A Certain Trembling


By Caroline Noland

They were attacked. Right here. Their blood stained this piece of earth.

I was walking when I heard the news. Walking on the hot crumbling asphalt of Alabama, near a town called Selma. 

A pit bull had attacked several animals at the farm that my church nurtures, loves, and shares space with. A sheep who had given birth to twins only weeks earlier, a sheep pregnant with what would have been Easter twins, and our sweet emu were all killed in the slaughter. 

People I sing hymns alongside on Sundays held the heads of bleeding creatures while they passed, tried to rescue their little ones, and sobbed when these efforts failed. 

When I heard, I was walking on crumbling asphalt where 50 years ago another mother was slaughtered. Viola Liuzzo was driving a man back to Selma after having marched 54 miles from that town to Montgomery demanding voting rights for all, no matter their race. She was white and her passenger was black. When she rode past the KKK, they shot at the car and killed her. Her passenger dipped his fingers in her warm body and used her blood to fake his death. She saved him on the road that day. Her five children and husband would later learn this news in their Detroit home. 

When the blood of another, be it animal or human, touches us- when we touch it- there is a certain trembling. Our own death feels that much nearer. Our inevitable mortality is smeared across our palms, covers our fingerprints. As I marched with 300 others those same 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, I thought of the lives of those no longer with us. The lives of all the civil rights activists, whose blood had been spilled and whose lives were stolen. I thought of how shallowly I love and treat others. How I fail to recognize that the blood beating throughout their being makes them holy. 

When I returned to the farm and saw the orphan lambs and heard the stories of my friends, was reminded that my own life is also holy- but also short. May each of our hearts beat fearlessly until the day it beats no more. May we see it our duty to delight in each other. May we see our mortality as a propeller towards meaningful living. 

Caroline is a member of Berea Mennonite Church.