Always and Forever

It’s been several weeks since my last post. A lot has happened since then, most notably at least for me, was the shooting at the Tops Supermaket located not a mile and half from where I live and where I shop occasionally. On May 14th, an 18-year old shooter mercilessly killed 10 African Americans and injured three others in a pre-meditated act of evil and white supremacy. Not only was this a violent act that targeted a group of people simply for being black, it also revealed the glaring disparities in the community where the store was located. It was the only one of its kind in the area and which many, if not most, residents in the surrounding community relied upon for the essentials that so often can be taken for granted.

And then, only eleven days later, tragedy struck yet again, when another 18-year old gunman barricaded himself in a classroom for over an hour in Uvlade, Texas and savagely murdered 19 4th graders and two teachers. This horrific event, once again, brought up the subject of school safety and how to keep our chiildrens safe from such unspeakable harm. 

One particular topic that ties directly into each of these instances, and all others that involve incidences of gun violence is trauma. Trauma “results from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.”  Collective trauma, on the other hand, is a shared emotional reaction to a terrible event. 

Research has shown that trauma is a significant risk factor for mental illness and addiction. Most commonly individuals can experience Acute Stress Disorder, in which the effects of trauma are experienced for a month or less. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has symptoms that persist for more than a month.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can include the following:

  • Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
  • Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
  • Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event
  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
  • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind you of the traumatic event

Another condition that affects those who have had loves one die in such instances as those in Buffalo and Uvalde (and the multitude of mass shootings that have devastated the U.S.) is grief and loss. 

Grief and loss is quite common for anyone who has lost a loved one, regardless of the circumstances. I’ve experienced it myself with the death of my parents. But the grief and loss experienced by the family and close friends of the victims of these types of devastaing events is is exponential in nature. The sheer manner in which these lives were taken and the political maelstom surrounding gun rights adds an additional element of grief that most people cannot begin to comprehend.

I’ve always named my blog posts after songs, hence the name, Mental Health Verses. When it came time to write about this topic I thought about what which one would be most appropriate, and frankly, I couldn’t think of a single one. It was if I couldn’t think of a single song whose words could express how I’m feeling and that conveys the sentiments of this particular post.

But I was on my walk this morning and had an epiphany. Music doesn’t have to have lyrics to convey a feeling. In fact, there are whole genres whose background is based in instrumental compositions. So, when I put my mind to it, I was reminded of a track by my favorite jazz guitarist, Pat Metheny, who is one of the most prolific and versatile jazz artists of today. The song is entitled, Always and Forever from his album, Secret Story. It features the late harmonica player and multi-instrumentalist, Toots Thielemans

The song begins with a layered orchestral intro which leads into the melody, which features Pat’s doubling the guitar section. It is a song that has a delicate, yet melancholic, feeling that takes the listener into another realm. The part that gets me every time is when Toots briefly takes the lead and plays the harmonica in such a sweet way that you just wish he could keep playing more.

I often think of this song when I think of all those who have transitioned before me. And I would like to dedicate this memorable piece to all of those who lost their lives in Buffalo and Uvalde. I don’t know what it’s like to lose someone in such a way. And I cannot begin to imagine the pain that it brings. But sometimes a soothing song can help a person in a way nothing else ever can.

In conclusion, I would like to list the victims names so they will remain always and forever in your memory and mine:

Tops Supermarket, Buffalo, New York

  • Aaron Salter, 35
  • Ruth Whitfield, 86
  • Pearl Young, 77
  • Celestine Chaney, 65
  • Roberta Drury, 32
  • Heyward Patterson, 67
  • Margus D. Morrison, 52
  • Andre Mackneil, 53
  • Geraldine Talley, 62,
  • Katherine Massey, 72

And the survivors

  • Zaire Goodman, 20
  • Jennifer Warrington, 50
  • Christoper Braden, 55

Robb Elementary School, Uvalde Texas

Be safe and Be well


Published by Mental Health Verses

I'm a mental health advocate, educator, and TEDx speaker. I also am a featured columnist for BP magazine, I have lived with bipolar disorder since 1981 and I'm in long-term recovery from addiction. I host the program, Mental Health Verses on the SUNY Buffalo State radio station, WBNY 91.3 FM

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