March 28, 2021

A Letter to My Neighbor Whose Son was Killed in the Boulder Shooting.

I know we’ve never spoken before now.

I know you don’t know me from Adam. I know you live just far enough away on the corner of our apartment complex where our paths have never crossed before. I know you don’t know my name or my face even. I’m so sorry I don’t know yours either.

I suppose this is what happens, though, when you’re told to stay in your homes for a whole year and counting. Told to stay away from others, especially those outside your immediate circle. To avert your eyes, to hide behind our masks as if we somehow felt safer now not being seen. Not making ourselves as vulnerable as we feel. I suppose that’s not why we haven’t met though.

Maybe, because we’ve gotten too comfortable in our own circles and stopped making friends with those outside of it. That’s probably more the reason rather than forced social isolation.

I know your son was only a mere 23 years old; I am seven years his senior. I know he commuted to his job. I know that you brought him and your family with you from your own country of origin, probably in the hopes that these lands could provide safety for your family in all the ways the American dream has promised, and in so many ways, failed to deliver in the brokenness of a system too bogged over by corruption and power-hungry ghosts to do so.

I’m so sorry that our country failed to live up to this promise of a long, healthy, well-lived life for your beloved son. And, maybe, it’s a global problem at this point, the felt lack of safety to live and breathe without fear of your life being taken by the hands of another.

If you ask me what the root of the root was, I would say it’s much deeper than guns, than someone taking a weapon and using it to inflict violence upon the innocent. I would say it’s buried in the soil of our forgotten humanness, of our forgotten shared humanity, of our misbelieved lies in other as the enemy, or other as a target to inflict our own pain upon. I’d say it has more to do with the shaky ground we walk on as mental health advocates, in a shaky world of uncertain magnitude, ever-increasing in its fragility.

I don’t know your son’s name, and that breaks my heart. I don’t know what he loved and what things he hated. I don’t know if he had dreams as large as the sea, or hopes as high as the sky, to someday build a new world where we don’t feel the need to inflict pain and violence upon others. Where our own felt pain has room to breathe and move and shift without harming another. A loving and welcoming space to be transmuted because we are igniting a world strong and soft enough to hold the containers for the magnitude of pain we need to transmute as a global community.

I wish I had answers for you, as to why your son. Why was he taken away from you so soon, so suddenly? All I can say and do is pray that even in the pain, there is potential for deeper healing of our world. For the darkness to be seen in the light of day. For us to hold each other close again, not in fear of other, but in remembrance of our shared humanity, that this life is so damn fleeting, precious, and sacred.

I don’t have answers, but I have a heart, and I know now that my heart is vast enough to hold the brokenness and the healing balm. I know yours is too. And, even the one who irresponsibly, rashly, and violently took the lives of your son and of the other innocent lives in that store, had a heart, but gravely forgotten choice of responsibility to his own pain, to his own ability to transmute the pain and the poison held captive in his own heart.

That is our responsibility. That no matter what we feel, may we take more responsibility for what it is we feel, may we be shown how to do this, may we respond to our pain rather than react in violent, impulsive ways, thus spreading this poison, lighting the match and igniting the fire of harm on our brothers and sisters. May we create and foster systems, not of further oppression, incarceration, and violence, but systems of healing and support.

I saw your family today, carrying giant flowers of blues, reds, and pinks. I saw the faces of your loved ones, standing close, dressed in your Sunday best. My heart went out to you. My heart felt a twinge of the enormous pain and loss you must be feeling. Because, until today, until the other day, finding out the loss of a brother was my own neighbor, I didn’t feel the magnitude of what had happened. And, for that, I feel guilty for my own desensitization to violence.

We have been desensitized, detached, disconnected for so long, told to fear the other, and now this last year, been given a hard-proof disease to fear the other. Some days, I fear if we will ever make it back to our shared humanness, or rather, if we’ll be able to create a new template of our shared humanness, one we’ve maybe never fostered before.

My heart reminded me it’s still possible when I saw you hug your family member today, muttering words to them about what else needed to be done to prepare for the service. I saw how one reckless deed offset a domino effect of pain into the host of a whole family unit.

I’m so sorry this person’s pain became your burden to bear, your loss to feel, your own pain to be with from this day forward. I hope and pray that you receive the support in that pain that that person probably never did. I pray that your pain becomes softened into your own hearts, not hardened away in bitterness, hatred, and revenge-seeking. And, I hope you know that to feel all of that darkness in your own heart now is so valid and welcomed.

That feelings are meant to breathe and move. But, not in ways intended to harm another. A point of pause between feeling and action. A point of pause that wasn’t taken before your own son’s life was taken.

I hope in the coming days you feel the strength of your community surrounding you, offering support to you in ways you can’t even imagine having needed before this. I hope our note and flowers are ones of hundreds outpouring to you, in symbolic offering that we stand with you, not against the other, but in hope that our community can hold the vastness of the pain in our own hearts and not be defeated but deepened into loving connection to our neighbors.

I can’t begin to imagine what you must be feeling. But, all I can say is this:

I pray for healing, for the healing needed in our hearts, and in our world, to remember that violence done against other, is violence done against self. I pray and hope that the darkness we feel in these acts of violence can somehow be remembered as simply, not so simply addressed, an absence of one’s one light. I pray that you lean into the support and love of those around you. I pray you find peace whenever it may find you too. I pray that your hearts are heard, seen, and held in the vastness of love holding you still.

I pray, someday we can meet. I pray, someday we can smile to the other, without fear of our unexposed faces staring back, of our unexposed hearts opening to the other. I pray, someday soon, we will be on the other side of this devastation, that new life will find you, that our hearts will beat together once more, reminded of the one universal heartbeat.

I pray all these things for you, for your family, for your son’s life now taken away, for all of us, trying to find our way each day in the darkness. May we remember that light is always with and within us, and may we have the courage to see it. May we have the courage to turn toward the light even in the darkest of days.


Read Waylon’s thoughts on the incident: If you’re arguing online against commonsense gun reform that 90% of Americans support right now, you are the problem.

Another one from Waylon: 10 signs from my visit to the Memorial in Boulder, this morning.



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