I've been walking around in a 'funk' of sorts for the last day and a half and I know that I am not alone here. In fact, I don't know many people who are not grieving with and for the community of Newtown, CT after the sickening events that happened there on Friday morning.
Josh and I were heading to do a few more errands as we prepare for Christmas when I heard about the shooting for the first time. It wasn't until about 2 hours later as we were finished shopping and about to be seated for lunch when I read the news that 18 kindergarten aged kids were shot and killed. I felt sick to my stomach and immediately wanted to get home to get my kids. I knew they were fine, but I wanted to see them...especially my own kindergartner.
As more and more news and details were uncovered and released the more and more sick I felt. I heard and read stories of how the events unfolded and can't help but picture this in our own elementary school. I read about the shooters entrance into the school and how the office administrators came out to see what was going on, only to be shot instantly. When I read that I naturally pictured that event happening at the entrance of our school, a school in a small town and very similar community. It was an eerie feeling for me when I was in the school Saturday morning for basketball games. Even though I know this didn't happen here, it was a strange feeling because of how I pictured things in my mind. I imagine this to be the same for many parents of elementary school kids all over the country.
This tragedy has hit close to home for SO many. All I know is that I have had no words for the way I have felt. While I am drawn to reading the stories that have been written about the heroic measures of the staff and responders that day, I really do not want to have any more details of this day in my mind. My reaction to it all is to try to dismiss it...to try to forget it. This did NOT happen to my community, my school, my kids. We are safe. I still get to tuck my kids into bed tonight, I still get to see their sweet faces in the morning, I still get to see the joy in their faces on Christmas morning.
But the problem with reminding myself that my family is ok is that I then feel guilty for being able to put these thoughts behind me. I feel sad that I am able to do this when there are people who are thinking about their SIX year old children being shot and killed and who are NOT able to just move on. People who's lives have changed in an instant. It just doesn't seem fair that I am able to put it aside..just because the feeling of grief is uncomfortable.
Where is the balance here? I have no idea. I do know that the feeling of intense pain and sadness for the families and community will fade...for everyone.
I only remember having this feeling of intense sadness for someone else one other time as a close friend suffered the loss of her baby boy who was born still after carrying him to full term. I remember this feeling well and as much as I would NEVER wish these tragic losses to happen to myself, I did sometimes have that feeling that I would have taken this pain on myself rather than having to see a friend go through it. During this time I was also grieving from a distance as this friend lived hours away from me. There was nothing I could do and just like now, because of distance, I was able to just put the thoughts and the grief into the back of my mind and move on with my day, only to feel that guilt of how unfair it was that I was able to do that while my friend simply could not and would not for many years.
I suppose the answer here might be that we just need to let ourselves grieve and be sad. We need to take these times and use them to appreciate our loved ones and our time with them. The sharpness of this pain will start to dull...and I don't think we need to feel guilty as this happens. I don't think any of us will forget what happened that day...even when the sadness is not as intense.
As we all send our kids back to school tomorrow I am CERTAIN that we will send them with a different feeling. I know (and have believed this for a long time) that our days are numbered and that every day that we have in this life is a gift...but tragedies like this remind us of this truth even more. I will NOT send my kids out the door in fear, but in faith that God has a plan for their lives and my life. I remind the kids of this as well.
I love being able to live with this hope and security. I honestly wonder how anyone could live through something like this (even from a distance) without being able to rest on the hope and promise that God is in control...even in tragedy. Where can we find hope elsewhere?
I will be praying for our school tomorrow as I am sure it will be a difficult day for the staff especially. I will be thinking specifically of Owen's kindergarten teacher who will have to enter the day facing a classroom full of wide eyed kindergartners, many will not be aware of the events of the week prior. I'm sure that this look of innocence on the students will be the hardest part of the elementary school teachers all over the country as they imagine that same look of innocence on the students in CT at 9:30am on Friday the 14th...before they were faced with absolute evil right before their eyes. I will pray that this week before Christmas will be enjoyed by staff and students as usual as we appreciate each day with a different outlook.
I will be enjoying the Christmas season with my family with joy, but not without thinking of the families that won't get that opportunity.