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Lives Unfinished – When the Unthinkable Happens

It started like any other week day

Yesterday my alarm went off. I got up, got dressed and rushed out the door to catch my bus. It was the last day of the work week and I knew that despite having to leave for work before the rest of my family gets out of bed that at the end of the day I would be picking my kids up from daycare with their dad and we’d get lots of “Mama…Daddy!” as well as big hugs and kisses.

I knew that we’d have the weekend before us full of possibilities of activities together as a family. Maybe some baking of Christmas goodies. Perhaps a walk in the park. We’d no doubt cuddle up as a family and watch a holiday movie together. Share some popcorn. Have breakfast together. It was these thoughts that got me through my work day…

…until lunch time when my social media feeds blew up with breaking news of a mass murder in Connecticut. The senseless, unfathomable, horrific murder of innocent school children.

My first reaction was sheer disbelief

My second reaction was tears streaming down my cheeks as I read along with everyone else, the details as they emerged of a group of elementary school children murdered in cold blood by a young man with a high powered gun. No rhyme. No reason. Innocent lives just struck down without a thought.

The enormity of the emotions of grief just overcame me as I know it did others. I had to distance myself from the realm of social media as it seemed everyone was making mention of it. I felt guilty for wanting to preserve my heart from the ache it felt but I didn’t know how else to cope. I sat in my office just staring at the computer screen in a state of shock.

My thoughts turned immediately to the parents. Parents who might have rushed out the door like I did this morning with their kids still sleeping, counting on seeing them at the end of the work day and fulfilling all those plans they undoubtedly also had for the upcoming weekend. Parents that could have never foreseen such an indescribable event happening in their community. Parents who were excited to be planning Christmas for their children. Now they’re planning funerals.

How does this happen?

Why does this happen?

Answers that have a million speculative possibilities but none that we will ever fully understand.

Everything seems to be felt more acutely during the holidays

Besides the sheer enormity of this tragedy I think it is hitting people harder because we’re in the midst of holiday festivities. Our society is entrenched in shared traditions and customs and taking part in them as part of a family. Sharing those moments together which become memories to draw upon during future holidays. As such our minds immediately go to the “unfinished” items on the holidays to do list and how there is unequivocally going to be a void there this year for so many families.

On the way home from daycare with my boys’ voices echoing in the inside of the car as we drove down our street I couldn’t help but feel for those families who will never hear their son or daughter’s voices ring out with “Look mama…Christmas lights!” ever again.

So much would forever be frozen in time for these families

I thought of the stocking hung by the fireplace with the lost one’s name stitched on it that will never be filled again.

I thought of the video clips on the smart phone of the parents of their child’s recent Christmas concert.

I thought of the school portrait hanging on the living room wall of these families’ homes smiling out from their frames, the photographer not realizing that this portrait as it was being taken would be placed on funeral programs.

I thought of the presents in closets hidden from prying eyes that will never be placed under the tree with a child’s name on them.

I thought of the bedrooms with empty beds, stuffed animals on pillows waiting for hugs that will never come again.

I thought of dirty laundry on bedroom floors that was left with the intent of cleaning rooms on the weekend and the parents’ who at some point need to put away clean laundry and picking up a shirt and holding it close to their chest smelling the fabric in hopes that the fabric softener didn’t fully mask their child’s scent.

Loss puts into perspective what means the most to us

As I rocked each of my boys before bed I sat there holding them even tighter than usual. I kissed them even more times than I usually do. I rubbed their backs and drank in the scent of their hair with my chin resting on the top of their heads. I told them I loved them innumerable times. I thanked whoever was responsible for me being blessed with this opportunity to continue on with my life as I have for every other night since I have become a parent three and a half years ago.

I rocked in their rocking chairs for a bit longer than I usually do, singing the song I’ve sung every night since they were born, despite the fact it is a Christmas carol. In the darkness of their room, their heads on my chest listening to my heart beating I caressed their hair with one hand, holding them tight to my body with the other singing softly…

“Silent night…”

The silence was deafening

The tears began to flow as I realized just how silent the lives of these families will be tonight except for the tears flowing. No more laughter from their children. No more “I don’t want to go to bed yet!” from them. No more”are we going to bake cookies tomorrow?“.

I tucked my boys in their beds with them cuddling their stuffed animals and quietly whispered “I love you. See you tomorrow. Have a good sleep.” and felt confident as I walked away from their beds with tears in my eyes that I would in fact see them in the morning with the last line of my family’s lullaby echoing infinitely in my head not for my boys but for the children who had their lives stolen that day.

“…sleep in heavenly peace…sleep in heavenly peace.”

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