If you are a parent, or a grandparent, if you know a child, or a person who works with children, you could not help but be deeply affected by the tragic events of this past Friday.
How do we explain this sort of a tragedy? How can we possibly comprehend it?
We understand, at least academically, that there are people in this world who are mentally ill. We understand there are those whose minds do not work the same as a `normal' person's, as yours or mine. We know they are sick, and that for whatever reason, their sickness has gone uncured and untreated and perhaps even undetected.
Although I am a Canadian and my history and my precedents are different than those of my neighbors to the south, I still understand the principle behind the U. S. Constitution's Second Amendment. I understand that this Second Amendment is sacred, and taken as literally as if it were a part of scripture by many people. I understand that and I respect that.
But as a parent, I say, there has to be a way to mesh those rights with laws that will protect innocents from the illegal, immoral and lethal acts of other people. There has to be a way to protect the rights of the many while ensuring the few do not have access to weapons, especially weapons that were only designed to kill a lot of people in a few seconds.
There has to be a way to protect our children. For they are all, every single one of them, our children.
There has to be a solution to this problem so that future generations will only know of such horrific tragedies by reading about them in their history books.
Consider all that humanity has accomplished in just the last century alone. We have put a man on the moon, and even successfully conducted heart transplant surgeries, for God's sake! We should be able to solve thisthis problem of our own making.
The loss of a child, no matter how it happens, no matter the age of the child, is a loss too horrible, too hard, to bear. It is a loss from which no parent ever fully recovers. Losing your child is something you never, ever get over. There is a hole in your heart that never closes, and an entire chapter in your imagination, entitled "what might have been" that can never be written, or knownand yet it's a chapter that can never be closed up and put away.
Such a loss is undoubtedly more tragic when the child is still small. I remember my own kids at those ages: actually my eldest was 10, my second son 5 and my daughter was 4 all in the same year.
Those are years of wonder, years of learning to read, of making friends, of beginning to participate in sleep-overs. They are years of cartoons and best friends and singing along with your favorite songs on you tube. They are years of writing letters to Santa, and getting excited because Christmas is just around the corner.
For each parent who is now in mourning, my heart breaks. There are no words we can offer you to make it better. We can only pray. We can pray that you receive strength and hope from the Comforter, and that in time your memories will be more sweet than bitter.
We can't do anything to heal your heart. Only God, and time, can do that, and only to a certain degree. As I said, that hole will be there, forever.
But the day will come when there is more joy in remembering than there is sorrow. And maybe, if we can all work together, if we can be open and honest and leave politics and hyperbole behind, we can find a way to prevent some of these tragedies from ever happening in the first place.
Maybe we can give you, and ourselves, and the society in which we live, the gift of hope.
You've heard it said, I am sure, that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. My problem is I can't tell the difference. I am constantly, even eagerly, slotting folks into that last category. I'm like an excited little puppy all wound up having someoneor several someone'snew in my lifea puppy who gets all frisky and happy and bounces back and forth as if saying, "Wanna play? Wanna play?" Then when things happenthings that seem inexplicable to me, things that leave me wondering what I could possibly have done wrong, I'm left broken hearted because those people turn and walk away with no backward glance whatsoever and I am left feeling totally and completely bereft.
I'm beginning to suspect that the only thing I keep doing wrong is slating people into the "lifetime" category who never should have been there in the first place. I've only begun to realize this flaw in my previous behavior because the ones I have now in that "lifetime" slot were the ones meant to be there all along.
I know I can't be the only person this has happened to. Life has taught me that very, very few of us ever experience something that no one else ever has. I've had a number of traumatic and tragic things happen in my lifetime. I know that probably most of you have, too. At some point, maybe twenty years ago or so, I came to the decision that if life really was only 5 percent what happened to me and 95 percent how I dealt with it, then I'd better see if I could deal with things in a way that would be beneficial to others, and therefore beneficial to myself.
Yes, that's another variation of making lemonade out of lemons.
Because I am, down to my soul, a writer, then dealing with things in a beneficial way meant I had to write about them. Those who can look beyond the wink-wink-nudge-nudge of my novels will discover that I deal with a lot of issues that many of us struggle with in life. What I don't deal with that way, I manage to tackle within the pages of these essays, every week.
Life is a journey and like any long trip, not all of it is made over smooth roads. Sometimes we have to travel the gravel side roads, and sometimes we find ourselves on deeply rutted dirt trails. Sometimes we're making our way in the company of good companions, and sometimes we are achingly alone.
Everyone has to define the terms under which they want to live their lives. We each of us have our own priorities, and we're not all the same. We aren't all given to the same purposes or causes; we don't define happiness or sadness in exactly the same way. We really are unique, each one of us. We share a common humanity, yes, and a common spectrum of possibilities, but the fine points, the details, are different for us all.
As I've gotten older, as more milestones have gone by my personal window on this, my life's journey, I understand as I never did before how self sufficient we are, and at the same time, how isolated we are.
I believe that we were created to help one another. Do you want to have a good, really good, feeling inside of yourself? Then take your eyes off yourself and help someone else. Do you want to feel as if you matter? Then matter to othersdo something that makes a difference either to an individual or a group.
Are you the only one who has ever made a horrible mistake, lost someone dear, or suffered an injury to your body or your soul? Of course not. We all have. Is every day a day of joy and laughter and all things positive and light?
If only. Nope, there are at least as many dark days as there are light ones in anyone's life; the difference lies in how we rate them. I personally give happy, sunny days a 5 rating, and the gloomy, sad ones a 0.5 one.
Oh yes, that is stacking the deck in my favor, but then I can do that if I want to. Because the most important principle I have learned in life says I can. What is that principle? Gosh, I am glad you asked.
It's that, in the final analysis, everything emotionaland I do mean everythingis a decision. How you handle the firestorms that come your way, is a decision.
Life doesn't control your heart or your mind or your soul. You do.