Dear Mission community;

First allow me to say thank you so much for all of the prayers over the Mission. Prayers for the precious life that was lost. Prayers for the young man’s family. And prayers for the staff, clients, volunteers and others who were affected by this tragedy. This has been a huge support for everyone.

Two weeks ago, the Tacoma Rescue Mission family experienced a tragic loss when a client named Tyler was hit by a car and killed in front of the mission. Many staff, clients and volunteers witnessed this young man’s death. This loss leaves a deep, traumatic impact on many of us.

This happened just days after the world was transfixed by a helicopter crash in California that ended the lives of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other people. Moments like these force us to realize that life can end suddenly, regardless of success or problems in life, and we don’t have any promise of tomorrow. Ultimately, I believe God is in control, and I have to trust Him in these times when I am at a loss for understanding. 

Thirteen years ago, I held my mom’s hand when she passed away. She had been healthy and normal just seven days earlier. Immediately after she passed, I went into my “get things done” mode, taking care of my dad and brothers, answering medical staffs’ questions, and thinking of the next steps to notify family, etc. I almost never cry, and while I felt that I wanted to at the time, I just couldn’t. I didn’t end up crying until days after my mom died because my body shut down from the trauma, somehow blocking that part of my emotions. I felt deep sorrow and loss, but had trouble expressing it. When tears did finally come, it was an overwhelming release. Eventually, I talked about my feelings of loss with trusted friends and family, and found that this helped tremendously.

As I have processed these recent losses, I once again went immediately into “get things done” mode – and it wasn’t until this week, a week after the tragedy, that my tears arrived. Once it was driving into work. Another time I was overwhelmed while listening to worship music and reflecting on life and relationships and people I love. Still another while meeting with someone in a coffee shop. Grief and trauma builds on past experiences too, bringing up other memories we have and “snowballing” inside. This creates an even greater need to process, find ways to release and allow healing. I share my experiences with grief to help you know we are all processing this loss, in our own way. I don’t expect anyone else’s grief to look the same as mine. Each person handles trauma and emotional stress differently.

To all community members affected by this tragedy, please know that whatever you’re feeling is ok. Whatever connection you did or did not have to the people who died, you have a right to grieve. An experience like this – even hearing about it, or listening to those who were present share about and process their experiences – can trigger past trauma we may be carrying.

I am truly grateful during this time that chaplains from Pierce County have offered to be available for anyone at the Mission who needs a listening ear.

In spite of the weight of this past two weeks, there is good news. Life is so precious and valuable – and these times that feel overwhelming can help remind us of that. Treasure the people that love you. Know that God has a plan and love for each of us always. My favorite chapter of the Bible is probably Psalm 23. I memorized this as a child and use it when I’m sad, scared, overwhelmed, lonely or depressed, to remind me of how God cares for me. He is my Father and protector and He cares for me and loves me just as He says in these verses:

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

I pray for peace and comfort for all of our community in this time. Keep reaching out and caring for each other. The Mission is committed to continuing to provide help through our partnership with the Pierce County Chaplains. Know that you are important and valued as a beloved child of God.

Duke Paulson
Executive Director