To the Editor: Sadness into joy

To the Editor:

I have just passed the 20th anniversary of my son Mark Woolman Horner’s death by gunshot wounds. He was shot in the doorway to his home by an unknown assailant who packed two guns. One shot was a glancing blow. Either one of the other two shots was lethal according to the pathologist.

I loved my child, who at 25 was well on his way toward his dream of becoming a first-rate trombone player. He was an easy child to raise, and he had love to spare. He was planning to come home for Christmas when he was killed. His sudden and tragic death was traumatic.

Bereavement never ends entirely, but the pain becomes less acute and disorienting.

Now every time I hear of deaths by massacre, war, sudden accidents, suicides and any violent death, I want to reach out to the families and friends, tell a tale of connection, mystery, and ongoing love that accompany the deep longing, rage, and explosive shock and expansive loss.

These surprising and sustaining “Mark moments,” rituals, and natural events can turn sadness to joy on a dime. They influence my belief in the closeness of the spiritual world. They give me hope. Life is full, yet sadness is an expected sojourner with me, but it does not define me.

A candle in a lantern has burned steadily through sleet, snow and rain since Dec. 14 in a little memorial garden. This light is a kind of presence that makes me smile each time I look out and see how much it lights the darkness.

People who have lost children have an inside track to amazing occurrences and mysteries. Don’t be afraid to go near them. Their loss is not contagious. Ask them about their children. Remember to mention their names with interest and curiosity. Their stories may bring you the best joy of Christmas and hope for the New Year.

This is a time of year when angels sing in the heavens. Suspend disbelief and listen for their song of great joy.

Carol Woolman

Bar Harbor

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