The Bliss Blog


On June 12, 2016, The Pulse, a Gay club in Orlando turned from a festive setting in which people  were enjoying an evening of revelry, to a killing ground when Omar Mateen, a 29 year- old man used assault weapons against the patrons. 50 were murdered and numerous others were wounded. When tragedies like this one occur anywhere in the world, it is easy to see the victims as a group. As is always the case, these were individuals with families, friends, histories and potential futures.

At the We Are Orlando rally, organized by Sharon Fronabarger, I attended last night in the eclectic, inclusive community of New  Hope, Pennsylvania, all of their names and ages were read aloud. I could feel a palpable, goose bump inducing presence of these folks. At the time, a group of 400 some of us were standing by the Delaware River on an overcast early evening. Birds were flying above the rainbow flag that was stretched behind the stage area as their memories were evoked.

Read their names and send their loved ones left behind, your love and prayers please. group of local clergy created the container for the experience. Reverend Michael Ruk from St. Phillips Episcopal Church and Rabbi Diana Miller of Kehilat HaNahar (The Little Shul by the River) offered blessings to comfort and inspire.

This one touched me deeply:

A Franciscan Blessing

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator

Two concepts jumped out at me immediately. The first was the idea of Holy Anger. I consider myself conflict avoidant, with anger being an unfamiliar emotion. I tend to keep it under wraps, unless I am aware of injustice. That’s when I become a protective mama bear, ready to defend whatever ‘cubs’ I happen upon.

The second was the paradigm of being blessed with ‘enough foolishness’ to believe that I can make a difference. When considering why it is an essential experience for me, I say that I do things for others/with others, simply because I have the energetic resources and sometimes compulsion to do so. I take my marching orders everyday and each one carries with it an opportunity to love and love and love some more.

I came to the vigil with my friend Julie Druzak and we offered  FREE Hugs and carried signs that said such. Most people opened their arms willingly to accept the comfort that we were all needing. I noticed that all throughout the evening, I didn’t shed a tear. Not when the candles were lit one from the other. Not when the names were read. Not when witnessing others crying. Not when hugging folks. I wonder if as a bereavement counselor, I am so accustomed to holding space for the grief of others has become so natural for me, that my own stays at bay.

A few thoughts remain with me, that will call for follow up writing.The man who rampaged in Orlando is not representative of Muslims, any more than others who commit such hateful acts is representative of their religions. Islamaphobia over this tragedy will not assist in healing.

What if  the hatred this man spewed was considered a mental illness? It isn’t in the DSM-V, but it ought to be. What if the antidote is love?

Let us all stand together.



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