Mar. 11, 2019.
It is a call you never want to get. It came last Monday and changed everything. We, the families, the staff, this congregation and the entire community, lost three souls – Flori, Vladimir and Nathan – in a violent and tragic act. These acts – so often seen in the news as another story in the lore of violence from the barrel of a gun – were now, as it has been for so many before, intensely personal. This was not a premeditated act, but an act in the midst of a troubled night in a family that we have known and cared for over many years in so many ways. Stephanie and Michael – Flori and Vladimir’s two children who were raised in part on the grounds of this congregation – thankfully were unharmed. Vladimir, caring for our grounds and adding his help when needed, took his life after taking two others.
And of course, there was Flori. She loved and cared for us and our campus. She was UUCF’s longest-serving current employee. She had a twinkle in her eye and moved through the world with kindness and joy. She worked hard and truly helped us to be our best. So many of us have stories of Flori that will stay with us forever. She was so proud of her children and so happy to have her family be a part of this community.
It is hard to understand what pain, what anger, what frustration, what loss of hope could lead to this horrible end: the deaths of these two parents and Stephanie’s boyfriend Nathan. The story is so painfully repeated in this world, but thankfully rarely so close to home. This time, we will feel this loss and we will struggle mightily with its aftermath.
Members of our community have already reached out with stories of their own pain activated by this news. If you need to reach out to me, Pippin or Pastoral Care Team co-chairs Linda Clark and Paul Atelsek, please don’t hesitate to do so. The lesson for all of us, the staff, the congregation, the families involved and the community is that we are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality and we must be here for each other.
The staff and I would like to thank so many of you for offering financial support for Stephanie and Michael. Your generosity has touched us and will be greatly appreciated by the family. Donations are still being accepted online or you can send a check to the UUCF office.
We also want to thank all those who have reached out with emotional support, including so many from across Unitarian Universalism. We feel held in the loving embrace of the greater faith. For many of us, it will take time before we stop seeing where Flori’s hands have touched. For now, we see them everywhere. Grief will find its way and will take the time it takes and although we may never understand why this happened, we will gratefully always remember these people, their lives and their impact on ours.