Le Deuil National– National Mourning

I had two posts ready to put up from last week that I just hadn’t gotten around to posting… but cute things my students said about Thanksgiving feels altogether too trivial in light of what happened in Paris Friday evening.

I am far from Paris and the shock and sadness felt in my corner of France cannot touch the trauma that Parisians faced and continue to face. But in the wake of tragedy, I’ve been privileged to witness those around me grieve and work toward healing in beautiful ways.

The outward signs of mourning are apparent. Flowers on the steps of the Hôtel de Ville in Lyon. Stores with the Eiffel tower/ peace sign symbol taped in their windows. Scrolling screens in the train station that say “Attentifs Ensemble… Deuil National– Hommage aux Victimes” (Together we pay homage  to the victims– National Mourning). As I biked to the train station yesterday morning, every pedestrian I passed looked up to greet me. It felt like strangers were truly seeing each other.

I spent my day yesterday with a few other assistants. It was an important time of processing for us. Asking questions about what this means for the coming days and how we feel as outsiders who love the country we currently call home. This is how we grieved. It was helpful and healing.

I’ve seen many helpful and healing things. An encouraging conversation about hope and perseverance with the guy who sold me a book at the bookstore yesterday. Watching a woman eagerly pay for the coffee of the person in front of her at the train station when the guy didn’t have the right coins this morning. Focusing on hope with the diverse group I consider family at church today.

People have mixed reactions regarding the flood of social media support for France. I am becoming more convinced that the most important thing we can do is grieve when we need to and come along side those who are grieving. That support will look like one thing for people in Paris, it’ll look slightly different for me in Lyon, and it’ll be once again different for friends in America. But as we work toward healing, this is what we do. The deluge of support for France is one powerful way to come alongside those who are grieving.

At church this morning, we sang the words “chasse la haine par l’amour, et la mort par la vie.” I can’t think of more appropriate words for this period of grief. May God drive out hate with love, and death with life. And may we join him in that pursuit.

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