A community in grief – pray for us

Sunday morning, I was iChatting with a friend in Texas when both of us heard the siren. I watched a sheriff’s deputy come up the road in front of my house. He had to be going at least 100 m.p.h.  We wondered where he could be going, and we said a prayer for the situation.

A couple hours later, looking for weather, I found out where he had been going. A lone gunman had gone into one of our area nursing homes. At that time, six people were dead; later, two more died. Most of the victims were elderly patients of the nursing home – the oldest was 98 years old. One RN, a former Coast Guardsman, age 39, was also killed.

The gunman was stopped when one Carthage police officer, Justin Garner, came after him, unassisted, and shot him. The officer sustained three wounds to his left foot and leg; he was treated and released from our local hospital, although he’ll still have to have some outpatient surgery, we’re told, to complete his recovery. Robert Stewart, the gunman, is in custody; his injuries are not life-threatening.

WRAL television in Raleigh has done a decent job of covering this event. I’ve been watching the news briefings with the chief of police in Carthage and the county District Attorney.

Our community is simply stunned. This is not the sort of thing that happens here. When Chief Chris McKenzie was asked how many police officers were on duty, Sunday morning, there was a bit of shock registered when he said, “Two.” But then he went on to say, for the community of approximately 2,000 residents, “This is a community built on faith. On Sunday morning, everyone’s in church.”

In his first interview with the press about the incident, McKenzie, who is a local, said, “This is a community based on faith, and faith will see us through this.”

It’s easy to let the blog slide when I have other things happening.

Two months at the store, and it’s beginning to feel like mine. Not my dearest dream, but high up on my list for a number of years.

It’s nice to be able to help people. I think perhaps the most effective way of helping people is to do it unawares, just as an incidental thing, unself-consciously.

Woman came in last week, and replied to my offer of assistance, “You already have.” Turns out she was in the store one of the two days I was training, last December (when I was supposed to be a fill-in person only) and in the course of conversation I’d mentioned a nursing care facility where my ex-brother-in-law had been. Marie, my sister-in-law, had really loved the place – after a series of visits to other fancier places with reputations and not good service. When she found a good facility, she stuck with it.

The woman remembered what I’d said, and in January, her husband had fallen, issues had been discovered that meant he really needed full-time staff care… and she remembered my remark. She visited the nursing home, found it even more than I had said (a doctor friend of ours is the medical advisor, which I had not known) – and had never even looked at another facility.

I had no conscious memory of why I mentioned this nursing home. It was just a general conversation, seemingly inconsequential. But I ended up giving this dear, lovely woman some concrete assistance at a time of great crisis.

That’s humbling, and very gratifying. Makes me think of St. Paul’s advice to the churches, to let every word that comes out of your mouth be something edifying and uplifting. Quite an ambition, isn’t it.

IN OTHER NEWS: Deliberate Engagement was included in the list of pro-life resources at the Life Conference in our diocese two weeks ago.

In the middle of the night –

Must be kind to myself – this sort of sorrow isn’t gotten over immediately. It’s harsh, unreasonable to say, “pull yourself together, woman, and get over it!” I reached a decision impulsively, out of pain and frustration, but I think it was the right one, and probably one I should have stuck with long ago.

The heart is not rational. That fact does not make the heart wrong.