Friday, August 5, 2016

A Strange Presidential Election of Grief and Consolation

What a strange election this is. For me it has become an election about dead children and how we handle grief.
 Last night I dreamed I was alone, lost and so old I couldn't remember where I was supposed to meet my psycho-therapist (I don't actually have one). I couldn't even remember her name. It was dark in the big city and I was lost and alone in the dangerous streets. It was terrifying. And then I came across a little group of women and children seated on the wide sidewalk, weeping and mourning. The matriarch was a beautiful woman who looked like the Madonna and wore the cape-like head covering that falls almost to the ground, just like in the pictures of Mary. (I've forgotten what such garments are called.) They were Muslim people. I felt so sorry for their grief that I forgot my own fears and abandonment and sat down next to the matriarch, and I hugged and comforted her. 

Then I told her the story the priest told at the funeral Mass for my sixteen-year-old son twenty-eight years ago. It was a story of a woman who came to the Buddha for comfort from the pain of her child having died. 

"How can I escape this terrible pain?", she asked. And the Buddha said, "You must go out into the world and find someone who has no pain." She traveled far for years and then came back to the Buddha and said,"I never found someone who was not carrying pain. But as I went I began to console others and my pain went away."
In the dream as I told the story I was starting to feel better, letting go of my fear of being so old and lost. Suddenly my therapist came bustling up, all apologies for being late, but I didn't care about that any more. I wanted to keep consoling the desolate woman and her group.
I awoke realizing that this dream was the gift of Ghazala and Khizr Khan. Their story and comments on TV had brought back the time of my son's death and the Buddha story which had become my mantra for life since his death. In a marvelous way they were comforting me, an old lady who has to stave off the natural fears aging brings, especially the one of being lost mentally. I have to admit I forget things now. Like the name of that actor in Field of Dreams and Dancing with Wolves, the one my kids all hate. And now my sister has fallen, poor gal, and broken her hip. That happened to my mom too not long before she died. Is my baby sister on her way out?

So it's easy to get wrapped up in fears for others and fears for our own future. It's ironic because I actually feel very secure here in my little house in Central Pennsylvania. Nevertheless I guess some part of me found the recent cross-country move pretty daunting. Change is change, and I guess it's harder when you're eighty. But I'm okay now because of the Khans. I am certainly not lost nor alone in a dark place.  I have rediscovered the secret to handling loss, pain, fear, aging. Just console others.

As a nation we are also no longer in a dark place. The Khans seem to have marked a turning point. Trump is sinking in the polls very sharply, taking with him — we can hope! — all the hate and fear he was sowing.
The Khans' attack on Trump was a form of the Buddha story. They  reached beyond their personal grief to help others, in this case by speaking the truth bravely. They showed such great humanity that Trump was shown to be the stunted thing he is.They may have turned a possible win by him to a loss. Maybe they have even shamed the GOP leaders into doing what they should have already done: denouncing Trump and withdrawing support from him. The longer the GOP leaders don't, the smaller they look. By contrast, the Khans have reached beyond their grief to save us all from the dark, desolate, frightening streets of Donald Trump. They stand tall.


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