I've written, deleted, rewritten and redeleted this so many times because in the end what is there to say? Writers all over the internet (here for one that helped me to think about how to talk to my kids) are discussing this more eloquently then I could ever hope to and I find all my writing ends up being about me me me...when of course this is not about me at all. In the end, however, I found some peace in the writing of it, so here it is anyway.
I am in stunned disbelief as the news unfolds on Friday. At first I get bits and pieces of it on the radio in the car, then more when I get home and turn on the TV. I watch as the newscasters, as our president, fight to keep thier composure as they discuss what has happened.
I give my 11 year old son a big hug at pick up on Friday. He eyes me like I am crazy. "What was that for?" he asks, doing a quick check to make sure no other 5th graders are in the vicinity. "I just needed a hug," I tell him as he gets in the car.
I put the 4 year old to bed after a long day and he asks for one more book. An obvious delay tactic...probably the oldest in the world right after "I need a drink of water." It doesn't usually work. I think about the glass of wine waiting for me downstairs and the chance to put my feet up. He is all snuggled in his bed, his blanket and stuffed animal next to him, looking so small, trying to put off the moment when I will leave him alone to go to sleep. I pull one more book from the shelf.
My 7 year old son wants to teach me to play Minecraft. He's been asking me to do this for weeks and even though there are several other things I should be doing and at least a few other things that I want to be doing, on Saturday I announce, "Today is the day. Get me set up and teach me!" For a full hour I sit there and listen to the seemingly infinite details of the game and it's intricacies and in the end I still don't get the point of it but he is so happy to be the expert, to help me play. I made his weekend.
My husband walks in on me wrapping those Christmas pajamas on Sunday afternoon and I'm crying. What if one of them wasn't here to wear them on Christmas Eve? What if, what if, what if....
I sit in adoration, praying a rosary for the victims. With each new decade of Hail Marys I have to breathe deep to keep the tears at bay. As I sit in silence after I'm finished, however, I have the image of Mary gathering the children in her arms to comfort them. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, like a bad paint by number (and I certainly know how the me of 20 years ago would have rolled her eyes and mentally dismissed someone else admitting such a thing) but it wasn't like that at all. It was beautiful. (It was the same after my parents died. During the darkest, lonliest parts I felt like Mary was with me, standing right there beside me, holding me and loving me unconditionally as mothers do). The image is so warm and comforting and I'm just so so grateful for it that the tears I've been holding back come out anyway. I know that the loss of a child is so much more then anything I am feeling, and that my understanding of what that must be like is so mercifully incomplete. How could I or anyone have enough faith to get through it? What could possibly be enough to comfort those mothers? Even God's Grace, His infinite love...how can there be enough?
I'm having a really hard time dealing with this. Like a lot of people, I'm sure, I feel like I should do something...something. It is hard to know what. Obviously something is wrong in our society. This kind of thing shouldn't be happening, and yet it is. President Obama said, "We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law - no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can't be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this."
And that's the thing. Some people want to paint this as just a mental health issue, a gun control issue, a violence in society issue. Their hurt and anger and fear are leading them to try to boil it down to one thing, one thing that can be fixed or solved. One thing that if we could just change it we wouldn't be broken anymore. But of course it is never that simple.
Which is the other side of the coin. We cry, "It is too complex, too complicated, too late. How can we fix this? What can we do?" I understand this feeling, but we must not give into it. If there is any country whose whose citizens should know how to balance rights and responsibilites, individuals and communities, it should be us. It isn't always easy to live here, to balance our right to independence with out responsibility to each other, but I have to believe we are up to the task. If not us, then who? Change is difficult but we can no longer afford to take the easy way out, to throw up our hands and complain that it is too hard like some stubborn, petulant child who wants someone else to solve their problems for them. Our society must change, our laws must change, our mental health care options must change, and it is up to each and every one of us as members of this society to see to it that it happens. Our leaders have thier part to play and it seems at this early date like maybe they are stepping up. I hope so. As a member of this society, however, I'm called to do my part too. Most likely it will be a small part, something right in front of me. I just have to recognize it, step up and act when called.
Meanwhile I do what I can. I hug my children, even if they don't want me to right then. I read the extra book. I take time to listen to what they think is important to tell me even if it is mind numbingly dull (what-is-up-with-minecraft-the-people-who-came-up-with-this-were-high-what-do-you-mean-I-have-to-build-a-torch-out-of-sticks-and-coal-there-are-too-many-details-for-anyone-to-play-this-stupid-game-gah!)
And I pray. I pray for my own children. I pray for our society, for our leaders, for the wisdom and the compassion and the fortitude to take what will be the more complicated and difficult path to make things better. I try to pray for the gunman and his family because so many things must have gone wrong to get him to that point (I am not very successful at this. It may take a better person than me to do it...I am still so angry). I pray for the victims and thier families even though I know that every bit of God's love and compassion and mercy and grace that could possibily be given to anyone is being given to them already. It doesn't really feel like enough but it is something.
"Listen. Put it into your heart, my smallest child,
that the thing that frightened you,the thing that afflicted you is nothing:
Do not let it disturb you...
Am I not here, I who am your mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not the source of your joy?
Are you not in the hollow of my mantle,
in the crossing of my arms?
Do you need something more?"
-Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1531