Can We Have Togetherness Without Tragedy?

This is what it means to be held, how it feels when the sacred is torn from your life and you survive. This is what it is to be loved and know that The Promise was when everything fell we’d be held.
— Natalie Grant

We lost two boys in a tragic drowning this week in Roseburg.

These boys were as inseparable as brothers and were loved by everyone and were instantly likeable.

They were athletic and handsome and smart and unlimited.

They were taken from us in a matter of seconds, in the midst of a challenge to swim across and back. One we have all taken in one form or another in our lives, only fate did not call us on our folly and we are still here.

They died together – as they lived. One went back to save the other when the temperature and the current and the distance outweighed their strength and bravado. It is sickeningly poetic that one would not let the other go without giving all he had to save his brother. He died trying.

Now, many, many of us are left with unanswerable questions. Not even the perfect words from sincere, deep-seated and well-meaning faith sound like the right words right now.

The only word that seems to fit is: Why?


In the days following a tragedy like this, an amazing thing happens in a community like ours. Strangers bound by their shared connections to these boys will stand in the same line to attend services for them. They will sit side-by-side sharing the same pain, even though they won’t talk to each other about it.

For a few days, we will all struggle with the same questions and make the same vows to love more deeply, be more honest about our feelings and live with a little more intensity since (once again) we have seen firsthand how suddenly things can change.

In Roseburg, we have lived through incomprehensible shootings, tragic car accidents and senseless drug overdoses. We have rallied around our friends dying from cancer and attempted to will sickness away.

Something interesting happens after something rocks our collective world and I find myself coming back to a question I have asked many times and struggled to answer.

Why does it take a tragedy to bring us together as a community, a region or a nation? Is it possible for us to find togetherness without the tragedy?

It is naïve? Is it impossible? My mind says yes. My heart refuses to agree.

It cannot be impossible. We must be capable of loving each other and watching out for one another and simply caring for our neighbors on some level before the next fire devastates a home or the next innocent kid gets cancer.

While my mind spins on this concept and the critic in my head shakes his head and smothers a chuckle, I am reminded of things that happen in this place that actually prove it is possible to love complete strangers without the prerequisite of having lost something precious.

In fact, we have the opportunity to celebrate with one another more than we might realize.

Weddings. Anniversaries. Birthdays. Graduations. Babies. Sporting Events. Championships. Straight A’s. Straight C’s. Vacations. Family reunions. Songs. Concerts. Festivals. Great performances. Baptisms. Waterfalls. Nature. Perfect summer evenings. Great wine.

Spike the football once in a while! Get up and dance when the music is lifting your soul! Cry when you feel like it! Crank up the radio even if the car next to you can hear the song through the glass! Love! Scream! CELEBRATE!

Celebrate! Celebrate. When you can. When it’s right. Maybe not today, in this sad hangover. But at next opportunity. Promise yourself right now.

Until that moment arises, keep your eyes and heart and mind open to the moment when a total stranger is seeing and feeling and living the same pain and joy that you are living and feeling and seeing.

It is possible that even if it is only for a moment, you share something deeper with that stranger than you realize.

Even without a tragedy to put you there.

Froylan Carrion-Estrada                                                                     Dustin Conopa   November 13, 1997 – May 23, 2015                                              June 7, 1998 – May 23, 2015

Froylan Carrion-Estrada                                                                   Dustin Conopa

November 13, 1997 – May 23, 2015                                              June 7, 1998 – May 23, 2015