You probably are aware that Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend who was the mother of his three-month-old daughter just minutes before driving to the Chiefs’ facility where he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, taking his own life. In the parking lot, he thanked the Chiefs staff for giving him the opportunity to play in the NFL as the general manager, head coach, and defensive coordinator tried to talk him down early on Saturday morning, then walked away and ended his life.
Tragedies like this are, perhaps, the hardest things we ever encounter. We just don’t know how to process it.
Unbelief is probably the first response. I remember three years ago when a friend called to let me know that a close friend died in a fatal car accident. My response was, “What? What kind of accident?”
Grief is probably the next thing to overwhelm us. A twenty-five-year-old athlete who seemed to be living his dream blew his brains out. A new, twenty-two year-old mother was shot several times by her boyfriend. A baby will grow up never knowing her father or mother, but she will have a tragic family history for the rest of her life.
Anger is likely the next feeling. Jovan is the reason that a young mother is dead and a little girl is without parents.
Guilt is a reaction that hit those who knew Jovan. They felt like there must have been some warning signs they missed. However, by all accounts, there were none that were evidenced to family members, friends, or team mates, who called him a model player.
Reflection about never knowing if we really know another person’s inner thoughts and emotions is where a lot of people wind up in their processing of tragedies like this. We only know what other people want us to know. Yet, we wonder if we were sensitive to subtle signs. We wonder is we are too preoccupied with ourselves to notice a hurting human being in our circle of relationships. We wonder if we got lost in realm of superficiality. It seems like we should be more real, more interested, and more accepting in our relationships, and that is a positive take-away from a tragedy.
Quarterback Brady Quinn summed it up very nicely in his post-game presser.
Can you talk about the emotion after the game? “It was tough. I think it was an eerie feeling after a win because you don’t think that you can win in this situation. The one thing people can hopefully try to take away, I guess, is the relationships they have with people. I know when it happened, I was sitting and, in my head, thinking what I could have done differently. When you ask someone how they are doing, do you really mean it? When you answer someone back how you are doing, are you really telling the truth? We live in a society of social networks, with Twitter pages and Facebook, and that’s fine, but we have contact with our work associates, our family, our friends, and it seems like half the time we are more preoccupied with our phone and other things going on instead of the actual relationships that we have right in front of us. Hopefully people can learn from this and try to actually help if someone is battling something deeper on the inside than what they are revealing on a day-to-day basis.”
Life must continue on. It sounds trite and even unfeeling when you are in the midst of grieving. Sure, we need to process our grief and recognize it is a long-term thing. There are ways that our lives are forever changed, but we can’t let tragedy, even a death defeat us. The Chiefs, who have had a horrible season, chose to play the game yesterday and they played their best game of the season. People, whose grief and memories of the gruesome event were still very raw, responded with courage, grace, compassion, and heart. That was beautiful example for us all.