I’m struggling to understand.
It was an ordinary day. Actually, it was a bit unordinary because my husband wanted to go shopping. For clothes. Clothes for himself. That, my friends is a rare occurrence. He was wearing a pair of shorts he’d purchased at a store we don’t often go to, but he said, yeah, he’d like to get another pair just like them. So we found ourselves there, shopping. He in the men’s and I in the women’s department. Fingering the sales racks. Maybe a dress would be nice. Haven’t worn a dress in a long time. Yes, a nice breezy summer dress, I was thinking when I heard a man’s voice.
“Somebody just attacked a doctor at the clinic next door, with a hammer. Stay inside.”
The clerk asks if she should call 911. The man is leaning out the front doors. “No, the cops are already here.”
I follow the clerk onto the sidewalk in front of the store. I’ve never seen so many cop cars, ambulances, fire engines, lights flashing, no sirens.
I go back inside, walk to the men’s fitting rooms, call my husband’s name. “Do you want a different colour?”
He emerges, shorts in hand and a Tshirt. I grin at the bright colour. “Nice,” I say. We make our way to the front counter. No one there. They are all still outside on the sidewalk. I tell my husband why there are police cars in the parking lot. He asks one of the clerks if he can pay, please.
She rushes back in, face white. “One of the cop cars just hit a pedestrian but it looks like he’s okay, just bumped him I think,” she says. Her hand shakes a bit as she offers the debit machine.
We pay, walk outside, watching the EMS guy tend to a man. His dog is pacing as we drive away.
I pray the doctor will be okay.
It’s not until about two hours later that I read on my phone that he died from the wounds inflicted by the hammer and a machete. There are a few more details, how two other patients tried to intervene, a description given by a mother who pulled her eleven-year-old daughter to safety and hid in her car.
I close my phone and stare out the front window of my home, my safe home, that looks out onto a still small pond. I replay our time in the store, the ordinariness of our words, our movements, while just 200 metres away a man was crying out, “help me! Call 911!” Perhaps those were his last words on this earth.
While I wondered whether or not I should buy a summer dress.
And I don’t understand. Why this juxta positioning of our lives with his? Why were we there, at that exact time?
Of course, it makes me think of the fragility of life, the seeming randomness of events that, in a matter of seconds change everything. And yet, nothing. Nothing has changed for us. Except that we paused for a moment to pray, to wonder, and then perhaps to ponder the bigger questions, once again.
Delayed reactions are normal for me so I’m aware of a heaviness that is slowly descending, with thoughts of the doctor’s family, the trauma suffered by a woman and an eleven year old girl who were there, instead of shopping for a summer dress.
I’m aware there are things I need to learn because we, too, were there. Or perhaps, more to the point, I am just more aware. Aware of the gentleness in my husband’s eyes, the goodness in his heart, the warmth of his body lying next to mine at night.
Perhaps that is reason enough.