A friend of ours was at the Clackamas Town Center Mall yesterday when a gunman opened fire on the holiday shoppers, killing two people and then taking his own life.

She and her family are all safe and sound today and a near tragedy was averted because of a simple decision to shop at JC Penney’s instead of Macy’s.

But three families are not all together and not sound today.

And it makes my heart hurt for them.

There is no sin in choosing to shop at one store versus another, why were some families protected and others not?  We so often hear the inspiring stories of those saved from tragedy or trial by listening to that inner voice of the Spirit, that we sometimes associate that with living a more righteous life.

But is that really true?

My Dad told me once “I don’t think God sits in Heaven and arbitrarily looks down at the Earth and says ‘Hmm, let’s see who is going to be happy and who is going to suffer today.’  He doesn’t push buttons and pass out trials and blessings like getting a soda from an unmarked, mystery vending machine.  Our Heavenly Father wants nothing but to bless us.  Sometimes we just don’t recognize the events in our lives as blessings because they hurt.”

He would know.  He’s been through a lot of hurt.

But when pain is so fresh and loss is so new it is impossible to sit back and say “Oh look, here’s a blessing!”  Sometimes miracles are heavy and hard to hold, sometimes they leave you questioning God  “Are you sure this is what you wanted for me?”

And that is where the love of family and friendship steps in.

Years and years ago I was discussing the death of a common acquaintance with a family member and he said “Why do you care so much?  You don’t even know her that well.”

It’s true, I didn’t.  But I knew her well enough to care about her, to be sorry that she was gone.  And I had just read a scripture that I’ll share here from Doctrine and Covenants section 42 verse 45…

“Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.”

It is a good thing to love one another enough that we are sad when we lose a friend to death.  We do have hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it does not take away the pain of mortal separation.

The love evidenced by friends and family when we struggle, when we suffer, when we mourn is the balm that eases our wounds and keeps us going.

When we are stretched to our limits, when we are pushed past the point where we thought we could never make it; friendship reaches out like a gentle stroke of kindness on a straining muscle, or a cool hand on a fevered brow.

Sometimes friendship is just enough to keep us going.

And it is a good thing to love people enough that we are sorry when those we don’t know lose their own life or a loved one.   It is good to weep for those that are lost, for those that are left, and for those that suffer because of it.

Perhaps if we were all willing “live together in love” and to bear the burden of one another’s sorrows we would find our own just a little bit easier to carry.

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