I ran into the Boston Public Garden, In downtown Boston, I walked toward the bombing site to pay witness in remembrance. On Boylston Street, trees were abloom with blossoms, branches outstretched as if to touch, white on white, the cumulus clouds above. Suddenly, I stopped. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t walk to the spot of unspeakable tragedy.
Instead I turned into the Boston Public Garden where ethereal beauty tinted the world in pink, yellow, and green. The long tresses of weeping willows swayed in the breeze, a perfect frame to the American flags fluttering atop the Swan Boats just beyond. A German couple snapped photos of the smallest suspension bridge in the world. On the grass, folks talked, laughed, and sunned themselves.
On this achingly beautiful day, how can it be that just blocks away, the darkest violence took place? Yet now school children wore purple and green balloon hats, some jousting each other with inflatable swords. I felt tears coming on. I wanted to stay right here where all is beautiful and normal.
I bought a hot dog and sat down, feeling guilty about not reaching my destination. I was a coward, or maybe I’m in denial. What did it mean that happiness and gusto surrounded me while evidence of death and maiming was just blocks away?
Then I remembered years ago when David and I witnessed an 80-year-old man who died from a heart attack in a restaurant. He was celebrating his birthday with family, and we were at a nearby table having lunch with friends. Suddenly, there was panic, and then paramedics tried to revive him but failed. His body was wheeled away on a gurney to the horror of diners, a shocked hush everywhere.
About ten minutes later, activity picked up again. First there were murmurs, then the sound of forks on china, the clink of glasses, and finally, full blown conversations and laughter. I was shocked. Should we have all asked for checks, and filed out in funereal silence? I’m not sure but overhearing someone say, “Try the bread pudding, it’s to die for!” did not seem right. I said to my tablemates, “How insensitive! People can be so callous.”
Yet my husband had a very different take. David said, “The power of life is so strong, it just wants to go on.” All of us mulled this over quietly until our waiter broke in to say, “Now who had the tiramisu?” So here I was in the Boston Public Garden, guiltily eating a hot dog, and mindful of how fiercely we cling to life, resistant to changes forced upon us. Nearby a homeless man scatted to the rhythm of his clanking coin cup, “Anybody got change? Change, change, change!”
I know I am still processing mine.