“Tell everyone on this train I love them.”
—Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23
I want to turn off the news. As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I need to turn it off. To stay offline, to stay away from the headlines that promise environmental disaster, oppression, murder, and murder-by-lack-of-healthcare-access. I cannot keep up with the awful stories because they saturate me until I am sinking, unable to find anything that would propel me to the surface again so I can breathe.
Some people get pushed down into the muck and find anger. Some people forge their despair into action and call or march or write letters. Some are by their very lives defying the messages bombarding them because they are living, breathing, people of color, or women, or lgbt, or because they work with traumatized children, the elderly, the poor. Oh, how I admire these people. Oh, how I have tried to be them, making my own fruitless calls while living in the red state of Tennessee.
But I cannot be someone else. Those are not my gifts. I am limited by my own illnesses, my own introversion that becomes actually painful when my depression is flaring up. And even when I do everything right—which is rarely—like daily exercise, meditation, eating right, and more, there are flare-ups. The news can cause them. A miniscule shift in the rotation of the earth can cause them. I don’t know what the hell causes them, most times. But the news, that bitter stew of negativity and fear, is the main culprit these days.
Except. Except when a 23-year-old man—a boy, to someone my age, though his actions were very much adult and mature—not only steps in to shield oppressed young women from hatred, but ends his life with words that break my heart in exactly the right way. “Tell everyone on this train I love them.” Dying from a wound inflicted by a crazy bigot. Dying because he stood up to oppression and violence. Dying because he did the right thing. But dying with love.
How much love that act, and those words, sent out into the world. It feels like the tiniest ripple of water in a raging ocean. It feels meaningless. But it reminds us all how we would like to be remembered, how we would like to live. No love is ever meaningless. No act of love, witnessed or not, is ever meaningless. And our everyday lives are filled with love. When we make tea for our beloved. When we hug someone. When we create. When we share our broken, repaired, and broken-again hearts.
It is hard, being in this hate-filled world. It is hard to act, and hard to educate ourselves, and hard to know when and how to disconnect so we can renew and be ready to act and learn again. But it is not hard to love. Say the names of the Portland MAX heroes: Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, killed; Rick Best, killed; and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, living. Love them. Love what they did. Love the people who supported them, educated them, influenced them. Love the thousands who now know and honor their names. And don’t forget to tell your love, to say it, while you can.