When I heard the news of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I was sick to my stomach. Then, as I began reading the then sketchy (and inaccurate) details, I cried. It was so hard for me to continue at the shop, smiling at customers, helping them with their purchases, when I knew that sweet children -- children Allen's age -- and the people who cared for them so much were brutally murdered. And each time I thought of the families of those little victims, I felt nauseous as tears welled up.
I listened to CNN on my satellite radio on the way home from work, Friday, and cried. Cried as I heard little voices of survivors describe what they saw. Cried to think how these children would have to live with this traumatic event for the rest of their lives. And I cried again for those parents whose children did not run to them.
Brian greeted me at the car. And he said, "We have to stop. Allen can't see the news. He can't hear about this right now." So I wiped my tears away, went inside, and immediately scooped Allen up into my arms (at 51 lbs, and 4 feet tall, this was no easy feat for me). I held him tightly as long as I could ... until he was bored and started to pull away. We turned off the news, and we got on with our evening as best we could.
At bedtime, after I read Allen's story to him, we said prayers, and we told each other our "verbal" stories (or makeup stories as my Daddy used to call them), we snuggled down for a few minutes before he went to sleep. Allen, blissfully unaware of the tragic events of the day, laced his fingers through mine, and held my hand. Immediately I leaned close, closed my eyes, and prayed for those parents.
Once upstairs, Brian and I discussed it and I thought I was OK. We moved onto to watching other things on television (Brian refused to let me watch the news constantly) and checking Facebook. And then it hit me. The anguish those parents, siblings, spouses, relatives must be going through. And I started sobbing ... thinking that these parents will not be able to hold their children until our Heavenly Father makes everything right. Thinking about the wave of mixed emotions the spouses and relatives of those educators must feel -- knowing they died protecting those children; knowing they died through one man's random act of violence.
The next morning, I decided I needed to be close to Allen for the day. Enjoy him. Take him in. Play. And that's what we did. We took him out to breakfast and let him get the huge chocolate chip pancake (even though he never finishes it). We spent entirely too much money at the arcade. We bought him foam swords and a pirate hat. And we let him eat frozen yogurt topped with gummy bears and gummy worms. And we had fun because we were focused on him, not on all the other things that typically fill our minds and schedules.
We chose to discuss with Allen a very stripped down version of the events of December 15, 2012. Just that a bad man killed a lot of kids and some grown ups. We didn't mention that it was at a school. We just told him that he was safe and that we want to make sure to pray for the families of those who died ... pray that God will comfort them.
I decided that I have to stop watching all the media coverage. It isn't that I am not concerned. I am. Probably too much. I am most definitely concerned about sending Allen to school (I am not ashamed to be relieved that Allen has Strep Throat and can't be at school for the next couple days). But I am so blessed to know what the Bible says about the conditions of the world, and I know that God will bring an end to the suffering soon.
In the meantime, instead of being distracted by the endless media coverage of the tragedy or the debate over gun control or the cry for increased care for those who are mentally ill (though I strongly believe that there is not enough done, and that society places such a negative stigma on it that it's no surprise that people don't get the treatment they need), I am going to try not to take my little boy or my wonderful little family for granted. But appreciate all the wonderful little things that take place in our every day, mundane lives.
The people of Newtown, Connecticut will continue to be in my prayers. And I will take what I've reflected on this weekend to heart. This lesson from a tragedy.
This lesson to enjoy my child. To look at him -- and listen -- when he speaks. To play with him. To be present.