Moving Forward Together

Looking around the theater in church today, I recognized the expressions on many faces.  In some it looked like a kind of trance…in others, more like a distracted apprehension…

I’ve seen this expression so often…like every time I’ve looked in the mirror since Friday…

It was like a gradual dawning all day on Friday as the details continued to filter in regarding the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut…of course, then that “filtering” turned into a flood.  And by the time all of my kids were in the house after their day in school or at work, all I wanted to do was huddle around them and keep them in my sight.

But there were basketball games to attend, babysitting jobs to fulfill, graduations to prepare for…

After  everything was said and done, it was just Byron and I at home…and an 11-year-old little boy, aware but able to move on as only children can.

And  while we just desired to sit and stare, wondering what kind of world we are really living in, our child…a child a Christmastime didn’t deserve that – so we put down the IPad & IPhone, got in the car, and picked up hot chocolate before checking out Christmas lights around O’town.

Even though it was so difficult to really be present in the moment in what seemed to be so frivolous while there was so much suffering going on around us, it struck me somewhere between “Jingle Bells” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” that I was experiencing both the reason for why this tragedy was so haunting…and the response – the question and the answer, at the same time!

It is the innocence of childhood and the hope that they offer to the world by their very existence, that makes the events of Friday so devastating.  And it’s that very same innocence and hope that can help us…even force us, at times, to get up, look at what’s around us, and appreciate every day for the blessing that it is.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time to grieve, a time to weep, to comfort…and to be comforted.

And if there ever was a time to pray – to wrap those that we love in those prayers – it is now.

But, if we have faith, we do not grieve as those who have no hope, and we are blessed to be a blessing to others.

I remember the first time I experienced the worst of humanity after I had become a mom.  My girls were 1 and 3.  We I were living in South Carolina at the time.  Someone else lived in the area who had a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old. Her name was Susan Smith.  And while everyone in the State was looking for the madman who had kidnapped her little ones, I was weeping every night because I knew she had killed them…I knew it in my heart from the minute I saw her on T.V.  And for the next month, I couldn’t look at my babies, or watch television without breaking down in tears.

It was so hard for me to get over the horror of what kind of world my children were living in that I stopped participating in my life.  I developed tunnel vision, and I became afraid that something bad might happen to my babies…so afraid that I couldn’t really appreciate the value of each day that I had with them.

Eventually, I got passed the trauma, but it never really left me fully.

And then I suffered a miscarriage.

I had tried to control everything that might hurt my children, but it didn’t change the fact that sometimes bad things happen.  Sometimes terrible loss can come out of nowhere.

In the days following my loss, I saw my children in a new light.  I remember playing “Hi-ho  Cherry-O” with the girls, hearing them laugh, and absorbing it as if it was the first time I had heard laughter.

I remember how healing it was to just be in that moment and see life through the eyes of a child.

I experienced that same sense of healing on Friday night, drinking hot chocolate and singing Christmas carols badly just to hear my 11-year-old laugh.

I experienced it again while watching my oldest “baby” walk across a stage to receive her college degree, and again while holding my 2 week old grandson and watching “Christmas Vacation” for the 27th time.

And, God-willing, I’ll experience the healing hopefulness of childhood a million times over in the coming years.

We shouldn’t feel guilty for grieving or for worrying about the safety of our loved ones, but we should take a lesson from our children and deal with the trials of life as they come…

…and the joys of life as they come as well.

If we let our traumas or fear of coming trauma keep us from enjoying the millions of blessings that are within an arms reach, then life truly is a tragedy.

But life is not a tragedy…even when there is tragedy in life.

It is a symphony full of movement and change.

It is full of everything from laughter to tears.

Sometimes we have to use the things that seem to rip our hearts out to remember why we have hearts in the first place:  to love, to embrace, to encourage, to offer hope…

to hear the symphony of life and sing along…

even if it means singing Christmas carols badly.

Of course, we must weep with those who are weeping, but we must remember to laugh with those who are joyous as well, especially when those who are laughing are little ones at Christmastime.

The families who experienced such unspeakable loss should remain in our prayers – and it’s a great lesson for our own children to pray for those around them who are hurting.

Let’s teach them about the symphony of life…the highs and the lows.

And let us teach them that every day is a blessing.

Peace and hope to you all.