“For a while they stood there, like men on the edge of a sleep where nightmare lurks, holding it off, though they know that they can only come to morning through the shadows.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two TowersWhen my husband walked into the kitchen and told me there was a shooting in a Connecticut school, my knees literally buckled. I remember being horrified and grief-stricken by the slaying of the Amish children, by Columbine, by the tragic movie theater incident this past year. However, this one is somehow different to me, maybe because it's closer.
As you may know, we recently moved to Connecticut, and Newtown was one of the towns we had considered. In the end, we decided it was too far for my husband to commute, and rush-hour traffic was moving the wrong way. Still... I can't help but wonder, if we'd made a different choice would I be burying a baby this week?
By Sunday evening, I had just started pulling myself together, but then we got word that one of my husband's colleagues lost a daughter in the shooting. The news has left me completely undone.
Ever since, I've been thinking about something one of my friends posted on Facebook. "On days like this, I wish I believed in God so that I could believe in hell." I can empathize with his outrage and the desire for justice and retribution, but I can't find a response. I do believe in God and hell, and it doesn't help me. I'm still filled with this dark, howling sense of grief.
I see and hear people -- kind people with good intentions -- trying to lessen the pain that our whole country feels right now. They say things like, "Now these little angels are in a better place" or "They're in the arms of Jesus." I can believe it, but speaking as a mom, it feels like hollow comfort. The thing is, before I ever fell in love with my children's spirit or personalities, I loved their bodies -- every miniature part from their tiny fingers and toes to their soft bellies and mewling little cries.
Maybe that's why even parents of less-than-lovable children show such devotion. A true parent doesn't love a child because of what they do but because they exist. It's simply their existence that gives birth to love. I can say that my kids sometimes (ok, everyday) do things that really irk me and I wish they'd stop, but I never tire of their physical beings. I love the warmth of their breath, the pressure of their arms around my neck, their hands as they grab mine, the giggles when I tickle a belly button, silly grinning faces, the sound of their steps coming home from school... I could name a thousand things about them that fill me with joy. To have all these things snuffed out in a moment, I don't know... I guess I'm a heretic, but I can't think of anything that would fill that vacuum, not even hope.
I don't blame or accuse God, but I'm struggling to find some kind of peace in this. I just can't shake or process the senselessness, the total pointlessness of this nightmare. I don't know how to write a card, how to comfort a bereft parent without sounding lame or false or meaningless. And there are other feelings rolling under the surface that I don't even know how to put into words.
Anyway, I will wrap this up because my own little ones need to sleep, and though it's trite to say, I will hold them closer and longer.