“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
This week I planned to spend this evening writing about some of the events I have done recently and what was on the horizon... then the tragedy in Newtown, CT happened and nothing I planned to write tonight seemed relevant.
I am a mother, an aunt, a sister, a wife, a daughter... a human being. I grew up in small towns all over California, went to school in a one room (1st thru 5th grade) school house and never lived in a town over 30,000 people. My high school, Big Bear High, was in a town of less than 15,000... a small sleepy town (in the off season) where everyone knew you and your story. Big Bear has seen tragedy and I have seen what it did to our family town yet our tragedies were not of this magitude.
Yesterday morning I was checking Google news, like every morning and scanned across an elementary school shooting in a small Connecticut town- I instantly assumed it was a child that brought his daddy's gun as show & tell when it accidently went off so I didn't even open the story. Then a few hours later a male coworker approached me with tears in his eyes quoting the most recent death toll - at that time thought to be 16 and then he said the word that dropped my heart: 16 CHILDREN! I said a quick prayer that he was wrong and located a streaming news feed, plugged in and proceeded to listen for the next 6 hours horrified. I listened to interview after interview - then it came to one about a 1st grade teacher who's students told her they didn't want to die because they wanted to see Santa and I started to bawl. These children were so pure that their concern was missing Santa.
When I got home from work I was EXHAUSTED, mentally and emotionally but it was my husbands holiday party for work so I put on my best cheery face and went on our way. The shooting was the talk of every circle I came across and today at the mall while Christmas shopping every where I turned I heard statistics and comments about it. People talking about gun control, the heroic teachers, the loved students and Principal. I kept hearing people say, over and over, that they couldn't understand it and how senseless it was. A town burying 27 people because of the acts of one young man. A small town, much like the one I grew up in, devastated just 2 weeks before Christmas.
I know that there is no way to make sense of this- how a man could look into the eyes of an innocent child and kill them in their school which is one of the few places that children have ALWAYS felt secure- but as a parent I have to try. This morning my daughter asked me why Grammy was sad last night. I used that as my opportunity to open up a dialog about it - I didn't know how to just bring it up so I was glad she asked. I explained that bad people do things every day, that her teachers will always do everything in their power to keep her safe and that, as always, we love her to the moon. Most of what I said went over her head but I wanted her to hear it from me. I didn't want her to see it on TV or hear it from her friends, I wanted her parents to explain it in our terms because sadly our daughter understands death and bad people. As a military family we have had this conversation about bad people responsible for the Sept 11 attacks, for the death of servicemembers in foreign countries and we've discussed 'Stranger Danger' but never did we discuss possibilities of bad people in her school.
I know that she still doesn't understand the magnitude of everything, nor do I really want her to. I hugged her for so long this morning she started pulling away because she was headed to Disneyland with her best friend for a girls day and didn't want to be late. Our conversation ended there but at least I know that she knows we can talk about it - I opened the door. I know over the next few days and weeks it will come up again. I am sure the school will do their best to reassure the children of their safety on Monday, I appreciate that confidence instilled in our children.
My thoughts, prayers and heart is with those parents that went to that firehouse last night to pick up their babies only to be told that their baby was no longer on earth. 20 new angels entered heaven last night, 20 babies with their life ahead of them are now watching over their mommy's and daddy's.