There was a murder-suicide in our town over the weekend. The news trickled out slowly, first reaching me at Chase’s basketball game on Saturday afternoon when our close friend asked “if we had heard….”. A quick look at online reports offered a street name, followed by the ages of the shooter husband and his victim wife. Next came the fact that there were children in the house at the time. With each piece of information, the odds that we might know this family seemed to increase exponentially. Our town is not large.
A few hours later, my heart fluttered sadly when I read that this tragedy involved the parents of one of Chase’s classmates and baseball/basketball team members. Over the last few years, we would often share sideline space with this Mom and Dad as we cheered our boys in the summer heat and the frozen winter. They were a fixture, as were we and countless other parents, supporting our kids. We knew them, but not nearly well enough to make something like this make any sense.
My mind lept over the obvious questions regarding the state of their relationship, the circumstances of the shooting, and what anger/psychosis could have driven someone to something so unspeakable. All I could ask myself is “Who is going to watch this boy play ball?”
Over the last several months, I feel like have been circling the existential drain, on the cusp of plunging into some sort of larger understanding about life. Usually I find myself in this enlightenment pool flailing about. After a while, I might stop and navel gaze for a bit, only to recommence the flailing part. Of course all of this is happening “on the inside,” and is invisible to most people. But I have spent the greater part of the last decade looking for definitive meaning and purpose. Yet, lately, I feel as if I have turned a corner, with the answers to those timeless questions on the tip of my tongue:WHAT AM I DOING HERE? HOW CAN I MAKE MY LIFE MATTER? AM I DOING THIS LIFE RIGHT…OR NOT?
BIG questions like these deserve BIG answers. And I always felt that BIG answers require BIG actions. But, so far, BIG actions have provided few answers for me. And hanging in the heaviness of this weekend’s tragedy was a whisper that shouted:What if my only real purpose in life is to be here for my children?
Well! THAT realization sure takes the pressure off of figuring it all out. If this is true for me, then there is no need to see Paris, lose 20 pounds, or write the great American novel. There is no need to earn a certain salary or a level of respect in my profession. I don’t have to even parent perfectly under this scenario – I just have to show up and give it my all in my role as Mom. Its rather liberating to think this way, but also a little disconcerting that everything else in my life has really just been a distraction all along. An important distraction, as I don’t think a 24/7 vigil watching over my boys would be good for anyone. But all that mushy, gushy stuff that parents prattle on about their kids being their greatest accomplishment and parenting their most important job? What if THAT is all true??
I think that it just might be.
I’m not about to quit my job, stop all self-fulfilling activities, and throw myself into my children’s lives. This isn’t about martyrdom. It’s also not about happiness. I fully intend to struggle with those concepts for the rest of my life. This realization is looking at what I have been doing all along in a whole new light. It’s a promise to my boys that they will always be safe and always be loved, as long as I am on this earth. If I do nothing else of merit than show up on the sidelines of their lives and cheer them on, then my time here was well spent.
After this weekend, that feels like enough.