place. And I’m not sure we should. In fact, I’d argue that, if you do hear of a young girl taking her life or two young kids who, in the blink of an eye, no longer have their mother and you jump directly to gratitude for what YOU still have, you may be missing an important piece--grieving and honoring these people whose lives mattered.
Even if you didn’t personally know these people, you should take more than just a moment to feel the weight of the loss.
I mentioned how these recent stories were weighing on my heart the other day and the person next to me said “oh, you knew them?” I thought to myself “why do I have to personally know them to grieve them?” How quick we are to forget that we’re all connected, that we’re all walking through this crazy and very unpredictable life together. These kinds of tragedies become even harder to shake when you’re a parent. When we hear of terrible things like this, we immediately feel our heart sink for these people and their loved ones, quickly followed by the panic of acknowledgment that it could’ve just as easily been us...or one of our own children.
With social media and the news we’ve become so immune to the bombardment of tragic stories that it’s as if, as a coping mechanism perhaps, we’ve become a society of people whose hearts and souls are covered in some kind of non-stick spray. We shake our heads or say “how awful” and the stories just slide right off of us because, well, the daily routine has to carry on. The losses don’t stick. We don’t FEEL--instead we tuck it in our brief cases and bags and carry the pain along with us in our daily interactions with people, where it shows up as impatience, anxiety, snippiness.
Let me be clear...I’m not suggesting that we should all walk around like depressed zombies all the time, which is what would happen if we literally took these stories on as our own--boundaries do keep us emotionally safe. But I am suggesting that in between taking others’ grief on as our own and becoming completely dismissive, there’s a medium that keeps us caring, feeling humans. And one thing I love about this town is that, by and large, we ARE that.
We are a strong, caring community that looks out for one another. When tragedy happens we band together and look for ways to help each other--I’ve witnessed it many times over. I’ve lived in large, urban cities and I can tell you without a doubt, that a great deal of that human connection to one another is lost. We’re not always the "happiest little seaside town", but when things like these happen, we shouldn’t be. We should be collectively grieving; collectively helping in whatever way we can. What we are is a strong, hopeful, caring little town and my prayer is that we’re a community that, through the toughest of times, remains that way.
To those personally connected to the lives that have been lost lately, know that there’s nothing we can say that will lift your burden but also know that there is a whole community of people thinking of you, lifting you up daily. You are on our minds and in our hearts as we go about the daily routines your loved ones have helped us realize we are so lucky to have.
I'm Krissy & I'm so thankful you're here. Teacher-Mom life is rewarding but it's tough--we need fuel (& each other) to keep going. I hope this is a place you can go that feels like caffeine for the soul--uplifting & highly addictive ;) Check out the categories below and, if you like what you read, subscribe to make sure you always have good Sunday morning reading to go with your coffee :)