Celebrating the lives that don’t matter: your invitation to the table

The following is written with generic language, and meant for activists who have suffered a loss of any being, human or non-human, known or stranger. May you find peace in sharing your suffering with others who care.

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At its heart, social justice is about changing the perception that some lives matter more than others. As activists, we are constantly faced with casualties, lives we’ve lost in an unending struggle to change that perception. Lives that others say don’t matter. Lives that we may feel we have no right to mourn.

In your community, you may not have a place to grieve. In your family, you may not have a place to grieve. In your workplace, you may not have a place to grieve.

But I invite you to fully feel your sadness here. Today, and any other day that you may need this post, this wide white space is the table of grief, and all are welcome.

I’ll light a candle for the lost lives of those who were different, stigmatized, marginalized, oppressed and exploited. You make a toast to the lost lives of those who were innocent, those who made mistakes, those who caused harm, those who were unaware of what they were doing. I’ll say an elegy for the lost lives of those who can’t speak, those who are ignored, those who are hidden, those who are misunderstood.

We will honor their memory, speaking in one voice.

“You matter, and you deserve to be mourned.”

The Table

You who have come here, sit at the table of grief. There’s a chair just for you, and food and drink to share.

You stand, uneasy, looking to bolt.

“I shouldn’t be here,” you say, and the chair disappears.

“I shouldn’t feel this sad,” you say, and the table is bare.

“Hundreds die every day,” you say, and suddenly, you are standing alone, in an empty room.

When we deny our right to share sadness with others, we remove ourselves from our community.

When we deny our right to grief, we deprive ourselves of the self care necessary to find happiness.

When we deny the value of one life lost, we challenge the value of any live lost, and of all who grieve.

At this table, we are sad. It is okay to be sad.

At this table, we are here when others are not. It is okay to be here, to have responsibilities and relationships and plans and hopes and dreams when another being has none.

At this table, we are safe. It is okay to be safe and unharmed when another is suffering.

At this table we eat and drink. It is okay to listen to our bodies when others don’t have that same option.

At this table, we sing. It is okay to create beauty from pain, to build joy from suffering.

At this table, we hope. It is okay to believe in a better future, even when there’s no reason, even when we are in the depths of despair and can’t see as far as tomorrow.

This table is mine just as it is yours. It is a place where we honor lives lost without having to explain their value. It is a place where we let ourselves mourn and rejoice in equal turn. It is a place where we do not deny ourselves food, drink, rest, conversation, grief or happiness, despair or hope. It is a place where we fall apart and come together again.

And for the rest of this post, this table is a place where we look at cute animal pictures.

In love, empathy, and friendship,

Hannah

(Click on the pictures below to be taken to the lists in the caption.)

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