There are pictures up on Facebook again and the worst part is, I’ve seen them before. There are no new photos of Tori, or her dad, or her sister Rebekah. Except the picture of her gravestone with fresh flowers.
Today is 2 years since the tornado took my dear Tori. A friend I didn’t realize was a sister until she was gone. I never knew how much I loved her until I felt a hole open in my heart like an avocado without a pit, 24 hours or so after a traumatic night on Deer Drive.
A sweet community of people rose up. They encircled her family & her family encircled itself courageously.
But I wasn’t her family. I was just her friend. We weren’t a trio. It was just two of us. Two girls who had been friends. As I sit and write now I feel weight in my soul. It wasn’t those 5 words: two girls who had been friends. It was virgin depths of me that I did not know existed, unpeeled & cut open.
Her death gave me the courage to face pain head on.
The pain deflated my anger…
“You can’t be a mystic if you’re angry.”~Richard Rohr
…and was a catalyst for the beginning of my journey to wholeness; unraveling the pockmarked faith that had me in a chokehold & launching me into a still place.
In that still, broken place I dared God to show up. I dared whoever/whatever it was that made me & made Tori & dwells in the mysteries between life & death to prove that I could be honest about the dark abyss within me & still sorrow would be overcome by joy.
I took a mysterious string of words from a mysterious old book: “Jehovah is gracious & merciful, slow to anger, & abounding in steadfast love.”(you don’t need the direct reference–it’s the whole story) & dared them to come alive.
In the wake of the grief storm I had the guts to doubt that religion stops at what they say. I realized a desire that had been burning within me for a long time: to be completely changed. I began to grow into the understanding that I have no interest in a God who does not offer total, accessible, & complete transformation to Her people.
“He [God] treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him.”~Acts 15:9 MSG
Pain has become a close companion. Anguish has been my teacher. From sorrow I have reaped wisdom (as many say) beyond my years.
The strange and cryptic words of Jesus have started to make a bit more sense to me:
I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives. ~Jesus
….a brown eyed 20 year old who ran on elbow power and laughter, the seed of a relationship–beyond the grasp of words–that fell on soft soil.
What if my life brushing up against other lives helps someone see things from the eyes of a loving Creator? Wouldn’t that be true riches? Isn’t that a successful life; that I have received a glimpse of fullness–even just for a moment, through the binoculars of devastation–and shared it with another.
Let the deep scars in me bear witness to love, may I continue to reap wisdom, and be transformed that I might use it to serve others rather than please myself.
Tori wasn’t perfect. But if we think this whole ride is about perfection we’ve missed the train entirely. Two years ago Tori joined the flow of a Goodness grand enough to swallow imperfections whole and smile about it.
The wild thing about grief is that it unites humans, yet each of us experiences it differently. My soul reminds me of memories of Tori at inexplicable periods. What can I do? What can I say? There is no bow to tie on death. It’s here all around us. Yet it doesn’t win. It can’t win. In this thin place between life & death I do my best to ache, to stay alive, and to stay true to the spirit of innocence, playfulness, and hope that I saw in Tori Alysse Tittle (1993-2014).
I heard you in the trees today, Tori, and I missed you.
I gave my soul back to the breeze
So when you‘re feeling down, you…
You‘ll know I’m all around you