Monday, March 14, 2011

Imagine ( A Not-for-the-Faint-of-Heart Post)

This is what I read when I opened my computer a moment ago, after bathing the dog in warm water in an  indoor bathroom, after seeing The Lovely Daughter ~ safely home from Guatemala ~ off to work, after making myself some breakfast, using a blender and a microwave in our fully functional kitchen:

"JAY ALABASTER and TODD PITMAN, Associated Press Jay Alabaster And Todd Pitman, Associated Press 3 mins ago

TAKAJO, Japan – A tide of bodies washed up along Japan's coastline, crematoriums were overwhelmed and rescue workers ran out of body bags as the nation faced the grim reality of a mounting humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis Monday after a calamitous tsunami.

Millions of people were facing a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures in the northeast devastated by an earthquake and the wave it spawned. . . .

A Japanese police official said 1,000 washed up bodies were found scattered Monday across the coastline of Miyagi prefecture. . . .

The discovery raised the official death toll to about 2,800, but the Miyagi police chief has said that more than 10,000 people are estimated to have died in his province alone, which has a population of 2.3 million.

In one town in a neighboring prefecture, the crematorium was unable to handle the crush of bodies being brought in for funerals."

I have spent time with the bodies of only two loved ones ~ my last stepmother, whom I was with when she died of cancer, and my son, whose body came home to us two days after he died. (I'm not counting my mother; I was with her in the car accident in which she died, but I have no memory at all of that event.)

I have never had to contend with more than maybe a few bodies in the course of a day, and all of them during CPE at Famous Giant Hospital, where people die quietly in clean beds, sometimes struggling for those last breaths, but always well tended and almost always in the company of people who love them.  When I was on call one night, four of my patients died, and there had probably been one or two earlier that day, but that would have been the most in one 24-hour period.

I've only been to one crematorium, a place a bit off the suburban track but nevertheless well-staffed, pristine, and smoothly functioning.

Those of you who've been reading my blogs for awhile know how I protest against that phrase so frequently made to the grieving, that "I can't imagine" phrase.

I think that we should be trying hard today to imagine.  I think that we should imagine being the person who discovers that she is the lone survivor of  her family, trying to scavenge something to eat and drink, trying to pull some fragments of wood and concrete together for a bit of warmth and shelter, and trying to figure out how to get those damaged and bloated and beloved bodies to an overwhelmed crematorium when there are no roads and no transportation.

I think that we should be trying to imagine her shock and horror and anguish.

I think that we should be praying with her, in solidarity and for resiliency.



  1. It's overwhelming, isn't it? We've been so preoccupied with helping with the new baby that I didn't see many news reports until this morning. It's just heartbreaking.

  2. Yes. One of the most startling things I read on Facebook yesterday went something like, "How about we stop whining about Daylight Savings Time in the face of the disaster in Japan?"


  3. When we hit the line in the psalms this morning -- "The Lord on the immensity of waters" -- I was imagining.

  4. Truth in every word. Devastation, sorrow, immense loss. Beyond description. But it's not hard to imagine. Just painful.
    I am going to link your post today. Thank you.

  5. Oh, dear God, be with every one of those people. Strengthen them, soften the blows, provide sustenance, comfort and care. May our broken hearts be opened and given for them, in whatever way we are able - money, prayer, presence, imagining.

  6. Oh dear God, help us be your hands and heart in this time of great sorrow.

  7. I have this feeling about this disaster... I was telling someone today that I found it very difficult to empathize with the Haitian people after their disaster...don't know why. Not a good or easy thing to admit, but I just didn't identify with them. But these folks in Japan...21st-century middle-class grunts, just like me. It brings the whole thing very close to home. There but for the grace of god, indeed...

    How do we help these people?

  8. I've been imagining to the best of my ability and it makes me sick to my stomach, there's a lump in my throat and my heart hurts! Lord, have mercy ... and help your people extend your mercy.