Everything felt heavy all weekend with the news of the travesty at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And heavier still today with the return of the routine of school. I, like so many of us, stewarded my kids into familiar buildings, hand rails smooth and linoleum dipped from the slide of generations of small people all grown up now. When dropping my first grader off today, I paused before opening the van door, a second time while meeting the crossing guard – a fellow mom – and yet again when I turned away from my daughter in line awaiting the morning bell.
“Why did you come back?” she asked. Because you’re mine, I thought.
I didn’t say that, I just picked up the pink-striped-puffy coat, water bottle and just-right books whole of her, off the ground. Squeeze, repeat. Squeeze, repeat. But not forever.
As parents, we intend to release our children away from us and into the world in a slow, gradual manner. A transition that day by day sucks the lifeblood from us. It’s as if the process of labor and birth cycles again and again. So much work goes into raising a child, which often begets intense connection, accomplishment, and joy:
Yay, you can wipe yourself without my help!
Yay, you can read!
Yay, you can play UNO without an open deck!
All of this makes these people our most important possessions. I can call her my precious, my beauty (which I do), or among my top four investments (there’s three other kids in the picture), but one thing for certain: she’s mine.
And she can’t be gone. Not in a flash. Not ever. And that’s where we are with the deaths of the first graders at Sandy Hook. We’re on the lip of a dreadful chasm because they’ve fallen from us. From their parents, mostly. The dear, drained – aching parents – who have stepped into the chasm and are now searching for their children. But their children exist now in such a small space. In a heaven or in their parents’ memories, but not in the off the ground hugs of mom or dad, where they belong.
It must be the darkest place of all for a parent to be. Moonless black and beyond navigation. And endless, seemingly endless.
“Come back to me,” they must call. And lightness is so far away. This is where I’m stuck, and I imagine where some part of a parent who’s lost a child will always return. On the long road to life lived forevermore, a pant leg or a sweater will snag on the sharp thorns of permanent loss. And they’ll need light to come undone.