As I spent time in the last couple weeks of 2012, trying to maintain a balance of remembrance for the lives that had been lost in the Newtown shootings, with a sense and duty of joy that the promise of Christmas offers, I decided to make prayer flags to hang on my porch. My reasoning was that I didn't want to be in a state of constant vigil, but I also didn't want to forget. I wanted to keep these precious people in mind; if there were actions that could be taken to prevent such happenings, I wanted to be mindful and responsive.
In some of the news reports, I read that there were at least twelve somewhat similar events of killings in the US in 2012. So I looked those up. And then there were natural disasters throughout the world, where hundreds of lives had been lost. And I decided to mark those, too, though I couldn't use individual names, of course.
Amy McTear that was a beautiful way to release pain and sadness and embrace the blessings of the new year. Early in the concert she chanted a Yoruba grief prayer: "Mother, hold me. This is hard.
Earth, hold me. This is hard.
It was simple and powerful, reminding me of the cry of all who have lost loved ones to violence, illness, anything that feels like unbearable sorrow. Using this prayer interspersed with the names of people or events felt right.
As I've explained this project to friends, I've tried to justify it in my own mind. Making the flags, looking up the names, reading obituaries or news reports of the cyclones, hurricanes, etc. has deepened my sense of compassion, in all these situations. I find I'm more sensitive to reading the daily weather reports, paying attention to not only what goes on locally, but also, thinking of those who live under threat in different parts of the world. As I come and go from my house, I think about the people represented, their families; sometimes it is just to consider a more general group, sometimes I take time to read a few names. The flags increase my appreciation for children on their way to school, people driving to work, folks heading out to see a movie. And hopefully the cheerful colors recall the brightness of the lives that were cut short; reminding me to appreciate more fully the lives of those in my communities.