Sunday, August 26, 2012

To Tear Down and To Be Built Back Up

I fled today.  With urgency and haste, I jumped in my car and drove.  I drove to a place where cows outnumber humans, where the sweet scent of manure and barn stalls prevail over industrial and automobile fumes, a place where silence lives.  I watched as the gray, billowing clouds changed shape ever so slightly with the breeze and broke up the light cascading, dancing, and streaming down onto the fields and trees around me.  I fled to find a physical place of peace but my thoughts were still with me.

When I  jumped in my car, on the way out of the city, I was burdened.  The only emotion I felt was confusion, but I wanted to feel angry.  Anger is more definite than confusion.  Anger is solid and justifiable; it is also something that can lead to healing.  I willed myself to feel angry and instead realized I was indifferent.  Everything felt meaningless.  Meaningless!  I had lost total faith in and loyalty toward humanity and since humanitarianism is the core of me, I was lost.

I turned on the car radio and these words rang out:
Give me your love for humanity; Give me your arms for the brokenhearted, the ones that are far beyond my reach.  Give me your heart for the ones forgotten.  Give me your eyes so I can see.
A sign?  Maybe this is meant to bring me peace.  It didn't.  I placed those words in my mental back pocket and kept driving until I no longer recognized cross streets.  I drove until I didn't care which direction would take me back home.  My only destination in mind was one out of cell phone range.  I reached an area where I could safely pull off of the two lane road and I did so.  I turned the hazard lights on and got out of my car and climbed through a gap in the fence line, into some stranger's pasture.  I sat, barefoot and windblown, for a long time.

Ecclesiastes 3 talks about seasons and specific times for certain emotions and circumstances.  A time to be born and a time to die, for example.  A time to mourn and a time to dance.  What could define this time, for me?  Does Ecclesiastes define a time to be confused and indifferent and hardened toward humanity?  The only verse I could think of that might encompass my current state was, a time to tear down {and a time to build up}.  I definitely felt as if I was being torn down.  If that was the case, then maybe sometime soon I would be built back up?  So, I remained seated on the warm ground, the tough grass and sharp springs of loose hay dug into my legs; I was content to be alone.

A truck pulled up behind my parked car and a man yelled, "Car trouble?"  He sounded unsure since I was just sitting in a pasture, yards away from my car.  

"Nope; I'm fine.  I'm a city girl and just needed to get away."  I didn't look at him.  I just stared at the sky.  Normally, I would have tried to really engage or assure him that I was fine.  I would normally deflect and mask my current state so he wouldn't know I was being torn apart on the inside, but I didn't care at that moment.  

"If you're sure that you're fine, I'm going to go, but. . ." But, you're not fine, is what he wanted to say.  He probably thought I was crazy and potentially dangerous.

"Okay,"  I wanted him to leave.  I wanted to sit there and just be silent but then I blurted, "You know, my friend's grandpa was murdered today.  You know?  I just need to sit out here, alright?"  

He gave awkward condolences and slowly drove away.  I was emotionless, but suddenly, once I knew he was gone, I felt the weight of what I had just verbalized.  Murdered.  Slowly and painfully starved to death.  

I sobbed and it was painful.  Each burst of emotion seemed to pull at the veins in my heart, straining, threatening to rip away and explode.  It wasn't gratifying at all; there was no real release in this outward show of emotion only more confusion.  I did not know Frank Sedlak, not for even one moment of my life.  The last ten days of his life are now so deeply imprinted on my brain, my heart, and my soul that I will never be the same.  I don't ever want to be the same.  

I was witness to a man being legally starved and dehydrated to death.  I fought, alongside his family, for his rights.  We called government agencies, signed petitions, begged and pleaded, educated. . .and no one would help.  No one in power would help, to be more specific.  Our hands are tied, they would say.  They defaulted to keeping law rather than compassion; rather than doing the right thing.  

It hit me then that I was mourning for the loss of this man because I care about his family members, who are my friends.  He obviously impacted his family positively, although I'm sure he had his shortcomings.  On behalf of him and his family, I had busied myself for ten days with doing everything I could to help fight for Frank Sedlak's basic human rights to receive food and water, despite the orders from his doctor and the compliance of his wife (guardian) and daughter (power of attorney) to the asinine orders.  When the news came, "Frank Sedlak passed away today" I realized that I had had hope and confidence that something would change.  That was the most disappointing of all.  The entire time, I had actually believed that someone from the local government would step in.  I had hope that the doctor, the guardian, the Power of Attorney would have a change of heart.  I had hope that a lawyer, a human rights activist, a news outlet, someone, would intervene and save his life.  No one did.  Their hands were tied.  His death is on their hands.

Today, I have no faith in humanity.  In 2012, in the United States of America, a man was denied food and water for ten days until he died.  Meaningless.  

I believe that good can come from anything and it is my hope that I see some good come from this.  Tonight, I don't know what that good can be. Maybe, for me, because I have been torn down, I will be built back up.   Maybe all involved in this situation will live their lives fighting for others and being intentional about always doing the right thing.  Maybe we will error on the side of compassion more so than we ever did in the past.  

I ask that you keep the family of Frank Sedlak in your prayers.  The extent of the pain and sadness they are experiencing is something I cannot imagine.  Pray that they will be built back up.


  1. Thanks Jess this means the world to us. You are and always will be a special friend.

  2. I read you blog post; it made me cry. When I heard the sad news I was practically at a loss for words; which is not me. You have a good heart Jessica.


  3. Comments from Facebook:

    Charity B:
    oh Jess... I'm sorry. Thank you for all you did to help. Thanks for your courageous and loving heart. Grandpa was an incredible person, and I know he is rejoicing now. Now the burden on our hearts is for Grandma's soul... that she could feel the love of God and accept Christ.

    Terry G:
    Jess, this made me think about the Terri Schiavo case and my own reaction to it was much like yours here. The difference, of course, is that I simply watched it all unfold on the news and kept waiting for them to put her feeding tube back in because it didn't seem possible to me that they could do anything else. I am proud that you are the kind of person who tries to help. I've had plenty of those moments where I've wanted to lose faith in humanity ... I guess there is really only one thing that pulls me through and I'll share it here with you. I don't know how God is able to watch all of us every single day and not lose His faith in us. What kind of love He must have to restrain Himself from just ending us! I guess love truly does conquer all. If God hasn't lost faith in us, then we can't lose faith in each other, right? I love you, sweetie. You hang in there and keep being how you are ... just make sure you take care of yourself while you are trying to take care of so many others, okay? My thoughts and prayers are with the Sedlak family and with you. I hope all of you find peace and comfort during this time of mourning.

    Amy M:
    You described this in words so much better than I could. A loss of faith in humanity is where we have breached.

    Susan H:
    You weren't alone in that ditch Jess. Many of us shared your tears of shock and grief. Personally, I drove country roads trying to keep the tears at bay. Like you, I did not know this man. But for 10 days he was our grandfather too. I wanted to believe somebody, somewhere could do something to stop it. Further proof that we cannot put our trust in the arm of flesh. Every time I think about it, the tears begin anew. My heart breaks for his family. My prayers go out for them. And us.

  4. Comments from Facebook:
    De Ana:
    Wow, well said.

    Karen S:
    Oh, Joani, that was sooooooo good! Thank you for posting. And thank you Jess. for that precious reflection.

  5. Thank you for your compassion Jess. Your blog encourages me. Like you, I have lost faith in humanity, but not in the transforming grace of God. May His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.