On a makeshift altar in the corner of my kitchen, seven taper candles stand, etched with seven names: Ahrens, Castile, Krol, Smith, Sterling, Thompson, and Zamarripa. The base of each is wreathed in deep red flowers, symbolic of the blood shed. I will visit that altar every hour today to pray that these seven souls cross peacefully to a place where there is no memory of these acts of violence.
For the living, my prayers are very different today. I pray that we never forget the senselessness of these seven deaths, that we find a way to come together, to understand and value each other as fellow human beings. I pray that when faced with yet another example of the worst in people, we can reach out, not with guns drawn or fists clenched, but with open hands and hearts to each other. I pray that we never forget that each of us has the potential for actions both heroic and horrific and that we find within ourselves the wisdom to choose the former if we face circumstances in which we must decide between the two.
I don’t have answers for the problems that face us. Like some many others, I have watched with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness as the events of this week have unfolded. I seek refuge in prayer and ritual, solace in the job that I know too well – tending to the dead and their memory. All the while my mind has been on the living – the survivors, the families, and the friends who are mourning these terrible losses.
There are those who would let these deaths further divide us. There are people who will use these deaths as an excuse to perpetuate further violence. I will not be moved to hatred. I will not be moved to violence. I will stand today in silence and prayer with a heart filled with love and compassion. Today, I will remember.