Saturday, April 19, 2014

Keeping Vigil

If you have been driving--at least around Oklahoma--you will see at least one roadside memorial which has spontaneously sprung up in memory of someone who died in a vehicular accident at that point in the road.  Families and friends, bring flowers and memorabilia to the site to remember their loved one and to keep the memory alive.  Some families may even put up signs that say "drive carefully in memory of ____________" as a way of reminding others of the danger in that portion of the road.  It is a practice that has mixed responses and some feel these impromptu shrines should be removed. This, however, is not an uncommon practice in human history.  Many cultures have set up shrines and memorials of various varieties in memory of loved ones and as a way of keeping vigil.

Immediately following the bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, a fence was erected to keep out those who might be curious to keep them from getting hurt, and to keep the crime scene from being tainted. Following the placement of this fence, people began flocking to Oklahoma City to see the destruction and leave flowers, mementos, and messages of hope at the fence.  Children came with parents and left teddy bears and toys.  Parents, who hugged their children a little tighter, left words of sympathy and prayers for peace for the parents who lost their children in the daycare.  For several months following the bombing people came from all over the world to bring a token (something to show their love and support) to the fence and left it there.  These items have been faithfully gathered up and preserved in the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.

Today, the 19th anniversary of the bombing, falls on Holy Saturday-the time between the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I wonder what kind of things would have been left at such a memorial for Jesus.  Perhaps a cup and plate?  Maybe coins or possibly figs?  What kind of words would have been spoken?  Who would have come to keep vigil?

Yesterday, we remembered the death of Christ.  Tomorrow we celebrate the resurrection.  Today we wait.  I am aware of the waiting that is being done by the loved ones of the bombing victims and all who have lost someone they hold dear.  They have mourned the loss of loved ones.  Through the hope we have in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we can celebrate with them again.  Right now we wait.  This is why we remember.  This is why we spend time in grief and holding on to memories.

I always spend some time between 9 am and 9:30 am on April 19th each year remembering the day that time seemed to stop.  The unthinkable had occurred just a few blocks from me.  A bomb in the heart of Oklahoma City--where it seemed so safe.  Days after the bombing I drove through Oklahoma City on a different route than I used to take.  Streets were blocked off, there were armored vehicles everywhere, a makeshift morgue was set up.  It reminded me that there were those in other places--in Bosnia and Kosovo, in Korea, in Europe, in Soviet states, in the West Bank, Gaza, and the Middle East, in Southeast Asia, in Palestine--those who had to live with a military presence because their lives were disrupted by explosions, war and violence.

For 19 years I have been remembering, because I was there that day.  No, I did not lose someone close to me, but because that was the day I truly realized how much suffering was in the world.  I realized violence before this, but that was when suffering was made known to me.  So for 19 years I remember not just those lost on April 19th in Oklahoma City, but all human suffering around the world.  People who were killed needlessly in violence, those who grieve for them, the anger and resentment that naturally comes from profound loss, and all who stand aside and watch from the outside looking in.  Just like in Palestine on that eventful day so long ago when those who followed a radical teacher watched the whole of human suffering in one moment on a cross.

May you remember this Easter Vigil human suffering in all times and in all places, and may it so profoundly shape you that you pray--not only for yourself, not just for those who were lost or who lost someone, but for everyone. Amen.

We remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those whose lives were changed forever.  Mission of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

No comments: