For weeks, the news had been filled with stories of death and devastation, hurricanes in Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico, and earthquakes in Mexico.
I was hungry for a taste of good news. So on Sunday, Oct. 1, I phoned my brother in South Carolina, to hear him brag about Clemson’s latest victory.
Joe is totally blind and totally devoted to Clemson football. He told me all about Clemson’s win the previous day over Virginia Tech, how well they’d played and how proud he was of them.
He’d have said all that even if they lost, but he’s a bit more enthusiastic after a win.
I congratulated him and promised to call again soon.
Five minutes later, he called back and left a message:
“Sister, I forgot to tell you, we had a drive-by shooting here recently. I was sitting in my kitchen when I heard the shots – Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Bam! Thank the Lord nobody was hurt and I wasn’t out on my porch. There’s a lot of mean people in the world and it just keeps getting meaner. I love you. Talk to you later.”
I called him back and left a message to say there are also a lot of good people in the world – far more good than bad – but it might be best if he didn’t sit out on his porch for a while.
That evening, my husband and I turned on the TV to watch the premiere of “Ten Days in the Valley.” The cast included my favorite actor, who’s also my son, and I didn’t want to miss it. But it was interrupted by a news bulletin, the kind that makes you hold your breath and pray.
That’s how we learned about the mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, 15 miles from our home. One person opened fire on a festival crowd of 22,000, killing 59 people, and injuring more than 500 others.
We watched the coverage, the stories of horror and heroism; ordinary people who risked their lives to help strangers or shield bodies of loved ones with their own; and police officers who came pouring in to try to stop the carnage.
Those stories continued in days to come, a steady stream of information and repetition that clutched at our hearts and haunted our dreams, but could not answer the one question we all kept asking: Why?
Three days after the massacre, my husband and I packed up the car and drove 500 miles to our former home on the coast of California. We needed to see our children and grandchildren.
Saturday was the day for Pacific Grove’s Butterfly Parade, an annual event when the town’s children dress in costumes and parade through the streets to welcome back thousands of migrating monarch butterflies.
My three children all marched in those parades over the years. This time, it was my grandson Randy’s turn. Randy is 7. He has red curls, hazel eyes and a smile that is minus a few front teeth.
I stood on the curb with throngs of other grandparents and parents, all cheering and waving and snapping photos as the children paraded by.
The kindergarteners, as always, were the monarchs with orange and black wings. Other classes were sea otters, crabs, jellyfish and other fancy stuff.
Randy and his classmates were flowers, a garden in full bloom. When he spotted me, he jumped up and down, shouting “Nana!” and nearly lost his petals.
It was worth driving 500 miles just for that. And to feel my eyes fill with tears at the glorious sight of police cars decorated with butterfly wings. And to look into faces much like mine that were weary of bad news and glad for a reason to smile.
I wish you could’ve seen us.
Sometimes, when the news is a bit too much to bear, it helps to spend time with people you love and remember what is easily forgotten: The world is a good place with a lot of good people – far more good than bad.
I can’t wait to tell my brother about that parade.
– Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.