On Friday morning, I was talking to Chris about my upcoming eye surgery. Worrying a little about the actual procedure, imagining the needle coming straight toward my eye, thinking about my inability to look away.
“If the doctors mess the surgery up,” George asked in between Cheerios bites, “will you have to wear an eye patch?”
“Maybe, George,” I said to amuse him.
“Cause if so… instead of saying ‘Yes, Ma’am,’ I’m going to say ‘Argh, Matey!'”
And he would, that one. They all would. My funny, irreverent bunch. The pieces of my heart walking around outside my body.
I drove each of them to school Friday — one by one. Even Sam, much to his dismay.
I went back to my home office to sit on a 3-hour conference call and craft some compelling Tweets.
And then it happened. Friday happened.
And everything else ceased to matter.
I could think about nothing but those precious babies skipping into school, backpacks strapped across tiny shoulders. Pigtails and bedheads and pink bows and dirty tennis shoes. Knit hats and quilted coats and easy smiles and the effervescence of childhood. Weekend plans to see Santa and decorate cookies and dream of sugarplums.
And then. And then.
I cannot think about it too long or too deeply, or my heart begins to split clean in two. I cannot think about the fear in their little brains when the chaos ensued. They are unbearable, these thoughts. And I cannot think about their Mamas and Dads, running to Sandy Hook Elementary, frantically searching for answers, and then waiting, waiting. The agony and blessing of seeing other children walk away from harm; the sinking, gut-wrenching, soul-stripping march of time as their own babies remained in the dark unknown.
With every other parent in America, I sat in disbelief, wringing my hands, fighting the urge to drive straight to school and pluck my children from their classrooms. It’s instinctive, that fight or flight. I wanted to fly. I wanted to soar, to take my kids far, far away where nothing sinister could ever touch them.
But that line of thinking is merely fantasy. Because as much as we love and nurture and protect our babies, they are fragile. We are fragile. This dance of life, both beautiful and devastating, both rewarding and mean, both abundant and tragic. Every day we are given a gift, and every day that gift can be revoked.
It is our job to continue. Despite.
We talked about what happened, my kids and I. They are old enough… and yet they are not old enough. I am not old enough. Perhaps none of us are. There are no good answers for this, just honesty and openness and courage and fortitude.
Fear does not serve us. Fear never serves us. Life is meaningless if we do not embrace every moment we are granted, if we do not wrap our arms around the blessings.
“When you say ‘sick,'” Mary Claire asked, “do you mean ‘mentally ill?'”
“Yes, Love,” I said. “No one in his right mind could do what that man did.”
I choose to believe that. There is no other way.
Yes, I believe we need more funding for mental health and more restrictions on guns. I will not argue those points here. I am a Mama, and you cannot convince me otherwise. I will die on the hill that protects my children — our children — from military-style weapons developed with mass destruction in mind. And I have witnessed, firsthand, the inadequacy of resources available to those whose minds function outside the realm that we consider normal. There is something bigger for me here to do, but I’m not yet quite sure what that looks like. My heart is still reeling, my head still swimming. All I know is what I need to do today, right now.
The TV is off here, has been off since the beginning. My kids don’t need to see the endless stream of expert interviews, the pictures, the agony of those faces over and over. I don’t need to see it. I can’t see it. It is too much, this never-ending stream of sadness. And the silence feels right. It feels respectful. It feels like an oasis of calm in an angry sea of tragedy and national heartbreak.
To whatever extent I can, I want to influence how my children walk through this dark time. I will point out the beauty, the wonder, the miracles of life, the light. I will make sure they understand that this world is so very, very good. That tragedy sometimes happens. But that they are brave and strong and resourceful. That they will make solid decisions if and when darkness comes into their lives. That they will know who to turn to in times of need — our trusted friends, beloved family, neighbors, teachers, kindred humans, an unfailing God.
As Mr. Rogers’ mother advised, “Find the helpers.”
I will respond to this pain and heartbreak with love. I will lean into the love, and I will not fall. It is unfathomable that another human being hurt so deeply, felt so detached, unneeded, unnecessary to this world that he chose this willful, unthinkable destruction.
Our job as human beings is to love. When we stop doing that, we cease to fully exist in this intricate web of life.
Today, as I drop my kids off at school, as I watch them all walk into their day, their lives, I will have faith. I will pray. I will trust.
I will embrace kindness. I will smile at strangers. We will walk forward. We will continue. Step by step by step. All of us. Together, you and I.
And if you stumble, I will offer you my hand. It may not be much, but for now, in this moment, it will be enough.