I didn’t know what to do about posting a blog this week. My head feels like a box of mismatched jigsaw pieces…..all from different puzzles. One voice said, “Just shut up, no one needs to hear from you, show some respect, stay silent.” The voice had some valid points.
But then there was this smaller, meeker voice who whispered, “You feel scared and alone. This week has rocked you to your core. I bet other people feel the same. Maybe holding each other’s hands would help.”
I decided to listen to this one, because of the two I figured the second was the voice closer to God. I don’t think God is supposed to tell you to shut up. I like to think he good-naturedly calls out: “Quiet Contest!” and then waits patiently for the roulette wheel in your cranium to slow to a tentative stop.
C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures…but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I feel that megaphone in my ear. It says: “What has happened to this world? How, as a nation, could we LET this happen? What are we going to do to see that this never happens again?”
My heart breaks for the families who are living an incomprehensible nightmare, and this act of hatred and violence fills me with a bone-chilling fear. As a mother of a 1st grader in a quaint little town a mere 177 miles away from Newtown, CT, this could have been Emma. Or Claire, or Cole, or Maeve….or any other of the little 6 year old faces who sat so wide-eyed and attentive as I read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” last Wednesday afternoon when I volunteered at her school.
On Friday afternoon, when I went to pick Emma up from the bus, it was really quiet. Eerie. I yearned for another mother to show up – to be grounded by human contact – but I was alone. I thought of the parents in Newtown. Where were they right now? I thought of them arriving at that fire house….their eyes scanning that room, darting around desperately…thinking every pony-tailed head is the one they have kissed and shampooed and checked for lice countless times. It is, as many of us have said: “unthinkable…unimaginable…unbelievable.”
I saw a flash of yellow as the bus rounded the lower corner of the street. I stood there waiting, waiting…..how could the bus take so long to get around the corner? I knew it was coming, I knew any second I would see that pink jacket, the glittery headband…but still…the fear was great. The fear was huge. What if, what if, what if. I felt changed. My heart felt full and heavy, like a wet towel hanging in my chest.
Emma and I have a deal: when other kids get off the bus, I am instructed to “be cool” and not embarrass her. But if she is solo, I can do a crazy Will Ferrell inspired cheer to celebrate her arrival. She gave me a little devilish smile and said, “So are you going to do the cheer?” Of course. The cheer, hot chocolate with a million marshmallows, a pony, the moon, whatever you want, I will give it to you today.
Over the weekend I had a hard time pulling myself away from the computer – reading every article, wanting to know more, wanting to know why. But then I realized what was coming. The stories. The photos. Suddenly they are no longer “the victims.” They are Emilie, Jack, Noah, Jessica, Catherine, Olivia, Charlotte, Daniel, James, Grace, Allison, Ben, Avielle, Madeleine, Joey, Ana, Dylan, Jesse, Caroline and Chase. They loved horses and orca whales and the color pink…cupcakes and football and tae kwan do.
Phil doesn’t want to know; he can’t bear it. “Stop reading me these things,” he says. “It’s too much, I can’t hear it.”
But I have to hear it. Grieving mother Krista Rekos said that the “tiny moments of comfort” come from talking about her daughter, Jessica: “I just want to keep talking about her and all the things she loved to do.” If she wants to talk, I want to listen, even if only through cyberspace. To witness the depth of her pain is to to be splintered open. But in that brokenness comes a freedom from my own fear, allowing space for deep empathy and hope for healing. I close my eyes and try to imagine a beam of light connecting my heart to hers. I ask God to give her the strength to keep breathing in and out, to somehow find a way to survive.
To again quote C.S. Lewis: “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter, but darker.”
The town of Newtown is full of brave knights: A teacher who shielded her students from a rain of bullets with her own body. A principal who lunged at the gunmen in order to stop him. Another teacher who held the faces of her terrified 3rd graders huddled in a closet, telling them she loved them because: “I wanted that to be the last thing they heard…that someone loved them…not gunfire in the hallway,” she said.
These heroes believed that good triumphs over evil, and were willing to sacrifice their lives for this belief. They did not allow themselves to be paralyzed by fear. People paralyzed by fear cannot create change. In fear there is no light. The brave knights of Newtown chose -and continue to choose – to be faces of light, of love, of community.
In honor of them, let’s spread a little light today.
Photo: Hardcore Christmas Caroling in the rain