GUEST COMMENTARY: Finding hope in tragedy

Rev. Belle Michelson’s address from the memorial service for Enrique Zamudio

By the Rev. Belle Mickelson
Special to The Cordova Times

When I heard about Enrique Zamudio’s death, an incredible sadness came over me — and it’s still with me. I totally loved Enrique — like all of you — everyone here who are his Cordova aunties and uncles, brothers and sisters.   I was so looking forward to his stories, his songs, and his music… We really miss him — and I know he’s missing us.

It’s hard for me to imagine the world without Enrique.  This past year, he did a lot of weight training—and he spoke with me about how impressed he was with the younger kids coming up and working hard working out!  I so enjoyed our conversations at the pool where he lifeguarded—helping the little kids and making the pool a lot more fun—and even saving a life one day.

Enrique also volunteered at Morning Music for a couple years. I could see the younger kids’ faces light up when he came into the room.   Enrique was one of our amazing head counselors at music camp—and families loved having him teach their kids the bass.   I was so impressed with his expertise—and our square dances really rocked with his solid bass beat.

Recently, I read a book called “The Gift of Hope: How We Survive Our Tragedies” by Robert Veninga, a professor at the University of Minnesota.

One of the important lessons was for each of you to take care of yourself. Call a friend. It’s so important to have someone that you can share your stories of Enrique and what he meant to you. Someone you can tell about your love, sadness, anger, joy. Everything! Grieving is hard work. Be sure to exercise and eat right. And yes, chocolate does help! And do get outdoors.


When I was back East this past week — I took long walks in the woods, watched the bullfrogs jump — and looked for turtles. Feeling the beauty of God’s creation helped me so much. One of the most impressive videos I saw this summer was of Micronesian people singing one of their own to heaven with gorgeous harmonies — and we definitely did that today with beautiful music.

Enrique’s death reminds us how much we care about each other — and we definitely don’t want to lose any more of us before our time.  All of Cordova’s children are our children.  That’s the good news.  We are in this together and we can help each other — and God will be with us.

Enrique had awesome parents and we are proud to have been his aunties and uncles, cousins and friends.   It seems like our town’s gillnet has a huge hole in it — that ripped away when he left …

And now we have a job to do — helping two great families — the Zamudios  and Stimson’s recover — as well as all of us.  All the love that’s in our hearts we need to use to support these families.

Today, we have heard some great stories about Enrique…   Think about how we can come together as a community and mend that net one strand at a time just like Enrique…   This week, think how you can honor Enrique by smiling at someone, playing some music, or joking with someone.  Little kids, you really help to cheer everyone up!   Each of us has a gift to give the world, a special song that only we can sing—and we can all help others..

We can keep these families in our prayers, write them notes, give them hugs and be their friends.  We need someone to lifeguard at the pool, help with Morning Music, square dances—and whatever your gift is to make Cordova a better community—one that encourages healthy choices—and raises up more young leaders.  Think about what we can do to insure that alcohol and drugs don’t take any more of our young (or old) people.   And I hope these families and all those closest to Enrique will ask for help when they need it today, tomorrow and in the months and years to come — and that we will be there for them.

We can count our blessings and thank God for this beautiful earth we live on and our little bit of time with Enrique.   We can move forward—together.   That’s what gives me hope.  There are so many wonderful people in Cordova.  We are the good news.  We love our children.  We care about each other.  And we can work together with God to recover from this tragedy.

Keep going! Keep loving! We can help create a world filled with love, love and more love. Amen.

The Rev. Belle Mickelson St. George’s Episcopal Church in Cordova gave this address at the celebration of life for Enrique Zamudio. It is printed with her permission.