I wrote this shortly after the shooting of July 27, 2008 at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church. Our family was supposed to be there that morning, but we only made it after the first cop arrived at the scene.
Things I Didn’t Mention
There were things I did not talk about back then, which were important factors in this story. Some I didn’t mention because things were too tender, others because I wasn’t ready to reveal certain aspects of myself.
The first thing, which no one but my husband and me have known since then, it that the previous Friday we had a horrible fight, and I spent all Saturday without talking to him. I can count in the fingers of one hand the times in our marriage of 18 years when we haven’t talked to each other a whole day. This was one of them. That morning I was still not talking to him, but during breakfast I made an internal shift and started communicating with him again, hence the question of whether he wanted to come to the church with us.
My plan was to get up that morning, feed the boys a quick breakfast, and then leave to the church without my husband. My plan was thwarted by his decision to get up earlier and make us a nice breakfast.
The second thing that only a handful of people know, is that I had been beating myself up about not registering my oldest child, then 5, for the musical theater workshop. I knew he wanted to be in it, but I had not done it for purely selfish reasons: I did not feel like driving back and forth for rehearsals. I didn’t feel like having to entertain my youngest son, then 2, by myself at church while I waited for the workshop sessions to end. Because of this guilt, I had promised myself that I would take the children to see the show and that we would be there early. I also promised myself that the next year I would register them for the musical theater. (Of course, there was no musical theater workshop the next three years.) If we had been early, as I had planned, the boys and I probably would have been sitting in the line of fire, because that was my favorite side to sit on.
The third thing, which very few people know, is that I didn’t just have the thought that staying together as a family was more important than being on time — I actually heard a soundless, gentle voice inside my head say exactly that: “It is more important to stay together as a family than it is to be on time.” I had “heard” this gentle voice before and always had very good results when I listened to it: it once woke me up to suggest that I register at the school of architecture, which I did. This voice once told me to get off a bus (even though I was only halfway to my destination) and walk to the school of architecture “to check things out.” When I got there, I found I was about to miss an important deadline for my graduate thesis. This is also the voice that told me one summer morning in Mississippi: “write a book on Feng Shui.”
I believe this voice came from the collective made up of my guides and angels, my own high self and my own personal connection to God — which I call my Magnificent Spiritual High Crew.
I hadn’t shared this before because I feared that my Unitarian Universalist friends would think less of me or take me less seriously if they knew that I believe in guides and angels and that I listen to their advice.
Here is what I wrote at the time:
Last Sunday morning my husband made banana pancakes for breakfast. I was sitting there admiring the eating capacity of our two boys, 5 and 2, and how my husband has been increasing the quantities in his recipe over the months to satisfy their morning hunger and still have some to carry in their lunch box to go to church. After breakfast I got the kids and myself ready to go.
Then I saw my husband walk to the bathroom saying he was going to shower. We were already running a little bit late and I was surprised to see he wasn’t ready and hadn’t even showered yet. He said, “Why don’t you go ahead with the boys and I’ll meet you there later.” I agreed, but when I got to the kitchen to fetch their lunch box with the pancakes I changed my mind, and decided that it was more important for us to be together as a family on a Sunday morning than to be on time. I could as easily have left, annoyed at my husband’s tardiness on such a special day as this. You see, I had promised my kids that I would take them to see the play “Annie Jr.” that the children of our church had put together during summer camp.
That morning I listened to the voice of love, instead of to the voice of annoyance and I will forever be grateful for it.
We got to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church in Knoxville, TN at 10:21, right after the first police car arrived. In fact, the police car passed us on Kingston Pike and I felt the first pang of fear when I saw him turn on the driveway to our church. The second pang came when we saw the officer get out of the car with what looked like a sniper’s rifle. Then a couple of young women told us there had been a shooting and while I was trying to convince myself this was probably a quarrel or a burglary, they shouted “people have been shot, you have to leave!”
At that time they didn’t know that the perpetrator had been submitted and disarmed by members of the congregation.
Now that the initial shock is over, I am once again reminded that there are many things in life that I cannot control, some over which I don’t even have a say, but there are also many things in my life in which I can make a difference. One of these is my home, what I put in it and how I take care of it. The care of my home cannot be separated from the care of my family. At times like these it is even more important that I create a tranquil and loving atmosphere in our home. We have many friends that were touched by this tragedy in a variety of degrees. It is important that we stay loving and centered ourselves so that we can provide support and comfort where needed. This applies to us adults as well as to our children.
- Work to make your home into an embrace of love.
- Let go of things that you don’t use, don’t like, don’t love, and those things that are reminders of bad times.
- Make sure all the living beings in your home, people, pets and plants are thriving.
- Fix what can be fixed, hire help for what you cannot do yourself.
- Make a plan, budget your time and your resources.
- Make sure to leave some time every day to recharge your batteries, to do something that nourishes you and that you enjoy.
These are the basics of a happy home. And when you need to choose between the voice of love or the voice of fear, anger or annoyance, always choose the voice of love. May you be blessed by Feng Shui!