S. Bradford Long

LGBT Writer, Yoga Teacher, Esoteric Christian

A Vigil for the Slain of the Orlando Shooting

It’s late – far too late – but I can’t sleep. So, as always, when I can’t sleep, I write.

I hold a vigil for the broken, dead, and dying. I hold myself and weep. I put a wooden statue of the Holy Mother next to me as I write this – somehow, in times like this, I feel most drawn to her. I close my eyes and think of the Mother who held the broken Christ – the embodiment of all the world’s victims of violence and pain – holding him close, his blood mingling with her tears, always her son, always her beloved.

I can only imagine that God holds close the dead and broken. Holding close the gay community, as a Holy Mother once held her son. Those fifty dead – I weep for those fifty dead, those who, though I never knew them, are my brothers and sisters and siblings, my kindred, connected by the thread of our unexpected way of loving.

When the Cosmic God created you, my dead and broken siblings – he looked upon  you and said, you are good, you are Holy, you are my own image. He laughed and rejoiced and wept with joy at us, his gay children.

All I know is this, as I hold this vigil, late into the night – you, the wounded, the broken, the needlessly slaughtered – you are Christ to me right now. You are His image, you are good. That glittering gem, that immortal diamond within you can never be destroyed. The greatest acts of terror, the greatest crimes of hate – nothing can abolish or cover or diminish the image of God in all his children. Someone tried, but he failed to destroy the beauty of God’s image, he failed to destroy your dignity. Somehow, in the midst of this horror, you, the victims, stand triumphant. Because you  are. You are gay, you are beautiful, you are a part of God’s cosmic plan, and though dead you are undefeated.

But none of this … none of this stops this pain. Breathing hurts. My body shakes. I am exhausting, aching with grief. What an unexpected monster grief is – it coils me up, it squeezes, it holds every fiber in its grasp.

Can I really say, “you are all in heaven now” or, “Jesus holds you?” No, not right now. the pain is too great, too blinding, like staring into the sun. All trite answers fall away and shatter. there is only grief. Everyone would be right to ask, “how can a good God let this happen?” I ask that too. And yet, somehow, I can’t help but turn to him. Maybe because I’m weak. As I turn to God, and think of His Mother, I find solace, and more horrible questions.

I was in a shooting once. I’ve never written about it online. I was the fifth person in the hallway, the only one who wasn’t shot, and two friends were killed. I was nineteen. It destroyed my life. It scarred me permanently. There are no words to describe the trauma.

And that event is but a channel, now, for me to begin to understand that I cannot understand your pain, and the horror of your slaughter.

My brothers and sisters, I love you.

And my prayers vanish into silence, into the darkness of this night. As quickly as they came, they leave again. I’m left with the wordless prayers and pleas, and all that I wrote suddenly seems like fog, intangible, barely grasping at the horror.

Tonight, I am left only with this prayer: for the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world. Bring an end to violence, to ideology that breeds death, to anything less than love and absolute regard for our fellow human.

Tonight, let’s grieve. Tomorrow, let’s rise up, and fight for our dignity, and for a world where violence like this will never happen again.



Helen Buzenberg says:

Stephen, this is beautiful. Thank you for writing and sharing. We are honored by your bravery.

Your cousin, Helen Buzenberg

So sad, so shocking. I couldn’t put appropriate words to my thoughts but you did it for me. Thanks. Praying for the victims, friends and family of all involved.

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