As the mother of five-year-old twins in a small town not too far from New York city, yesterday's events in Newtown hit close to home -- literally and figuratively. It's hard to imagine the depths of shock, sorrow and anguish rippling throughout our community in the wake of yesterday's hideous crime.
It is a terrible, terrible thing to be reminded, once again, of how powerful, how senseless and how ugly the face of evil can seem. It is terrible even to have to acknowledge that such evil exists in the world. But it does, and there's no use in hiding from from that fact. We saw it in Newtown, and then its insidious ripple spreaded west to the haven of our house, where our little ones were full of questions and concern (I told them myself because they will be at school on Monday with children who have older siblings -- best to hear it from me, I thought).
They say that when you become a mother, your heart lives outside your chest. It's so true. It's impossible to fathom the grief and heartbreak of the parents in Newtown. It's sickening even to try.
In the aftermath, it was helpful to receive emails of concern and support from the twins' school and from our church (our rector wrote he was actually with the priest of a Newtown church just day before yesterday). It was touching to hear from so many friends from our former home in California, just checking in to make sure we weren't affected. How comforting it is to know that, even amid such horror and pain, there's so much love in the world.
It was less helpful, on the radio, to hear Governor Daniel Malloy giving shout-outs to the first and second selectmen of Newtown for arriving on the scene; this isn't a chamber of commerce event, for heaven's sake. Nor, sadly, was the President able to rise to the occasion. I sat in my car outside the grocery store listening to him on the radio. For a few brief moments, it seemed as though President Obama, uncharacteristically moved to an emotional display, might actually help unite grieving Americans -- transcending ideology and party. How disappointing that, during his otherwise moving remarks, he more characteristically decided not to let the crisis go to waste, calling for "meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this." That was a signal for the political vultures to move in, and it wasn't long before Jerrold Nadler was advising the President to "exploit" the tragedy.
I love politics, but listening to some try to turn dead kindergartners into a means to the end of advancing a political agenda -- before the facts even were fully in -- helps me understand why so many (women, especially) hate politics. How indecent to be trying to profit in any way from a horror like this before 24 hours had even elapsed. Who are such people?
Of course, there's something reassuring about calling for government action in the wake of a crime like this; it helps lull us into the comfortable fantasy that, under the right conditions, horror and suffering can somehow be averted. But like water, committed evil will always find the path of least resistance; someone as depraved and malignant as Adam Lanza could have constructed a bomb or driven a car through the playground during recess. That's the really frightening part -- the idea that ultimately, we cannot completely protect even those we love best from someone who is determined to harm them.
In the end, like all of life, parenting is an act of profound faith. On Monday, I will take my twins back to school, and I will leave them there -- powerfully reminded that there's always a chance, every time we say good-bye, that I might not see them ever again.
The only comfort I can take is in the sure knowledge that the twins don't truly belong to me or my husband, anyway -- they are gifts of God's, and He loves them more deeply, knowledgeably and powerfully than I ever could. And I know that whatever happens, He is with them, even unto the end of the world, because He said so and His word is good.
Yesterday was a dark chapter in the sad story of a fallen world. But even through our heartbreak, we know that love, and unselfishness, and courage and hope persist. And through our faith, we know how the story ultimately ends.
God bless the grieving people of Newtown -- and America.