Waukesha, WI

After this tragedy, it’s impossible not to ask “why?” But the truth is that there is no logic to this loss. It feels especially unthinkable that it happened at a Christmas parade.

All of America mourns with Waukesha.

In the Gospel of Luke, the Christmas story begins not with Mary, but with the birth of John the Baptist—who came, as we’re told, to “testify to the light.”

Hope had been born, but people needed a prophet to help open their hearts—just as the Magi needed a star to guide them towards the manger. When we are lost in the dark, we often need someone to turn our eyes to the dawn.

There is sorrow—here in Waukesha and throughout our country, with so many lives lost in the devastating tornados last week—families that the President is visiting today.

With the precious children of Oxford, Michigan who will never have the chance to graduate.

With every family making their way through this season with an empty chair and a broken heart. And yet, today, we are gathered to testify to the light.

We are here to tell the stories of the lives that inspired us and changed us—that helped shape this community.    

“Ginny,” your choreographer, who loved throwing parties and found her calling as a nurse—whose family said she “sparkled her way through life.”

Lee, one of the smallest but feistiest Dancing Grannies, who rescued bulldogs and always knew how to make people laugh.

Tamara, a teacher and chaplain who always found ways to help others—whether it was holding their hand in hospice or saving a man from the Wisconsin River.

Bill, married to Lola for 61 years, who was the family handyman and lived by his favorite saying: “Keep moving.”

Jane, a devoted wife, mom and grandma, who never had a bad word to say about anyone, whose favorite Christmas song was Silent Night.

And Jackson, who loved baseball and catching frogs with his brother, Tucker—who had big dreams and an even bigger heart.

They continue to shine in every soul who loved them. May their memories bring you joy.

We also bear witness today to the light of this community.

The police and firefighters and EMTs who bound up wounds and lifted people from the wreckage. The Victim Assistance professionals who answered the call that terrible night and have worked nonstop to support survivors ever since. Those at the parade who rushed in to help. The neighbors across this city and Wisconsin who have wrapped their arms around victims’ families and survivors. The Americans from every state who have donated and found ways to spread kindness here. The grannies who keep dancing—even as their hearts ache.

As the Apostle John writes: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

While there is no logic to this loss, it has left something else in its wake: love. And that defies logic, too. We dance for no reason but a song inside us that won’t be silenced. We love with every piece of our hearts, even if they might be broken.

And though we have been changed by this tragedy, we are not diminished. Instead, we grow—together—to hold both our sorrow and joy. 

The grannies keep dancing.

The high school band keeps marching.

And Waukesha is lit up in blue.

That is the antidote to the darkness. It’s how we testify to the light around us and the light within us. We go on together.

We shine through the night like a star—illuminating the heart of every person we touch.

We turn our faces to the glow of dawn, and look for the hope we know will come.

God bless you and God bless Waukesha.

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