Madness and sadness

When I woke up this morning, I had troubling thoughts on my mind. Todd and I had had a disappointing realization the night before that still weighed heavily as I got ready for the day. In addition to that issue, other things clouded my thoughts: Christmas was looming and only eleven short days away, but our shopping was far from done; our trip to my parents’ house was coming soon and I hadn’t even begun to prepare; the day was already filled with problems to tackle and a schedule to work through. Kids, finances, health, anxiety, etc. I was feeling what I thought the weight of the world would probably feel like–and considered myself justified in feeling a bit sorry for the situation I woke up to find myself in.

But then….I got a breaking news text about a shooting in Connecticut. I will admit, at first, I disregarded it. There’s too much to do, and I’ll read about it later, I thought flippantly. Some time passed before I saw another headline from some social media source that caused me to look into it further. What I learned is what we all know now: the senseless massacre of children and adults in a school. Massacre. 20 children. It doesn’t seem real. Who does this, really? These are movie headlines, fictional tales. Not real life. Could someone be that evil? There was no sense coming from the reports.

I went for a walk–something that has become a habit over the past week or so, a break in my day that allows me to clear my head in the crisp December air. But today, no amount of cold air could bring clarity to the unimaginable. Just confusion, anger, sadness.

Slowly, I began to realize that for the many, many families affected directly by this tragedy (and the ripple effect of countless others), nothing would ever be the same. As I passed houses decorated for Christmas, I thought about how the parents of the slain children (ages 5 to 10!) would have had undoubtedly picked out gifts for these children that may have already been wrapped, perhaps even under their tree. Those gifts would be an unopened reminder of the Christmas they would never get to share with their child. Perhaps one or several of the children left for school that morning and didn’t pick up their laundry, or left their breakfast dishes on the table as they rushed off to catch the bus. What a devastating scene to return to after learning that your beloved son or daughter, some not yet even old enough to have learned how to read, was gone. Gone. Gone. And as difficult as it will be, it is still all so trivial. Gifts? Laundry? A messy room? These things would mean NOTHING if the parents could just hold their babies again. See them smile and laugh. Hug them. All the dreams, hopes, and future plans for the children: ended. While most of us plan the next few weeks of the holiday season, these families will have to plan funerals.

Absolutely unfathomable.

For me, one of the worst parts about movies where the lead characters go through unbelievable situations and somehow survive is wondering how these people, though not real, could possibly go back to real life. How could they wake up the next morning after all the chaos in the plot and just go about their lives? Was that even possible?

It will be reality for the families and others affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook–and also the similar massacre at another school in China. How will they wake up tomorrow, get out of bed, or do any of the things that they have to do to survive? How can they possibly put one foot in front of the other for a long, long time? May God have mercy upon them all and offer them a comfort that only He can give. May He surround them with a peace that can only come from Him. May the One who works all things together for good somehow, somehow work good out of pure evil.

My kids behaved terribly today. They were at each others’ throats most of the day, it seemed. Patience was nowhere to be found. Hollering, squawking, and arguing was apparently the order of the day. Despite all that mess, they all came to dinner. They hugged Todd and me goodnight before bed. They are still here with us. And for that, I am so unspeakably grateful. None of us knows how much time we have on this Earth and with the ones we love, so, in the words of one of the dearest friends I know, “What can we do, but cherish every moment we have?”

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