The Best & Worst Of Times
- John Brodey
We cried last night. We came together as a group to our dear friend Laurie’s house. On the way we stopped by the lot of her former home in Fountaingrove which burned to the ground on October 8th. A new structure is starting to rise in its’ place and she may be able to move into her new/old house by the first of the year. Her rental is starting to fill with items that will ultimately replace some of what she lost. Practical things, necessities but there is a distinct lack of truly meaningful personal possessions. It was a strange feeling and as we approach the first anniversary of the fires it is obvious that some anniversaries don’t call for celebration. They are a permanent part of our lives, but they are a mixed blessing at best. To say the memories we share are imbedded deep within us is an understatement. We tend to reduce these tragedies to quantifiable numbers and categories. They give it a face and a context. Things we can look at to confirm its’ importance in our minds.
Ironically, our Sunday night gathering was preceded the previous Friday morning by a very moving presentation by Diana Klein at the VOM
Rotary breakfast meeting. She has been the Sonoma County Regional Director of Jewish Family Child Services since 1997. She has been a teacher, therapist and advocate for mental health support services throughout her professional life. The JFCS was at the forefront of the rush to provide grief counseling, a food pantry, meals and even a kid’s camp. They have joined together with Catholic Charities and other service organizations to care for those in need. She spoke movingly about the toll such trauma takes upon those who lived through something inconceivable.
There was a truly amazing short film that really captured the essence of what she was talking about. One segment featured a young father who came to the JFCS the first week. He appeared purposeful and although he hid it well she could see he was overwhelmed. He surveyed the scene and was invited to start filling bags with food for his family which he did with determination. As he was interviewed for the film later on, he shared another part of the experience. He said: “Diana asked him to come into her office. Once there she asked me, how are you doing? He replied I’m okay. And she answered back, no you’re not.” The minute he got to this part of
the story, he burst into tears. The memory of that moment, when someone took him from survival mode and cared enough to let him acknowledge his pain, fear and sadness reminds us that this part is critical to our recovery as a community. The effects of trauma may be hidden for years and even decades. Homes and businesses will be rebuilt but our real challenge is to heal ourselves and each other. Let’s never forget to cry.