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As I sautéed locally caught fish for guests recently, I thought of Duke Energy’s coal ash spill into North Carolina’s Dan River and began to feel sick. I imagined that body of water and others across the state where the energy company has 32 coal ash containment ponds. And I visualized the toxic sludge in those ponds as huge bowls of marinade in which the fish swim for however long fish live until they’re caught, filleted, packaged, routed to market, bought by consumers, and prepared for plating.
Okay, my mind is windmill-ing. I’m on my way to that grandson (born last week), eager to hold and snuggle him as I wonder what the world will be like when he’s a teenager, young man, a grown man, a father, a granddad.
I know that mothers and fathers are distraught the world over in areas of warmongering conflict—and also they’re agonizing even in those increasingly rare territories of peace. As parents, we worry. I said to my son, whose life has changed in a way that he’s just now understood, “Wait until this child is old enough to get his driver’s license.”
Once you have a child …
I’m not unique. My thoughts are not different from yours. And I’ve been thinking about the family members of passengers on that missing Malaysian plane. I’m sure you have too. You don’t have to be a parent to be an empath.
I lie in bed and imagine what each of those passengers was doing in the days before boarding. I drink my coffee and think about what I’ve read in the news—debris spotted, that time is slipping away. At any moment, someone I love, someone you love, could make a reservation, make a decision, and then disappear.
Like little Madeleine McCann–in 2007, gone, and now back in the public eye, but she’s never been away from her mother and father’s hearts. Heartbreaking. Heart wrenching.
There is so much angst, so many fears. Most of our apprehensions will never happen. I think of my father’s words, “Why worry about something over which you have no control?” He didn’t. I do.
We read or see it, see the faces of those whose loved ones have been taken from a vacation apartment, from a house, abducted. We see the faces of those whose children have been killed, sacrificed for lies, in imperial incursions that enrich the already wealthy. We see the faces of those whose family members boarded a plane that vanished. We are witness to agony.
But we somehow endure.
We endure and we hope. We demand clean air, clean water, justice for humanity, for our planet. That we evolve to do unto others and to forgive. That the universe somehow purifies itself.
It’s a cliché to say that life goes on. But it does. Tomorrow I’ll hold that grandson in my arms, snuggle his babyness, smell his skin, his hair, and feel an indescribable joy. A friend recently said, “Maybe it’s our grandchildren’s generation that will change the world.”
This little boy has changed mine.
Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.