We were given a ‘free’ blog post this week to pick what we wanted to write about and even though it seemed obvious to use the space to reflect, I felt this was the right course of action. I’d like to say that there was a planned-out-theme for this week’s post, but the theme came to me as I was writing. I chose to write a reflection of this past week, mostly from the vantage point of someone who desperately wanted to partake in the Peace March in Srebrenica, but was unable to for medical reasons.
Firstly, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have one’s own body be the reason why I can’t participate in something that means so much to not only myself, but to an entire country, region, and collective. The individuals for whom the march memorializes did not have the luxury of deciding whether or not they were medically unfit to run for their lives. Many of these individuals, I hate to say all but that also might be true, were starving and dehydrated, and many probably had pre-existing medical conditions or physical injuries that were part of the reason for running in the first place. In war time, there is no time to stop and say, ‘can’t’, or to consider if one is ‘able’ to do something. That being said, now that it isn’t war time it’s almost offensive to make oneself do such a march with pre-existing conditions, because we do have the ability to know our limits and make decisions. I am not pained by my inability to not march however, and am instead left in complete awe and admiration for our four summer cohort members who completed the Peace March. It is not the time nor place to dwell on personal pitfalls, but instead to look around and appreciate what one has and the people that surround us.
When I entered the cemetery to find those of us who had marched, I immediately felt a thrust of emotion. One of the ladies, I won’t use names, had collapsed on the ground, now that she was finally able, and began to tear when she saw us. Once we found two more, you could see that they were visibly shaking and were covered in mud, sweat, and small cuts. And yet, they politely answered everyone’s questions about their aching bodies and didn’t dwell on the fact. Yes, there was conversation around the pain and aching, but no complaining, whining, or statements of regret. I was moved to see their strength so beautifully portrayed as they described what kept them going through the march and the people they met and walked with along the way. I understood at this point that it had been the right decision not to march, but I also understood that if these ladies could do it, so could I- one day. And that is what I plan to do.
The entire day went by so quickly once the marchers began to file into the cemetery after their 60+ mile journey. It was a blur of teary eyes, sweat, mud, interesting choices in footwear, leather and roses, and a whole lot of people coming together for a really important reason. I can’t begin to imagine how the survivors, and even those who didn’t survive, felt as they ran for their lives through land mine filled forest, and up and down mountain passes. I also can’t imagine what the families of these individuals went through or even what went through the minds of the soldiers who perpetrated or defended during the war. I pray that I am unable for the rest of my life to understand what these individuals went through. What I can offer instead is a mind that has and continues to try to understand and a heart that aches for the survivors and for those this world lost. I’ve dedicated my life to mental health work, because there is no way I will be able to understand every individual’s experience, but the one thing I can do is listen, observe, and try my hardest to use the tools given to me to heal others and be supportive. I don’t seek legacy; just the chance to make the world a better place one person at a time. I hope that when I’m able to partake in the Peace March I will be able to express that by marching I am emotionally with and in support of the healing hearts of Bosnia as someone who does not and cannot understand, but as someone who desperately wants to do all they can.