Like all of you, I am horrified by the violence that took place this week. Men with violence in their hearts and unstable minds stormed the public sphere — in an Oregon shopping mall earlier this week and today at an elementary school in Connecticut — bringing with them death, destruction, shock, fear, anger, and deep collective sadness.
In barely the time it took our hearts to lurch into our throats, we saw images of parents in agony and brave officers carrying out lifeless bodies from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut this morning. As my own daughter laid on the couch next to me — oddly still for a toddler (could she have somehow felt the vibration that shook the collective consciousness, too?) — I could not breathe seeing those parent’s faces. (I found out via twitter, so at least the TV was not on.) It strikes to the very core of how deeply woven into my being my love for my own child is. Their grief is palpable. I feel like I can taste it in my mouth and it burns my eyes.
We all grieve for these people. All of them — not just the children (because everyone is somebody’s baby).
Our grief is a testament to our own humanity. And our grief reveals those quiet fears we all carry somewhere inside of us that, but for the grace of God, that could be us. The uncomfortable reality that safety is never guaranteed bubbles up and haunts us as we struggle to find a way to explain what is happening to our own children. (Here are two guides that might help.) We hug everyone we love a little tighter.
The phrase, “Our hearts go out to…” is ubiquitous in social media and elsewhere this week. It’s a funny kind of phrase. I imagine this sea of red hearts flooding these places that have had tragedy this year — Colorado, Hurricane Sandy victims, and others. It reminds me of the ee cummings poem in which it says, “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)”. And somehow I feel like that is closer to what we want. We want to lift them up. We want to break off a chunk of that burden and bear it for them. We want to bring the glue and thread and tape and help bandage up their torn, broken hearts — breaking off a piece of our own to use as a patch, if necessary.
And just on the other side of that wooshing sound as the shock peels off, the pundits enter the void. So many political messages already flood my twitter and facebook feeds. It’s exhausting! It feels coarse and inappropriate. This is the time for wailing and mourning and punching the dark in anger — because although we do not like to acknowledge it in our society, that has a cathartic and healing purpose. All this talk about gun control and mental health issues and trying to decipher the “Why? Why? Why?” All that is really our anger talking. Our denial. Our hurt. There will be time for those discussions. (Indeed, it is always time for those discussions, but we’d rather not.)
It reminds me of those assholes who say, “Everything happens for a reason.” If someone said that to me after my kid was shot by a homicidal maniac… I would have to be physically restrained from doing them harm. Without question, I would seek revenge for my pain on that person with a swiftness that might shock you. Yes, sometimes terrible things can be a catalyst for change for the better. That is a testament to the human spirit and, I believe, the healing spirit of a higher power. But to say that tragedy is destined? That’s just cruel.
There have been some messages floating around about how those children who died today maybe already had presents under the tree. It is a gut-churning thought, and may even be true. Tragedies like this feel worse during the holidays. When I was in high school my best friend died in a car accident six days before Christmas (and the day after my now-husband’s birthday). I went to her funeral on Christmas Eve and I felt like the twinkling lights and merriment all around made a mockery of my grief. It made me feel like her death was insignificant to the world. How could the whole world not come crashing to a stop because my loved one is gone? And it will be worse for these “famous” victims. Can you imagine constantly being asked how you are doing by millions of strangers? God, bless them.
In time, we do heal. And that is a miracle of humanity. Until then, I offer this space for us to commune together and carry each other’s hearts in our hearts, so to speak. Because every storm does pass. And we really do need each other…