Suzette Martinez Standring: Healing after a bombing
On April 20, the annual Boston Marathon will be a reminder of families who lost loved ones in the 2013 bombing. No doubt their grief remains fresh. In Chandler, Oklahoma, the Ferrell family understands this and offers hope.
For them, April 19 will mark 20 years since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing when Don and Sally Ferrell, now ages 86 and 81, lost their oldest daughter. Susie Ferrell perished at the age of 37, and her tambourine with slim satin ribbons - lavender, gold, red, green, and blue - hangs on a wall in their home. Her parents are finally ready to donate it to The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, which displays artifacts from the lives of the 168 bombing victims.
Sally Ferrell said of Susie, “People really enjoy that she was a lawyer and a belly dancer. To give up her tambourine is a milestone.”
Their daughter had a crackling, energetic embrace of life; a dancing attorney. Once her colleagues were late for a meeting, so she hopped onto an office table and did a tap dance to get their attention. At the Oklahoma City Arts Festival her troupe belly-danced in costumes as Susie banged out rhythms on her tambourine. She would have been 58 this August.
“I can’t imagine her with gray hair,” said her mother.
The early years of grief were paralyzing. In looking back, faith got them through the pain. “Chandler, our town of about 5,000 people, has 30 churches. It takes faith and friends to help you through. It’s nearly impossible to go at it alone,” said Ferrell.
Younger daughter, Cindy, stayed strong for her parents as well as her own children, then ages 6 and 1, heeding advice from a counselor, “Your children will be okay if you are.”
Ferrell recalled, “I was so grief stricken. She was suffering, too, and also trying to help us.” Today Cindy Ferrell Ashwood is a District Court Judge in Oklahoma for Lincoln County.
Twenty years ago, the comfort from friends and strangers made a difference. “I kept all the cards ever sent, all alphabetized. You cannot describe or know the sorrow or heartache of losing a child until it happens. It changed my life in that I’m much more compassionate with people who suffer losses of all kinds.”
Now they will let go of those tightly packed boxes as well. “The 20 year observance is a turning point. It’s still as painful, but not always present because people are around you, and they help you go on. You think about other things, work, family and friends.”
Letting go of Susie’s tambourine marks progress in healing. Faith and community brought the Ferrells to that milestone.
Email Suzette Martinez Standring at email@example.com. She is the award-winning author of “The Art of Opinion Writing” and teaches writing workshop nationally. Visit www.readsuzette.com.