Reflections on Hope: And lockets for families in Uvalde

Tomorrow is my friend Adam's 41st birthday, but he died on February 18th, the same day one of my nephew's turned 9. After his second funeral I sat alone in a crowd at my son's wrestling match with chaotic youth-sports noise all around me feeling like I, too, had entered a different dimension, feeling fundamentally changed as I tried to wrap my head around the grand finale of death. He's never gonna see his kids do activities like this again? His life was taken from him by gun violence. It was taken from his wife and their kids, too. From his parents and sister. From so many people.

By the next morning the muscles in my lower back stiffened tightly. This is what my body does when my nervous system thinks it needs to protect me from my feelings. I keep trying to untangle the mess in my hips, trying to pinpoint an emotion I can sit with, but it's so masked by disbelief that I can't quite touch anything precise.

I spoke to my retired neighbor, Dave, over the backyard fence last week and he mentioned, again, that “the world is going to hell in a hand-basket." Usually I shrug when he says this, but this time I surprised myself when I told him I disagreed despite seeing the aftermath of a wonderful man (three of them actually) snatched away from his world. I asked Dave what future our kids have if we surrender to hopelessness? Dave shrugged. 

My artist-friend Angie approached me a couple months ago about making lockets for the parents and children of the victims of the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting at Robb Elementary in May 2022 where 21 people were killed. Last year she brought prayer alters to the families on the one year anniversary of the massacre, and this year she wants to gift them lockets. She had the idea of sponsoring each one, so we built the concept and people almost immediately started stepping up – in fact, as of this writing, more than half are sponsored. These are an offering to the families as the smallest salve on their pain, the tiniest showing of humanity after so many lives brushed up against such darkness, and the swift action strangers have taken to show love to people who are hurting gives me hope.

Since February 18th I feel like I've been shoved off a platform and into a bowl of soup. It's messy in here, and I'd like to leave and go back to my sturdy platform with my old world views and a safe distance from the consequences of violence. But grief doesn't work like that, does it.

So instead I find myself thinking about how Adam Finseth lived, how I can love his family right now, and how his instinctual courage is a new mile-marker of inspiration for me. Knowing extraordinarily good people still exist gives me great hope.