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Off-Topic: Tragedy in the City of Angels January 28, 2009

Posted by CapitalSpirit in Uncategorized.

I’m not sure if my readers have been following the tragic tale of the Lupoe family, but it’s something I need to write about–if for no other reason than to get it off my chest.

A couple of days ago, a Los Angeles father murdered his entire family before turning the gun on himself. Man, wife, five kids–gone. Both parents had lost their jobs at an LA hospital, and the note that Mr. Lupoe faxed an LA television station was, on balance, one of utter despair.

How much despair must a father be in, that he ends the lives of the very family that he is bound to protect?

Consider the Book of Job, from the Old Testament. The beginning of the story is almost eerily similar to what happened here: Job essentially lost everything he had, to the point where even his wife told him to curse God and die. Job would have none of that. But after three of his friends had been sitting with him for a week in compassionate silence, Job cried out, and cursed the day he had been born. After a speech by one of his friends, Job eventually said the following (Job 7:1-6, NRSV):

“Do not human beings have a hard service on earth,
and are not their days like the days of a laborer?
Like a slave who longs for the shadow,
and like laborers who look for their wages,
so I am allotted months of emptiness,
and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I rise?’
But the night is long, and I am full of tossing until dawn.
My flesh is clothed with worms and dirt;
my skin hardens, then breaks out again.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
and come to their end without hope.

Does it get any lower than that? Worms and dirt? Job was experiencing pure, unbridled despair, and his friends weren’t helping much in what they were saying.

Now, I’ll grant you that the Lupoe family wasn’t in THAT dire of straits. Still, both parents losing their jobs at the same time, five kids to feed, and no idea where to turn…that may, perhaps, be the modern equivalent of what Job was going through.

And yet, the responses were completely different. Job continued to press God for an answer. (He did eventually get one, but it probably wasn’t the one he wanted to hear.) He could have just folded up and called it done, given in to despair, and quit on this whole Life thing. He didn’t: he kept pressing for a Divine answer. And he wouldn’t have kept at it unless he were sure there really WAS an answer. If the loss of his family, possessions, and health were really just a freakish act of random chance with no greater meaning, Job might not have hung in there. Why ask for an explanation if you’re convinced there isn’t one? Even in his despair, Job did have faith that there really was a reason for his misfortunes.

The response by Mr. Lupoe was the exact opposite: he gave in to his despair, called it quits, and murdered his entire family. His response was despair without hope. Worse, he made a media event out of his crime–a crime against his own flesh and blood. How deep his despair must have been to have done so!

It reminds me a bit of the end of Lamentations (5:19-22, NRSV):

But you, O LORD, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?
Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old–
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure.

And yes, that’s exactly where it ends: asking for Divine mercy, but wondering in print if that mercy will ever come. I’m pretty sure Ervin Lupoe wasn’t reading Lamentations, but the same spirit of hopelessness hangs over the whole tragic story. I’ve read that there are going to be ten grief counselors standing by at the late childrens’ school, and I suspect that they will all have their hands full for several days.

One family’s despair is now a community’s mourning. How much more sadness will yet come of this?

My thoughts and prayers go out to the neighbors, families, loved ones, and community that have suffered such a tragedy in the glare of a national spotlight.



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