There was a time when being in the presence of my youngest son could bring me to tears. He would climb up into my lap, and I would kiss the top of his head, breathe the sweetness of his silky hair and fight back tears. Sometimes the tears won.
On those days, I cried because John was with me, and he had reached a certain age, and there were many times throughout his first medically treacherous year of life when I didn’t know if he would. We prayed for miracles back then. And we received them. And I was grateful, ever so grateful. And I would sit at Mass, holding tight to my son, telling God so.
John is seven now. And I have forgotten to cry, and I have forgotten to thank. Mostly, now I just think about how wiggly this crazy little guy is and wonder if he will ever be able to behave, and if I will ever again be able to fully concentrate on the Mass or a grocery list or a CatholicMom.com column.
But on Friday, as I imagined what it would have been like for those forty Newtown parents to hear that they will never hold their children again, I remembered my tears.
We all walk that unseen brink between normal (sometimes exasperating, sometimes enjoyable) everyday life and total devastation. We are all just one car accident away, one blood test away, one bullet away. Deep down, we know that everyday could be our last “normal” day, that the following day could blow a hole in our heart that nothing could ever fill.
And so the cliche comes: “Hug your kids.” It’s all over Facebook. In cartoons. In phone conversations between moms. This is how we respond. This is our solution.
It is an unfortunate and seemingly inescapable fact of human nature that we really never appreciate what we have until it is lost. Except on the rare occasions when we can feel another person’s loss. So, we feel it today. The loss of those twenty children in Newtown, CT.
The days and years ahead are an indescribable torrent of grief and sadness for those poor families. But the loss is greater than we can see from here. It’s not just families, friends and teachers who will suffer a loss. Whatever treasures those young lives held for the future of our world have been obliterated. Among the dead are future moms and dads, future doctors perhaps, future scientists maybe, future economists, future artists, future plumbers, therapists, contractors, grocery baggers. A future priest? A future president? Who knows? We only know that each one had something to offer that no other person on the face of the earth since or after ever can. Each of them loved uniquely and is loved uniquely. And therein lies every person’s purpose.
I have very often entertained the question of what John will do when he grows up. Everyone tells me God must have some huge plans for him. God spared him, not just once, but a number of times, beginning with his very abbreviated term in the womb. It is true that, without divine intervention, John would not be here. But God does not reserve huge purposes for only those who have been snatched from death. He has one for all of us. He even had one for shooter Adam Lanza. But just like his namesake in the garden, Lanza too fell prey to the fall.
The magnitude of Friday’s loss will never fully be known. Too much potential never to be realized or understood or fathomed. And what are we, who have our children with us for at least one more day, to do?
Love them uniquely. Bask in their unique love. And let the tears come.
Copyright 2012 Sherry Boas
About the Author
Sherry Boas is author of the Lily Series, which has grown into a beloved collection of novels whose characters’ lives are unpredictably transformed by a woman with Down syndrome. The former newspaper reporter and special needs adoptive mother of four is also author of A Mother's Bouquet: Rosary Meditations for Moms, Billowtail, Victoria's Sparrows, Little Maximus Myers, Archangela's Horse, and Wing Tip. She runs Caritas Press from her home office in stolen moments between over-cooking the pasta and forgetting to dust the chandelier. Find her work at CaritasPress.org.