There exist iconic images of loss that are so real, so earth-shakingly poignant, they make us feel like we’ve been punched in the gut. Who, among us, can look at a soldier’s pair of empty boots without feeling a deep and profound sorrow – the sense of loss represented, the death of an individual. A mother’s grief?
A flag flown at half-mast. On September 11th every time I saw our flag lowered in respect, I felt the aching unfairness of it all. The lives that were ended, the potential that was taken away in a heartbeat. The innocence shattered.
I remember watching President Kennedy’s funeral procession with my mother. I was very, very young at the time, hardly aware of my part in life, and yet I remember the horse with the backward boot. Such a strange image, such a perfect image for a nation who felt confused and stranded. Our President was no longer leading the way. He was gone.
Images like these are not intended to prolong our grief and make us constantly feel sorrow. Instead they are created to give us pause, to make us remember what it is we no longer have. To be grateful we were able to be a part of someone’s life whose pain at their loss we feel so deeply. It reminds us that we have been profoundly touched by another.
Thank God there exist images like these. They cut to the chase by making us reflect, helping us to cope. The important thing to remember, however, when you see one is not to dwell on what is gone but instead to move forward, always forward, carrying the loving spirit and the lessons learned behind that loss forever in your heart.