Tears from I don’t know where

This morning, I had something happen which has happened before. It always catches me off-guard. I started crying seemingly out of nowhere.

It really wasn’t out of nowhere. I’d heard a story on NPR’s StoryCorps. It’s called, “After A Traffic Stop, Teen Was ‘Almost Another Dead Black Male.’ Have a listen (warning, there is some graphic depiction & language):

After hearing this, I teared up, well aware of the sadness I was feeling, but didn’t start crying. My judgment about this is the sadness was not only for the young man assaulted, but that he was discussing it with his mother who happens to be white. She says, “I thought that love would conquer all and skin color really didn’t matter. I had to learn the really hard way when they almost killed you.”

What happened next to me, was what caught me unawares.

I walked into a room where my cats have a tendency to puke a lot. Sure enough, one of them had. I have two cats and one of them is very vocal. I’ve had to work hard to remind myself often while living with this guy, “He’s just being a cat.” I have to admit, sometimes when he starts his vocalizing and doesn’t quit, I want to run away and hide. This time, though, as I’m on my hands & knees cleaning up the mess, listening to Moochie being Moochie, I was overwhelmed. It must have been triggered initially by the story, above, but I just started crying – uncontrollably. As I’ve said, this has happened before, and each time it just catches me in a way I hardly expected. It ended almost as quickly as it began.

Now, let’s take into account what’s going on in the world right now. There’s the shooting of an 18-year-old African American male in Ferguson, MO. Honestly, this hadn’t impacted me in any particular way. Not until I heard about the Missouri State Trooper who’s taken over governance of the situation. His walking with the protestors, getting all the militarism out of it, gives me hope for authority in our country. (Yes, yes, I’ve been bucking authority ever since I can remember. So this was a really good thing for me to learn about.) More directly affecting me has been the apparent suicide of Robin Williams. This seems to have taken a huge segment of our society not only by surprise, but where there is a tremendous grieving over this loss of a man. Me, included.

It’s an odd thing, really. I never met the man or saw him live. Yet, there is this profound sense of loss. I wasn’t a fan of the latest show, ‘The Crazy Ones,’ but I have seen and enjoyed many of the movies Williams was in. So, why is it I’m in this funk about his death?

Way back, when I was a photojournalist, I made this photo:

© Donny Hornstein


The woman in the middle had just arrived on a tragic accident. Her son and two other boys were killed by an unseen train. The boys had been waiting for a west bound train to clear and when it did, they darted across the tracks, not knowing an eastbound train was right behind. The medical examiner had just pulled back the sheet for her to identify her son. The photo was made with a fairly long lens, from a decent distance away.

This picture ran front page on the paper I was working for in Iowa. The morning it ran, the newspaper was trashed by other local media and readers calling in about. It created quite a stir. The accusations ranged from ‘will do anything to sell more papers’ to much worse. It was the morning after that which tied everything together. One of the newspaper’s opinion editorial (OpEd) writers did a great piece on the reaction. He essentially said he understood the reactions AND there was nothing like a shared community tragedy to cause the community to come together. If the photo caused one parent to have a talk with one child about the caution necessary when crossing a dangerous place like railroad tracks, it was worth all the bad mouthing the paper received for publishing it. At the time, it was one of the most eloquent pieces I’d ever read in OpEd.

I suppose that’s the situation with the Robin Williams tragedy. There’s nothing like a shared community event, however small or large, to bring so many of us together. I know I’m not alone in my sadness. Several days later, it’s still a high point on the news and in social media. I’m astounded. And not.

I think when I don’t grieve outright, that grief will find another route to come out. It seems like that’s what happened today. Hearing the story from both the young man and his mother on NPR, and then having a crying cat, just triggered the grief in me wanting to come out. So, it did.

Another life lesson for me. Grief, like so many other things in life will find a way. If it’s not addressed head-on, it will find the path of least resistance and just ooze out – like a crying cat while cleaning up puke.

How Am I Changing: Lessons I’ve thought I’ve learned will come around again if the Universe senses otherwise.