I find my thoughts changing too rapidly to put them into words these last few days.
I have tried to hear enough, but not too much, about the tragedy that fell upon so many this week.
I have seen these words too often, "I can only imagine...". But can you? Because I cannot. I did try. Empathy is a burden and a gift. In this case I do not have it to give and I do not know how I would bear it if I did.
I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through and what they will carry for the rest of their lives. I thought of my boys, my young men, and what I would feel if they had to face such a horror. My heart would not let my mind go there. And when I pictured my sons' young faces, their wide-eyed 6-year old faces...well that is as far as I got with that. I worry about people moving past this too quickly. Blocking it out. For the sake of family, for the sake of the holidays, for the sake of sparing themselves. I worry for those who may not be able to block it all, those with depression or grief of their own. I worry that we have poor, poor, poor mental health care in this country.
I have felt pain for the sorrows and tragedies of others before, but there is something about this...something about the little children...something about Christmas...something about being a mother...
And something about being a daughter...
Today I found myself thinking frequently of my dad. In moments. A song on the radio, a smile from Hunter, a donut from Andrew, a picture of my 'grandfather' trees in the backyard. Today I received a Christmas card from my cousin in Indiana, who does a lovely thing each Christmas to honor and remember my cousin's mother, my father and all of their siblings that we lost in such a short number of years. She takes wreaths to the cemetary in Indiana, something I cannot do from my corner of the country . My dad enjoyed Christmas, but his favorite holiday by far was the 4th of July! Those jolts of memory today were painful because it is the anniversary of his death. And although it's been 14 years I can still recall that time too clearly. His battle with cancer was such a short time of his life, not how I want to remember him. Not how he would want to be remembered. What a gift today, the words that my cousin shared. She described a wreath for him with a garland that reminds her of fireworks. And in that card, with those words, with unspoken empathy, on this day, she steered my memories to happier times.
If you can empathize, do. If you cannot, give sympathy.
If you do not know what to do for someone who is grieving, just do anything.
Listen to each other.
Hug your loved ones when you leave home each day.
Spend time with family and friends. Spend time with who you love. Spend time doing what you love.
I will say it again- listen to each other. Especially to children. I know they ask a lot of 'why' questions and talk a lot. We should listen more.
Be patient, loving and kind toward adolescents and teenagers. Even the ones you don't know. Especially the ones you don't know. Try to picture them as a wide-eyed 6-year old and it will make it easier!
If you are thinking of someone, tell them. Send a card, write a note, text or tweet or shout it from the rooftops.
And remember that the holidays, while joyful for many, can be especially painful for those going through grief...or remembering grief. So let's cut each other some slack, we don't know what's going on in the lives, minds or hearts of others.
This week I am going to try to give my daily gifts to people that I do not know. A wise friend wrote that we should not let these tragedies cause us to withdraw from our communities. In fact, do the opposite and reach out. My sister shared a quote about making decisions based on love and not fear. I will try each day, with love, to reach out to others. I will probably still get tired and cranky. I will still get headaches and need naps. Trust me, I am near the end of the line for sainthood, but I am willing to try to be a better person. To try to be a bright spot in someone's day. As much as I wish there were more, I think that's all I can do.
In Loving Memory of Walter Crowe, who was a bright spot to many people each day of his life!