When There Are No Words
As the events of the Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy unfolded, I spent all of Friday afternoon between stages of overwhelming panic, anger & heartbreak. Saturday my anger segued to more despair than anything. I am a mother of a bright, beautifully talented, big hearted 10 year old daughter who has the whole world to discover. We live in a small town outside of Buffalo, not much different than I imagine Newtown would be. While I am having a very hard time trying to wrap my head around this senseless tragedy and while many things are bothering me, I keep coming back to the innocence of that beautiful Friday afternoon.
Eleven days before Christmas and Hanukkah winding down, these children went to a place where they were supposed to be safe. The innocence of that community was snuffed out like a bright flame on a candle. When I think about how magical this time of year is for Kindergarteners and first graders- it hurts. I wonder if while making their lists for Santa they left any of their Christmas magic behind when they sealed their envelopes and ran to mail their letters to the North Pole. It’s so unimaginable… so wrong, so raw.
I think about the staff at Sandy Hook and wonder how they were planning to spend their Holidays. What special projects were they working on in their classes? I think about their bravery and selflessness; how they extended themselves far beyond their call of duty to keep the children safe. I think about how their worst nightmare saw daylight at Sandy Hook Elementary. I think about how some of them were just beginning to do what they loved and how some were beginning to end that chapter in their life and had eyes on a new horizon. I think of all of their families left behind.
I struggled all day with how I would tell my daughter about this; the words and the tone I would use while explaining this unimaginable tragedy. I thought about how there is no word in the English language for a parent whose child has died. I knew it would be best if she heard it from me before she heard the news and the media sensationalized the killer. I decided that when I told her that I would not say his name, simply because he is not worth remembering. I’ve always believed that open and candid conversations allow us each to grieve the way we need to and that is how I broke the news to her. I was surprised how the unnatural words fell from my lips and how my daughter, although only 10, innately understood all that was lost that day in Connecticut. I didn’t go into the terror of that day because I didn’t have to… she already understood.
My daughter was part of the “9-11 Baby Boom.” I was pregnant for her that Christmas 2001 and in honor of all those who were lost that September day, I have put an “Americana” Christmas tree up every year since. I have always explained to her how important it is to never forget. While looking at that tree Saturday, she asked if we could decorate one for the children & teachers at Sandy Hook. She chose doves to represent the children and stars for the teachers. We are still looking for an angel for the top. This is how my child grieves; she refuses to give up on the value and beauty of the human spirit and, most importantly, she refuses to forget.
As parents, we struggle on a daily basis with the decisions we have made. We wonder if we have done enough for our children, if we have given them the tools to be safe in such an unstable world. We watch helplessly as they grow up before our eyes… and we all agree they grow too fast. I’m not sure where the years went between her Kindergarten and her fifth grade year went and I search desperately for that bottle that Jim Croce sang about. I pray that the next seven don’t go nearly as fast. I am reminded that parents bequeath to their children two things: The roots to grow and the wings to fly. With an enormously heavy heart, I send peace and prayers to Newtown, Connecticut and to children and parents everywhere.
I leave you with the words of Robert Fulghum because he says it best when there are no words, “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”