Monday, June 29, 2009

Angie Miller Warnock - Gone Too Soon

I want to deviate from politics today to post something personal.

I have been struggling with the death of my Ben Davis High School classmate, Angie Miller. When I tell people this, they assume we were really close. Truthfully, we haven't been since high school. Even back then we didn't "hang out," though we spoke almost every day.

I was surprised by the funk in which I found myself of late. I assumed it was because Angie was just so amazingly personable and upbeat. I cannot recall a single moment when she was ever negative. How could one not feel loss for both self and for everyone Angie touched? (I was delighted to hear friends and family say her core personality from high school to her last day stayed exactly the same).

But there was more. I was bothered by how many "tourists" this tragedy created. Angie's death was the loss of a mother, daughter, friend, and much more. But people used it to marshall support for their advocacy. We all need guns, so protect the 2nd amendment! Protective orders are pointless because law enforcement doesn't take them seriously! We need more drug treatment! Drug treatment doesn't work! The death penalty is good! Constitutional rights for criminals are stupid! The divorce process makes people snap! Lawyers always make things worse!

All, some, or none of these things can be true. But I wasn't ready to hear any of it. I couldn't fathom Angie's life being limited to a rallying point. I wanted to denounce those who speculated on what they didn't know or tried to capitalize on a tragedy for their own gain. I realized quickly I had to shelf my judgment. We have limited capacity to contain our outrage after a horrific tragedy. It flows like a firehose into a Dixie cup and emotionally drenches everybody and everything remotely connected.

Quite simply, all of our scientific advances can't help us process grief and loss. We are left trying to make sense of the senseless through the lense of our own life experiences, perceptions, and identities. All of our human advances in reasoning, philosophy, and theology can't answer some unescapable questions.

How can someone of resounding faith fall to something so diabolical?

One of Angie's last Facebook posts was an e-tattoo of the Virgin Mary that read: "Our Holy Mother watching out for each of us!"

Where was Our Holy Mother when she was needed most?

I can't shake the notion that it is our inability to answer these questions in a meaningful way that compels us to find something...anything...that we can say or do to make peace with the heinous parts of our world.

I know I, too, am a tourist because I am writing this. But I feel duty-bound to speak to those who were not able to attend Angie's memorial service and reception.

First, you need to know that Angie’s daughters have her strength, and their family support is amazing. Though the girls' profound loss will have an incalculable effect on them, they showed encouraging resiliency that could only be the byproduct of an abundance of family love and support.

Second, Father Dan, the priest who delivered the homily at St. Malachy, said it best when he admitted that he had no answers. However, he also said that Angie would have found comfort in finding us together, praying, for those answers. Father Dan would have conceded, I suspect, that even when we pray collectively, we find our answers individually. The key is often not the heavenly reply. It is the process of seeking and acting together. Hearing Father Dan's words, how can I criticize how others find their own meaning? Maybe the best we can hope for is that all our tourism ultimately takes a constructive form. If it is inevitable, maybe we can all play "guide" for each other.

When tragedy strikes elected officials, their successors always say something like, "We will carry on his/her legacy." When professional athletes lose a loved one, they often say they are "playing for" that person.

When you have someone as extraordinarily nice as Angie Miller Warnock, maybe that’s the best type of “tourism” - embracing her legacy of kindness and optimism by "playing" for her in our daily lives.

Angie’s father stated at the reception that Angie concluded her voice mail with “Have a wonderful day.” Such a simple phrase said not nearly enough. But Angie's friends (which we should define as anyone she met) knew she didn't just wish it, she took action to make it happen for people.

Frequently, it feels like we are becoming more divided, and the harder our struggles become, the angrier we get. It feels like many Americans have a sense of overwhelm. So why not counter this by consistently showing the best side of ourselves? At some point today, take a page from Angie Miller's book by not only saying, "Have a wonderful day," but also, by making it so for somebody. At some point today, tell friends or family you love them because you cannot take for granted an opportunity to do so later.

What better homage could we pay to a spirit gone too soon?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are so correct and it is so easy to do but somehow we just dont let people know we care or appreciate them. I would like to try to do this every day for one person but realistically I know that in a couple of days, I will be too busy and just overlook it.