Response to Las Vegas.. "Jennifer's Gifts"

Here's my response to Las Vegas...

“Jennifer’s Gifts”

Here we are, enjoying life as human beings, living in a spiritual universe, and events like the shooting in Las Vegas hit us like a bomb. WHAM!

Now what?!?

This is the exact reason we have spiritual practices to bring us back onto the middle of the balance beam. Spiritual practices keep us centered so we can think clearly, even though we may be filled inside with feelings of turmoil, distress, despair and even powerlessness about the events around us.

Questions fill our minds:

“What could I have done?” or

“What can I do now?” or

“What if it were me, or a loved-one of mine?”

Maybe it was.

Now what?

Thirty years ago, I found myself asking similar questions, while standing on the front porch of a small house in Las Cruces, NM, responding to a request for Hospice Chaplain support. I had volunteered with a local Hospice agency a month before and had a whopping four months under my belt as a newly licensed pulpit minister in the community. That morning, I found that I didn’t know anything, even though I had a good education and quality training.

The fact remains: Reality is often very different than theory.

In the household was a nine-month old baby girl (Jennifer, who had leukemia and less than a month to live), her mother and Jennifer’s grandmother.

As I knocked, my head filled with, “I’m in over my head. I don’t have a clue what to say to these people, much less what to do in offering caring support.”

Everything I read in Paul Gorman’s “How Can I Help” and Stephen Levine’s “Who Dies”? vaporized from my brain. Every class discussion vanished. I was left with nothing but worry and an overpowering question, which grew in weight with every nanosecond: “What am I going to say to these people?”

As my knuckles rapped the third knock, through my mind and body I heard, “Even though I don’t think I know, there’s Something inside me that does, so I let It bubble up into my conscious mind.” In that eternal moment, I stood frozen and astonished at the veracity of the affirmation; then the door opened, and I introduced myself. It was difficult to walk and digest the information simultaneously, so I virtually staggered into the house.

The meeting was nothing short of miraculous. Soon after sitting, I asked if I could hold Baby Jennifer, mostly out of wanting something to do, since I still didn’t get the reality of what I had heard on the porch: That within me Something knew what to say. As I held her and looked at her face, she opened her eyes, and I couldn’t help but to fall into the depths of those pure and innocent brown eyes. Again, I heard something, but it was a different voice. It said, “Ask them what gifts they got from her.” So I asked.

Almost immediately, Baby Jennifer’s grandmother answered first: “Well, she brought our family back together. You see, her grandfather and I are divorced, and her mom and dad are separated. Her being sick has brought us together, to be there for each other.”

Then the bombshell.

Her mom said, “She gave me an appreciation for life. I found out I was pregnant with her while I was in the emergency room after trying to commit suicide, when her father initiated our divorce.”

Tears welled up all around, and I looked back at Jennifer. She smiled briefly and closed her eyes.

The meeting ended in tears of joy and appreciation for our realizations about the gifts Baby Jennifer had given to each of us. Even to me, a total stranger.

I received my first gift while knocking on the door to her house. It was the affirmation I heard before I even met her. I accepted another gift when I listened and asked the question of her mom and grandmother. It, too, remains with me still.

From the moment I heard the affirmation on the porch, and even until today, it continues to ripple through me during times of absolute confusion, loss and overwhelm.

It was there, when I stood watching my TV, as the plane flew into the second tower in NYC. And more recently, it was there when Hurricanes Harvey and Maria swept through the Caribbean and Florida, and there it was, as I heard the news about the shooting in Las Vegas. Still, it ripples through me.

And these are the real value in Jennifer’s gifts:

- They are timeless. The affirmation works everywhere, and every time I think I don’t know, or that I’m not up to doing something, it comes forward for me to remember. The circumstances don’t matter.

- Their impact is local and global: They affect me and you, as I write about this experience, and as you read about it.

- They give any of us who faces a tragedy, what we need to know in order to face the situation head-on. Instead of hiding behind pain and avoidance, whether we find ourselves directly in the event’s path, or as we watch it on the news, whether it’s personal or somewhere else in the world, we can step forward as The Something inside of each of us that knows what to think, say and do.

Soon after that day with Jennifer, another statement came to me: “Even though I don’t think I can, there’s Something inside of me that can, so I let that bubble up through every cell of my body, and I do it.” This is when True Action comes into the world.

To paraphrase a great teacher: “Tragedy will be with us always.” Stuff happens, and it will continue to happen. Life continues, and there’s always something we can contribute to life by thinking and acting FROM Inner Wisdom; FROM That Which Knows and has to power to act accordingly.

What does your inner voice say to you about the Las Vegas shooting?

If you think and feel that donating blood will help, find out if they still need it and go someplace where it can be taken, and have them send it to the hospitals in Las Vegas. At this time, there is a real need.

If you think and feel there is something else you would like to do, then do that. You have the intelligence, and you are not powerless.

I end this too long article, even as I began it: “Here we are, enjoying life as human beings living in a spiritual universe…”, and stuff happens.

“WHAM! Now what?!?!”

Spend a moment and go within. Find and listen to your Inner Wisdom. Find and resource your Inner Power.

And then go to work.

Instead of only reacting, look within and respond.

Instead of attacking and dividing, invite the positive and supportive.

Give your gifts to the world, even as Baby Jennifer continues to give hers to all of us through this missive.

BestBlessings, Donald C Graves

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