Celebrating My Happy Day in the Aftermath of a Mass Shooting

Gloria DeGaetanoClarity

happy day in wake of mass shooting

Today October 4 is my official “Happy Day,” but wondering how and even if to celebrate it after the Las Vegas mass shooting?

As a child, I enjoyed an October day of playful exhilaration outdoors with warming sun, blue sky, and crisp air. I felt vitally alive and connected to nature and something even larger that I couldn’t identify but I recognized in every part of my being.

Coming into the house at dusk after several calls for dinner, I suddenly had an idea. I looked at the calendar and found out it was October 4. I raced to my room and declared that from henceforth October 4 would be known as my official Happy Day.

I have kept that childhood vow ever since—noting October 4 with various degrees of honor, depending on my time and circumstances. As a young adult, going out for drinks with friends was one way. As a Mom, reading to my little boys Bryd Baylor’s wonderful book, I’m in Charge of Celebrations was another. Over the years, my family honored October 4 with long walks in the fresh fall air, stopping along the way to bury ourselves in leaves or with races in the rain or dancing inside watching the rain. Renewing and invigorating activities kept the essence of Happy Day alive.

As an empty nester, each October 4, I would consider how to set aside the day for special consideration—often it was less work and more self-care with a massage or a much needed mani-pedi. As the years past, I retreated more inside myself with meditative walks or a day of contemplative silence.

My husband’s question, “How are you going to celebrate your Happy Day this year?” perplexed me. “Should I even celebrate Happy Day this year, I wondered?”

Like you, the recent mass shooting has me rattled.

I mean we can hardly wrap our heads around such horrific evil and the physical and emotional pain inflicted. And then with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria—all the human suffering we are witnessing these days—it’s too much at once, so unbearable.

This year I know for sure my Happy Day can’t be happy in the sense of carefree and oblivious. Yet, being with human suffering is one way I can honor, not only the victims and their loved ones, but also all those who helped and are still helping–those who have saved lives while sacrificing their own.

So…to counter the darkness, I am working to re-visit that generative, alive feeling of my first Happy Day. I will take more time in silent prayer today. The sun is shining, nature beckons. If during a meditative walk, I can manage to connect with something larger than myself, I think I will be ripened by our collective sadness, bolstered by our joint resolve not to collapse into despair.

Honoring those who died in the mass shooting and the recent natural disasters, I decide to celebrate this October 4 as a Celebration of Life—theirs, yours, and mine.


Copyright, Gloria DeGaetano, 2017.