Monday, October 6, 2008

There is going to be a lot of blue in this house

Human life being what it is, we all go through spells when we know we'll look back and wonder how we got through it. I'm going through one of those spells, doing my best to stay connected to a best friend who is yet to return to work or much of his everyday life in the wake of the hideous news that his first child, a 20-year-old traveler activist girl, was raped and murdered outside of Oaxaca, Mexico.

I have seen him every day since he heard the news, starting on the day he heard the news, and sat with him through unbelievably painful gathering of data and formation of strategies. The fact that, this entire time, the front of my face feels sawed off by oral surgery has given me an additional fulcrum on which to help balance more pain than anyone should ever be asked to manage.

We were together again yesterday, both of our families - his other daughter is best friends with my girl, and the wives also enjoy one another's company, which is what enables the overcommitted fathers to develop an intimate confidence. The older one grows into adulthood, the more context defines what is possible for you.

Yesterday, the project, in terms of the tragedy, was to discuss a memorial ceremony with a missionary friend. Missionaries being, by vocation, self-sacrificing people (when they are the real deal, that is), Steve spent most of the day rescuing his son from a highway breakdown rather than consulting on the memorial (scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 10 in the May Center at SSM DePaul). So the tragedy was set aside, as much as it is possible to set it aside, and it was an occasion to visit with dear friends and watch two girls who remain very much alive enjoy a glorious day in their childhoods.

I can't speak of anything good coming of what was done to John's daughter Sali, but I have seen its impact on his role as father of Claire. I have only known him to be a loving and committed father, but I have never known him to take two weeks off work and play with her every day. That is typically not a luxury for a busy executive and breadwinner. But tragedy has shocked him away from working - and given him many things to sort out in southern Mexico - and he is filling up that extra time in his life with his daughter who remains alive.

It has been a beautiful exchange to witness every day. This sketch depicts father and daughter working together to tape the windows of a door before painting it. I sketched it on day two of our lives mindful of the tragedy (an hour or so after having part of my face sawed off by an oral surgeon). It struck me at the time how very poignant and pregnant were Claire's words: "There is going to be a lot of blue in this house."

There is going to be a lot of blue in both of our houses for a long time.

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