I’ve been especially quiet here on Not Strictly Spiritual lately, in case you haven’t noticed. The usual banter stopped Friday morning, when everything stopped for just about everyone. I don’t even think I was breathing as I watched the first news reports from Newtown, but I do know I was crying. And crying and crying and crying. I just couldn’t stop.
Since that moment I’ve been disconnected from most of my usual social media habits. Other than checking in now and then, I just didn’t want to be online. I didn’t want to read the sad posts. I certainly didn’t want to read the political posts. I didn’t want to see one more news story. I didn’t turn on the TV for the entire weekend. Couldn’t do it. Not for five minutes.
I don’t really even want to be here on this blog right now, but I feel like I should be here. So here I am. What can I say that will make you feel better? What can I say that will make me feel better? I won’t pretend to know. Not since 9-11 have I felt this way. Not that there hasn’t been heartache and suffering and plenty of violent deaths to go around since that terrible day, but this was different. To me, Newtown was — is — a game changer, a tipping point. And that requires some serious soul searching. In that context, blogging just didn’t seem to matter. I felt a need to look inward, as I think most people did, and to hug my children tight and shut out the rest of the world for a bit.
When I went to Mass this past weekend, I knew there was no way I would feel the joy that typically comes with Gaudete Sunday. How could I? Yes, we are supposed to have a joy in Jesus that remains even in times of sorrow, but that’s a little unrealistic for those of us who have not yet achieved saint status. At least it is for me.
I sat in my pew praying for the victims, praying for the survivors, praying for the killer’s father, who must be going through an unimaginable kind of hell right now, and I looked and looked for a way to see joy but just couldn’t find it. Sure, I saw glimpses in my children, especially Chiara, who remains blissfully unaware of what happened, but then that joy would come crashing down as I imagined myself in the place of those 20 parents. Joy seemed self-indulgent and frivolous.
When I do build up the strength to steal a glance at a headline or a Facebook update, I am knocked back down by the beautiful faces staring out at me, faces of children who bear the same names as two of my own children. Innocent, happy faces filled with possibility and potential. And then I have to retreat again. Hug my children again. Play another round of Go Fish, and maybe not lose my patience when one of the kids asks for something for the 100th time in an afternoon. A sorrowful kind of joy is present — the joy born of gratitude for what I have — but how long will it last? Will I remember to be so patient two months from now? Will I stop what I’m doing to play a card game with Chiara after this nightmare starts to fade from our collective view?
Obviously what happened in Newtown has changed us, but will it change us for good? Will it change us for the better? I pray that we don’t forget as the weeks and months go by. I pray that those little children will lead us to a saner place, a place where going to school or the movies or the mall doesn’t fill us with trepidation or fear, a place where love is the motive for every action and peace is the goal for every person.