Last Tuesday, March 24, like many I woke up to news that a Germanwings flight had crashed into the French Alps. Like many other plane crashes before there was speculation as to what might have happened, some kind of catastrophic engine failure or a drop in the air cabin pressure even a fire in the cockpit and in the current climate, maybe it was terrorism. Then the unexpected news came that it was one of the pilots, Andreas Lubitz, who for some unknown reason locked the other pilot out of the cabin and then began to take the plane into a long dive that would end with them crashing into the Alps. There are many, much smarter folk than me out there piecing together what happened and I am definitely not going to try and analyze this terrible tragedy but it has caused me to reflect on our general state as human beings. In the days following this crash it has been discovered that Andreas was allegedly depressed and apparently hid this condition from his employers. Again, as in the case of Robin Williams, we are faced with the dark spectre of depression and how it can and does affect a person, yet in the case of Robin, when he committed suicide he only took his one life. Tragic as that was, he did not consider it necessary to take another life. He did leave a huge hole in the hearts of his many fans and especially in the hearts of his family but at least their lives still continue, a bit broken but nevertheless, alive. The Germanwings pilot, on the other hand, took another 149 souls with him as he crashed that plane into the mountains. It is so hard to imagine what it might have been like in those final moments as the plane descended and it became increasingly clear that they were not going to recover. According to sources the other pilot, having been locked out of the cockpit began to pound on the door maybe even trying to break it down. The passengers and crew were probably watching, most of them stunned, not really believing what was happening. The schoolkids from Germany, returing home from a trip to Spain, were probably all excited to be heading home eager to tell their families, friends and classmates about the trip when suddenly it dawned on them that something was terribly wrong. Every person on that flight had a future, they probably had calendars full of birthdays, anniversaries, planned vacations and maybe even a family reunion or two. Someone might have been getting ready for a wedding, another eager to see that special someone who they hoped would be asking to spend the rest of their life with them. All of those dreams, those plans, those hopes, those special futures now a wasteland of debris scattered over the French Alps. It is now, for Christians, Holy Week. It is that time when liturgically we begin to follow Jesus as he goes from the hero like entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to his final breath hanging from a cross on Golgatha. For those families who lost a loved one on Flight 9525 they have moved into their own Holy Week. The darkness that clouded the heart of Lubitz has now descended like a dark angel over the hearts and souls of those who weep and anguish over this loss. There really are no answers, try as some will, the reality is that we will never know what Lubitz was thinking on that day. About the only thing we can do, really, the only thing that I can do is pray for the victims, their families and also for Andreas Lubitz, it is afterall the least we can do as we pick up the pieces and move ever forward.
Watching GMA there was a report that by using an MRI it is possible to determine if a person is in love or not. The MRI of a brain in love lights up in the so-called pleasure centers and this can be seen in the scans. Isn’t that great! Now all I need is to install a mini MRI here in my office. What a boon to marital counseling, just scan and see if these two are actually in love. No more guess work, no more awkward conversations about family systems and sexuality, just look at the brain scan and if it is glowing happily then they are all set to go. Of course, the next question would be are they in love with each other or that bag of M&M’s sitting on my desk, or are they thinking of something or someone else, which, most couples seem to do when they have to spend that required time talking to me about marriage. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t do many marriages, a sign of our times when many folks just decide to live together before making the full legal and spiritual committment of being married. Pre-nups, post-nups, just in general sign this kind of nup, brain scans or not we still try to cover our collective butts from the uncertainties of the future. Love is such a fickle emotion, it can warm the heart in one moment and break it in the next. Of course, scientifically, the heart is nothing more than a muscle whose purpose is to pump blood. It does not feel emotion, it does not control our desires all the heart does is pump blood as efficiently as possible so that we can live. Yet, why is it then when we feel that deeply emotional connection it seems to radiate out of our core being? Some wonder if we have a soul, all I can say is just fall in love, have your heart, yes I do mean your heart, filled brimful with that emotion and then lose it and feel the brokeness within. No MRI, no scientific research, no great philosophers musings, or deeply theological insights can fully understand what love does to us both collectively and individually. Love is a great mystery, a heart felt emotion that speaks to the depths of our being and breathes life into the soul. Author, Neil Gaiman writes; “Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.” Yes, that is true but it also means that someone can get inside of you and make you whole.
While watching the season finale of Downton Abbey, I began to think about my paternal Great-Grandmother, Emma Dove. When Jane and I were over in England we did a little bit of family history work and discovered that Emma was a servant in the London home of a glassmaker, his wife and two children. During this time Emma was a teen and I began to wonder what kind of life she had working as a servant. Was her story one of those classic Dicken’s tales of an orphaned girl being taken in by a weathier, upper middle class English family or did she just go to work because that was what was expected? As I watch the interplay between the servants in Downton, the intrigue and gossip while trying to move up the social ladder of servanthood, I try to imagine what she might have been like. Was she a strong young woman, able to make a place for herself even in a Victorian society dominated buy a class system or was she a victim of a system that undervalued woman. Yet, if she was working at the home of a glassmaker, that indicates she was working for someone who, despite the class system, had somehow worked their way into a growing middle class. Maybe that gave Emma some idea that she too would be able to work her way into a better life, maybe that is what my Great-Grandfather Edwin Lomas was offering when he first met her while in London himself. It is interesting to think how they met, he was from Dukenfield near Manchester, a worker in one of the many mills that dominated the economy in that area. Story has it that during the American Civil War, with the lack of cotton from the Confederacy due to the Union blockade, he went to London to find work. It also seems that he had family in London, Lomas’ who lived and worked there. On some of the census taken at the time he is listed as a boarder and that intrigues me as to how did he and Emma discover one another, where did they first meet, fall in love and decide to get married? While in England we did find my Great-Grandmother’s gravesite in the Dukenfield cemetery. She was only 44 years old when she died. As I kneeled down by her stone, cleaning off the grass that had grown around her marker, I began to wonder what she might have been like, what she would have thought about us today, what she might say. It is all part of the story that all of us carry around, stories that beg to be told.