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Pinke Post: We grieve and weep, with kindness

Southeast of our home is a small lake. Some would call it a slough, though locally, it's known as May Lake. Every day, I walk our two young yellow Labs, Mauer and Liberty, south of our home through the grass to a little gravel road, and I look ac...

Katie Pinke

Southeast of our home is a small lake. Some would call it a slough, though locally, it’s known as May Lake.

Every day, I walk our two young yellow Labs, Mauer and Liberty, south of our home through the grass to a little gravel road, and I look across the field at May Lake.

I’ve seen May Lake in all weather and seasons. The eastern morning light reflects off of it. Most days, there are cows in between May Lake and me, and nothing else. Sometimes I pause to look at the water.

I remember the day May Lake froze over last fall. It was hunting season, and I could hear gunshots in the distance. Later, I felt a sense of renewal on an early day in March when the ice melted this spring.

Quiet May Lake forever changed our little town this month when a small plane crashed in it, killing the local 20-year-old pilot and his two passengers, an aunt and her son, the pilot’s 10-year-old cousin.

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The crash was covered in the state news. Investigations and reports will continue, and we may learn more about further details in the weeks ahead. But what isn’t covered in the headlines is how a community like ours grieves after loss.

The day after the accident, I went into our small grocery store to buy a few necessities. It was silent, the usual friendly chatter muted. We all were numb.

When we don’t know what to do next, we cook, bake or stir up a salad and bring it to mourning family members. The first sound I heard in the grocery store that morning was the phone ringing, then an employee taking an order of food for the family of those killed in the crash.

Everyone finds their own way to tribute, honor, respect and share through loss. But I was reminded in a small town, for many, we grieve and share food.

What I noticed most in the days after the crash was the softer versions of people. As we grieve, we make more time to stop, slow down, look at someone who normally you might pass by. We look them in the eye and ask genuinely how they are doing. We know we aren’t the only ones with hurting hearts.

We pause and pray for the first responders forever changed, for the mamas, daddies, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, friends, teammates, coaches, co-workers, pastors, counselors and everyone else mourning.

The school gym’s floor was being redone, so the triple funeral was held in our local civic center.

It’s a Works Projects Administration building built from 1938 to 1942 with native prairie stone.

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It’s stood through all types of events in our small town. The Civic Center is where our community gathers for fundraisers, parties, receptions, elementary basketball practices, wedding dances and our beloved annual Sauerkraut Day. And now it’s also where we gathered for the funeral of all three lost in the plane crash.

Businesses closed on what would otherwise be a bustling Monday morning. My husband hung a sign on our business’s door explaining we were working with limited staff.

When our small town grieves, the flower shop sells out of plants and flowers. The entire front of the Civic Center was filled with all sizes and colors of greenery and blooms. Our son joined other friends in helping the family set up as many chairs as possible. The side bleachers were pulled out and filled. I held a friend’s baby during the service so they could sit up front with the family. Holding a sweet almost one-year-old kept my emotions in check. When my throat tightened and tears started to fall I held the sweet baby girl closer and fed her a bottle as she fell asleep in my arms.

As we wept, a friend sang. I looked around the room to see parents who buried their son more than a decade ago, parents who lost their daughter to cancer and many more faces that have grieved before and who now were mourning again.

Three pastors spoke. And then the mother of the pilot stood up from her chair in the front row. His casket was directly ahead of her, only a few feet away. With a tear stained face but strong resolve, she walked to the podium.

Most often, her smile greets me at the credit union. Before this tragic accident, I would have told you of her strength to keep going when her husband’s business burned down, the inspiration I found when they rebuilt their business. She is a dedicated, fierce mother with a contagious laugh.

But then I saw her stand at her son’s, sister-in-law’s and nephew’s funeral. Her words were more than anything I could mustered. She reminded us all of the kindness and generosity her son showed everyone all the time. She did more than inspire me; she changed me.

Her request was for everyone to show a random act of kindness in memory of her son. My hurting heart softened with her words as I held the sleeping baby. We weep. We grieve. We need more kindness.

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It doesn’t matter where we live, a softer approach with kindness wins in the seemingly cold world. Harsh words and judgement are easier to spew many days. You can say you’re too busy for a family gathering, a visit to a neighbor or writing out a card and for a recent widow. Or you can slow down, soften your approach and show kindness.

It doesn’t need to be “stuff.” Just you, your time, your listening ear, your encouraging words.

Life goes on after loss, whether we want it to or not. A part of my softer approach will be to plant three trees this summer and some bulbs this fall, south of our house, overlooking May Lake. Every day, I will look at the lake that will never look the same to me. I will pause to focus on the opportunity a grieving mother gave each of us to be kinder, more generous and intentional in how we live.

To honor the memory of Colbie, Christine and Aaron and at the request of my friend, will you do a random act of kindness this week? You can email me at katpinke@gmail.com if you’d like to share about it.

Editor’s note: Pinke maintains a blog at thepinkepost.com.

 

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