Looking back over my last few Thanksgiving messages is a retrospective on the pandemic. Here is the link from the first COVID Thanksgiving: The Relentless School Nurse: The Unset Thanksgiving Table posted on November 25, 2020. Next came The Relentless School Nurse: Momentary Time and Space to Feel Calm… on November 27, 2021. Each one is a snapshot of where we were in the midst of the pandemic. This brings me to today, the day before Thanksgiving 2022 and I am feeling a sense of relief for a brief pause in the rollercoaster ride we have all been on for far too long.
I am thankful to be able to spend the holiday safely with family and dear friends, a small gathering, but meaningful nonetheless. I am holding space to feel thankful, while simultaneously feeling desperately concerned about the escalating violence in our country. Waking up to the news of another mass shooting in another city in America is what is most on my mind. Yes, I have much to be grateful for, but I also feel the pain and suffering of the victims of gun violence. It is something I witnessed my father experience every time there was another shooting, he felt it, and he would call me to make sure I was safe and if I heard the news.
My father and I had a complex relationship, in fact, I understood him much more after he died than while alive. My parents named me to honor the memory of his mother, Rose, and father Maurice. Robin Michelle is my full name and it carries an unintended consequence of representing generational trauma because they were both victims of gun violence. Many relatives have commented on how much I look like Rose, my father’s mother. And so, as the news of mass shootings breaks one after the next, it is literally in my DNA to respond.
My father’s message to me was that “life must go on,” a lesson he learned at the age of 12 when his entire family was murdered along with 10 others in what was one of the first mass murders in the country. Life must go on and live a life that makes your family proud, those are the two life lessons that my father shared in words and deeds. He worked tirelessly to share the story of survivorship, to not focus on the killers, but to care for the survivors. He was a staunch Republican who voted for Nixon over Kennedy in 1960 but believed in gun safety legislation and a ban on assault weapons.
We have arrived at Thanksgiving 2022. It is a tumultuous time in our country, we are still reeling from the pandemic, and continuing to grapple with the epidemic of gun violence. 2022 will be noted as the most violent yet, but it will not deter those who are dedicated to bringing safety back to our communities. We will reclaim safe spaces for our children, we have no other choice. As my father said, life goes on because it must, and remember live a life that makes your family proud. I sit with a grateful heart that is broken from the pain of gun violence but still beating for the work ahead.