The very first time I got on an airplane, I flew from Newark Liberty Airport to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport in the south of France. The runways are as close to the Mediterranean Sea as an airplane should get. The skies are clear blue, the air is warm, and the water glistens. It is the Azure Coast, for sure. I was just passing through Nice on my way to Cannes, where I spent the next three weeks that May in 2005, but Nice was my first experience of France. When I stepped off the plane, I was very aware of being on French soil because I had been dreaming about it for years.
During my three weeks in Cannes, I sat on the beach, walked along La Premenade de la Croisette (the gorgeous road stretching along the coast in Cannes), and watched a lot of movies (I was there for the international film festival).
On our honeymoon, Chad and I flew to Nice. Again, it was not the final destination: we took a shuttle from the airport and then walked through a couple streets downtown until we figured out how to get a bus to Antibes, a beautiful town on a peninsula just a little bit west on the Côte d’Azur, but not as far as Cannes.
We spent a week in Antibes enjoying those same hallmarks of the French Riviera: pristine beaches, warm, clear blue water, and walks along the coastal roads and promenades. For the second week of our honeymoon, we returned to Nice to board a ferry in the main port that would take us to the island of Corsica. After an adventurous week on the island, we returned to Nice for one night before coming home. We splurged and stayed at the luxurious five-star Boscolo Exedra Hotel on Boulevard Victor Hugo, maybe five blocks from the Promenade Des Anglais.
We walked through Nice that day and picked up gifts to bring home. In one of the main squares in the shopping district there was a man playing a piano for tips. He must push his piano through the streets every day and take it home each night, but in between, he fills the Niçoise streets with music.
I’ve been to France seven times in eleven years. The last time we went, it was three weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris, and we flew through the Zaventem airport in Brussels (three and a half months before attacks there). I love France, and I’m grieving with them. I’m grieving with Baton Rouge, Iraq, Bangladesh, Syria, Orlando, Istanbul, all the places in the world where terrible things are happening, with no good reason.
I’ve been grieving for a while, and I know I’m not the only one. How many names and cities can we add to our list? How many times can we see the same story on repeat: police vs. black man; terrorist vs. crowded location?
But how can we not grieve for each one, too? We can’t allow these events, in America or abroad, to become our reality. We need to grieve and be outraged each time, fight against it with love and justice-seeking each time.
I don’t want to hear about a new tragedy each time I turn on the radio. I don’t want to cry on my way to work every morning for more people lost to hate. I don’t want to keep calling on God — who is more grieved than all of us, I think — for a stop to this madness. Our world feels like a scary, unbelievable, unraveling place right now, doesn’t it? What prayers do we say in moments like these? What prayers are you saying?
I keep thinking about Nice — about the sunshine and the clear blue water and the perpetual summer and I think, how can a place so bright be in such darkness now? It doesn’t add up.
I imagine Nice feels too bright, too sunny this week, and that some people might be wishing for a cloudy day, a little darkness. I think, for sure, sometimes we need the darkness. Sometimes we need our outside world to match how we feel inside. I would understand if people in Nice this week were shuttering their windows, drawing the curtains, and diving back beneath the covers, trying to escape the sunshine that seems to be ignoring the sorrow of their hearts.
The world is not all it should be. It’s broken and sad and unrelenting. It is dark, but also bright; terrible, but also hopeful. It is full of violence, but also piano music. It’s the world we live in. It’s the world we continue to pray for and grieve with; the world we must continue to make more just and safe and loved. We must keep grieving and caring. We must.