06-23-13

It is so late for me to still be awake, yet I feel as if I need to write some things down tonight. I have found that when I try to go to sleep without addressing the ideas or thoughts in my head, I am awake in the middle of the night thinking about them. It is much easier to purge them out when they come than to have them revisit at 3 am, when I just cannot get myself to get out of bed, and instead, I end up reading my CNN app on my phone, and not getting any sleep at all.
Tonight the words Ripple Effect will not leave me. I have heard the phrase many times in the last 10 years – church, work, and occasionally in the news – and I think that people take that term for granted. In my head, when I think of that term, I want to turn around and look to see what has happened based on what I have done in any given moment.
Today, I thought about the ripple effect as I watched two people commit to one another that never would have met with the pebble dropping into the pond first.
That pebble was Officer Frank Mackall.
So many months, on an icy road, his life almost ended. The ripple effect of that moment caused trauma to many – officers, first responders, chaplains and my family and friends. The immediate ripples were scary and negative; I see those ripples as dark red, high peaked waves, like giant waves of water smashing outward after a meteor hits the ocean.
Unpredictable. Frightening. Violent ripples, that tried to destroy everything in their path.
The ripple hit our house when the knock on the door arrived. It expanded as I made phone call after phone call, sending the wave into other homes, other families, spreading that dark red ripple of pain.
The hospital was hit next, with an onslaught of law enforcement, and although medical people are supposed to be used to trauma and injury, they too are hit by the wave. Intense emotions coming from a family of support so large it took over waiting rooms, lobbies and conference rooms. No one moved them out. Who dared to move them out?
The press, in all of their spirit, showing picture after picture of the crash scene, the horror of the accident moving into every home watching the TV, as the best carrier of pain and anguish retold the story of an injured officer. Over and over.
Caring Bridge was started, and the ripples spread. Across the nation, and then the globe, the waves of sadness and fear, no longer dark red, but stained with the blue color of so much support, began to move farther away, with smaller peaks but longer reach, as the true emotions of a wife in grief, and children in pain, were written down, night after night, for the world to join in.
Rippling towards so many people.
The wave continues to touch many – people with a similar wave join this one, rising along on a familiar path, with equal sadness and blue, knowing so well how much one event can touch so many. The reach of the devastation seems endless.
But ripples, eventually, reduce their peaks; they become less violent, red and angry.
And ripples, once joined by others, change colors and direction, when touched by another.
Our wave of devastation, once so violently pushing outward, began to rebound back. At first, it was too hard to see past my own ripples to notice the change. But eventually, with the touch of a hand from the next shift nurse, a hug of a new chaplain, or the prank of a new friend, the ripples, still existing from one dark night, changed. The ripples encountered another, and when a ripple touches someone else, they are no longer colored as they were created.
A ripple touched by another has new power. And that power can change the path of devastation into something new altogether.
The ripple effect will change the life of everyone that it impacts. People are hurt, lives are crushed, and dreams are shattered.
But that is not the only side of the ripple that can be viewed.
Lives were changed; people were brought surging into our lives from a rebound ripple that never would have been here – except for that one dark red night.
Friends have been made. Bridges have been created. Departments have been connected. Lives have been stabilized - all from a dark, red night.
People from all over have reached out to us – giving us strength and hope, coloring the ripples that they send out with gold, and blue, green and yellow, with so much joy and light in them that they are unrecognizable from the dark red of where they began.
I cannot begin to explain how many people and lives have been changed by this event that didn’t occur to just us. Frank may be my husband, and the children’s father, but he is also a city employee, and an officer within a unit of support that is use to ripples of dark red. He impacted people’s lives each day he was on duty, and many have come back with stories of how he changed them, just by being who he was, with his own ripple effect.
The wave of devastation has brought many a change. When I look back now, I no longer see the red that it was – I see many friends, and such grace, people showing extreme kindness and giving of their time without questions. The dark moment has been replaced with thousands of great ones, now rippling off of others, and from us.
Standing in the warm sunshine today I watched another ripple change the lives of two people -two people that would never have met had it not been for the devastating event in our life. Two people that are now preparing to commit themselves to the lives of one another. A new life - a new family – that will emerge from a relationship that started out in the dark red ripple of our trauma.
It never ceases to amaze me what greatness can come from devastation. Would my good friends have decided to drop everything this past week and drive to Oklahoma and deliver a truck full of supplies to those in need without a horrific tornado destroying everything in its path and killing many? Probably not. But they did it, and by doing that, rippled their own love and joy into a community living in the heart of their own dark red wave.
Never underestimate the impact your own life can make. I never take for granted what I say or do. I wake each day trying to be the positive ripple in someone else’s day – to bring them the gold, or the blue, or the green ripple.
Because we all know there are plenty of dark red ones out there already.
The goal for tomorrow? Be your own ripple effect.

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