So much here I do not understand

I don’t have any words to convey how I feel about the tragedy in Newtown.  I have only these three personal stories to share, and for some reason I feel compelled to do so.

Yesterday, after a beautiful, candlelight- and allelulia-filled Lessons & Carols service at our church, we came home in the spitting rain for a late dinner.  It had been a day jammed with errands and details, with the minutiae that compose our lives: haircuts, buying skates, frosting gingerbread cookies, shopping online for a last-minute presence for a best friend, an early hockey game. At each step I felt heavy with awareness of what a privilege every single one of those small things was.  Whit was difficult at dinner, picky about his food, and I just blew up.  I lost it.  Matt encouraged me to go upstairs, and after stomping out to make a point (that point being I am such a martyr) by taking the trash out in the driving rain, I did that.  I closed my bedroom door and folded laundry, and as I smoothed a pair of Whit’s long johns I sat down on the bed, overcome with sobs.  I was flooded with powerful guilt: how can I possibly be so ungrateful, when there are families out there tonight who would give anything for the privilege of a bickering child at the dinner table?  How?

This morning, I walked both Grace and Whit to the gate of school as I always do.  I had to go home before the 4th grade’s morning assembly, so I kissed them goodbye and jogged back to the car.  Once I’d crossed the street I turned and watched their backpacks and hooded heads (again, raining) walk away from me.  I was swamped with feelings: sorrow, fear, guilt, grief, gratitude.  I sat in the car and let them wash over me and then, tears still falling, I drove home.

Half an hour later I sat in one of the assembly rooms at school as Grace’s 4th grade class filed in.  The parents sat in a row against the back wall of the room, and the floor in between was filled with the younger grades all sitting criss-cross applesauce.  This was a previously-scheduled “environment assembly,” and the theme was taking care of our earth.  I’m willing to bet I wasn’t the only parent who was thinking of other things, however, as our children stood and sang in their clear, true voices, about how is “time to turn the tide.”  Tears swam in my eyes.  I looked around the room at the teachers who have cared for and shepherded my children over the years with a new and passionate admiration.  A few minutes later the 4th grade sang Big Yellow Taxi, and the words I know by heart rang out, filled with an unexpected, chilling resonance: Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.

So much is gone.  Of course, of course, a million, unquantifiable times more for the families that lost loved ones in Newtown.  But for all of us, too.  In my opinion, his incursion on one of the world’s truly sacred spaces – an elementary school – has altered the world we live in forever.

This is the darkest week of the darkest season.  Friday is the darkest day of the year.  And yet how much more pressing this new darkness feels, this darkness wrought of an incomprehensible act, this darkness from the heart of someone who was a fellow human being.  We are moving towards the solstice, and there is still so much here I do not understand.

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  1. Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    You echo many of my own, internal dialogues here, but you do so exquisitely. I was just telling a friend about my guilt over my frustration with my kids this weekend–how could I? When so much tragedy had just befallen, how could I be frustrated?

    But then. I remembered. I remembered that living is hard and people are fallible and this, too, is part of the crazy tapestry. I tried to breath light into the guilt. Tried to let it pass.

    Dona Nobis Pacem, my love. xo

  2. Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful words.
    I have to remind myself often to not feel guilty for being human. And you are not alone in your lack of understanding. I don’t think anyone will ever fully undersatnd what happened or why. There are just some things that are we are not able to comprehend.
    I want to see the good. I want my children to see the good. There is still so much good.

  3. Posted December 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Right there with you. As usual.

  4. Tiffany
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I am feeling so much the same as well. As a mother and teacher, the grief over Friday’s events has hit me hard. I feel guilt when I think of those families eating dinner with an empty chair at their table while I look and see my six year old still with me, and I think of the new level of innocence lost. I spent the weekend seeing the good things around me, finding comfort in how parents across the world responded. Solstice is on Friday, and I have so many questions too.

  5. Posted December 18, 2012 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    So beautiful as always. As someone who doesn’t often cry, I have been crying and crying and crying. I have thought of you often. Just yesterday I said to someone that the rain and the darkness are only making this worse. But in a way it is appropriate I suppose as we embrace this new, darker world we live in…