In the Aftermath of Haiti

I’m suspending the weight loss email this week to followers of that blog. It is not that I binged, but rather that it feels to me this week that battling an over abundance of food is particularly self indulgent in a world that has so many starving and desperate people in it tonight.

The world goes on, of course, and I will too, next week, by e-mail to with those who are following my plan to lose weight. But I need an emotional breather and some distance from it this week.

Tonight my mind is more focused on a simple truth: Life is so precious.

Family is everything, and for most of us, a respectful funeral service to acknowledge the death of a loved one is taken for granted. The sight of mass graves again in the world … it is a special sorrow that brings to mind so many past and ongoing conflicts and disasters, alongside the incredible horror stories of bulldozer burials coming out of this disaster. Luckily, for others, a catastrophe calls their spirit to action, to give aid and rebuild. But tonight, it just makes me sorrowful, sad and tired.

Here, at home, we grieve, statewide, for every fallen native soldier, for every victim of a car accident. We feel a collective loss at the death of one of our members when it comes unexpected. We cannot truly imagine what 150,000-plus losses would feel like if the victims were our countrymen and women. Our family.

Life is so precious. We can deny it and walk away from it, and abuse our lives and our bodies and minds and our journeys, but eventually we learn the lesson: Life is so precious.

Every life.

I am unusually saddened tonight. I cannot get my head around Haiti — the scale of death — though usually I cope with physical mortality fairly well, being a trained grief counselor. In a former life, I was the crisis interventionist for a suburban Milwaukee police department. In that role, I did the death notifications for all shifts, on call to deal with death 24 hours a day, holidays included, for more than six years. Responding to a death call involved taking people to see their loved one’s bodies, and we offered counseling services through my office at the department, post-death, through the funeral, and into the future.

I’ve held dead children and helped clean up after suicides. I think I’ve seen it all, on a small scale, from murder to suicide to car crashes. I’ve seen bodies that have lain too long before discovery, and I’ve cradled little souls who entered this world and too quickly left. So I am no stranger to catastrophic events or the sight of fresh earth dug for a grave.

But still, I cannot get my mind around the great sucking hole of grief called Haiti.

Out of all of this, we are called, I think, to live our lives in appreciation for the gift it is. If you’ve got marriage problems, read Don Ferguson’s Reptiles in Love and work on it, or get professional help. If you’re overweight, join Weight Watchers or find the moxie to stick to a reasonable diet and exercise plan. If you’re depressed, make a friend, adopt an animal, or discover what it really is that you need and lack, in the relative safety of a therapeutic setting.

If you can’t afford professional counseling help, reach out to a pastor, a priest, a rabbi — whoever — a friend by calling if not by fact, for they are professionals, too. Recognize and deal with what is in your control to change, and acknowledge and accept what is not.

That’s my advice, though you didn’t ask for it. But I feel compelled to say it just the same, and to add this: In the Land of Abundance and The Over-Indulged (and I count myself in that population), there is little we cannot do to make this world a better place and to come to the assistance of countries worldwide, if we can just zoom out and see our situations for what they are — an opportunity to learn and to bring love and value into the world. And I’d offer one more little morsel tonight: If everything in your life feels like it is comparatively safe and sane, please get down on your knees beside me tonight and say a prayer of gratitude for this day, and then find a way to be glad in it…

…at the same time you find a way to grieve with the world in respect and remembrance for all the souls lost in Haiti.

Sign up for the free IB Update — your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices and the names you need to know. Click here.