Tragedy has the power to turn one's world upside down in a very short amount of time. With something as simple as a phone call, lives can be changed forever. And no one is immune to it.
Over the past few weeks, our small community has been shaken by more than its fair share of tragedy that's touched the lives of nearly everyone in town. In the past few weeks, far too many acquaintances, friends and loved ones have left us.
Sometimes it's easy to lose hope when despair piles up and a dark cloud seems to hover overhead. But for every pain there is a purpose, whether we know it yet or not.
It gets better.
We never get over the loss of a loved one. And frankly, we're not supposed to. Those who have lost someone close to them will carry a scar with them until they are eventually reunited in eternity. And for those of us with faith in a higher power, we know that this is not all there is. This isn't the end of the story. Faith lends us a comfort that those who live without it could not comprehend, a peace that passeth all understanding.
Tragedy is not unique to our sleepy town, and neither is that comfort in faith.
On Sunday, another, even smaller community in south Texas experienced unimaginable tragedy when a disturbed gunman took the lives of 26 people inside a tiny country church. Among those killed were eight members of the same family, spanning three generations.
The family patriarch, Bryan Holcombe, was the associate pastor of the church. He was killed by a spray of bullets as he walked to the pulpit to begin his sermon. His wife, Karla, was also killed, as was their 36-year-old son, and his one-year-old infant daughter. Bryan and Karla's daughter-in-law, who was pregnant, was also killed. She also had five children, three of whom were killed.
All at once, Bryan's father, Joe Holcombe, lost children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a soon-to-be great-grandchild.
A catastrophic loss of that magnitude would be enough to rob even the strongest human being of every last bit of hope left in their life. But not Joe. That's because Joe, an 86-year-old retired teacher, knew that this was not the end. In the aftermath of the tragedy, he told reporters that his faith would carry him through even the darkest of times, the lowest of valleys.
"We know where they are now," Joe told reporters after his family's unfathomable loss. "And it won't be long until we're with them…"
In addition to killing his in-laws, the murderer, a fervent and confrontational atheist, likely sought to crush the faith of everyone connected to those he killed nearly a week ago. But he failed. Instead, he only strengthened the faith of those most impacted.
Losing a loved one is never easy. It's not supposed to be. Such a loss is not something to get over, but rather something to get through. The trials and sorrows of this life are just a sad symptom of the journey we're all on. But thankfully, our journeys are short and the reward is our destination. Our short lives on this blue dot are nothing but a drop in the bucket compared to the time we'll spend with our loved ones on the other side of eternity.
Regardless of the name on the outside of the building where you worship, comfort can be found in faith for the those who are willing to seek it. And in times of sorrow, sometimes that's all we have left. Because no matter how dark it gets, or how deep the valley, those who have chosen to put their faith in something greater than this life will always have peace in knowing that this is not the end.
It gets better.
Far too many members of our small community have recently dealt with, or are still dealing with, the loss of a loved one. Be mindful of their struggle, and keep these families in your thoughts and prayers in the days that lie ahead.
As some of you may already know, I will soon be leaving the Times-Herald and moving to Little Rock. In the few columns I have left as an official member of this great publication, I want to know what you want to read.
If there is a itching question you have about any of the government or school entities I have been covering during my time here, feel free to send them to the email address listed below.
I will do my best to answer them.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Caleb Talley is a member of the Times-Herald news staff. He may be contacted at 870-633-3130 or by email at email@example.com.)