Like all of you, my heart and spirit are hurting this evening. More specifically, for the past six or so hours, I am feeling huge waves of sharp, fresh grief roll through me again and again, as I imagine what the mothers and fathers of those many, many little children who were killed in their Connecticut classrooms today are facing tonight.
That first night at home, after I had stumbled out the sliding glass doors of the hospital into a dear friend’s waiting arms and car, forced to leave my firstborn child – who was actually, inexplicably dead – behind with strangers, I faced a brutal horror; for the first night since his birth, I now lived in a world where he was not. The early pain of that awareness was more intense than any pain I’d ever imagined possible until that time (it got worse).
But also that first night, I felt a floating sense of powerless unreality. I hoped to God that if I just took the sedatives that were being urged on me, and slept a few hours, I’d wake up and it wouldn’t be true. But when I awoke around midnight, it was to a house full of activity, people lovingly caring for me and our family, but it was still true. My child was dead. He’d really died. His body was still back at that hospital, without me, and would soon be autopsied and taken to the morgue.
So I stumbled out of bed, threw up, and then I took another Valium, and climbed back under the covers, trying once again to flip the off switch on this nightmare that had come to life earlier that day.
Sometimes during that first 24 hours, during which I rarely moved, I’d awaken in my bed, where I was curled on my side in the fetal position, to wail and scream and beg and tear at my hair – literally- before someone would rush into the bedroom to hold me and pat my back and encourage me to drift back off again.
That’s basically what the first night was like for me. And I am guessing my experience isn’t untypical.
Tonight, in one, single community in the U.S., dozens and dozens of parents and siblings and grandparents and other family members will spend the next hours of their lives in some way similar to what I’ve just described. And just thinking about it has put me on the floor in tears.
I want to write more about what happened today. About both the children who were murdered, and their broken hearted families, and also about the existential pain of the parents of the (usually) very young men who commit these far-too-frequent and uniquely American-style slaughters. But tonight, I find that I really just want to go to sleep, and I once again find myself hoping that when I wake up, it won’t really be true… it won’t really have happened today at all…
by Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.