I was driving to pick up my two children from elementary school when I heard about the massacre in Newtown from the radio announcer on NPR. My hand instinctively went to my mouth to cover it. My stomach tightened. A lump of fear hardened in my throat.
I immediately felt the jolt of pain that stabs the heart when...such insane tragedy occurs. I immediately pushed the gas pedal harder in an effort to get to the kid's school faster. My body reacted to this horrifying news as soon as my brain computed it. And then...my brain slammed on the breaks. It held hands with my heart and said, "Can we do this? Can we think about this right now? Turn down the radio. Get off the expressway. Get to your kids. Be safe in this moment. Send love out in prayers."
Hearing and experiencing news is different since I've become a parent. Hearing and experiencing news that has anything to do with children being hurt or killed makes my body physically respond. In horror - I feel like vomitting. My stomach curls. I have to go to the bathroom. I sob out dry heaves.
I let my brain calm my body down. I pulled off the expressway. I made it safely to the kid's school. I was early. I'll admit - I posted a post on Facebook sending out prayers. I went to CNN.com. I flipped through pages of tweets. I did this all outside the elementary school. Somehow standing in front of it - in the peace and quiet of the mild winter afternoon, classes continuing as usual inside, my children safe...alive - I was able to get back to the reality of what the news, social media...was telling me.
I called my husband. He knew what happened, but didn't tell me. He knows the reason I don't watch or read the news is because my heart doesn't know how to deal with it. I panic. I cry. I get angry and sad, and sometimes, I can't function. But I always find out. We all do. Because nations and continents unite via media - so we can all react...then respond...then figure out how to keep going.
And we put ourselves in each other's places...in each other's shoes...in each other's classrooms and mini-vans and hospital rooms and movie theatres...because no matter what, there are core human experiences that unite us - loss is one of them. Devastatingly, incomprehensible, tragic loss unites us all.
And what do we do? What did I do when I first heard the news? I went into protective mode and did what I could to get to my children. To make sure they were okay. I paid attention to what others were saying and doing. I sent out love in all the ways I knew how...even when it meant holding my daughter in my arms whilst I cried, telling her over and over how much I love her. She asked me why I was crying and I didn't tell her the truth. I don't want her to know that things like this happen. I don't want her to even begin to put the images of what happened in her mind...or ask questions about why...
Maybe some would argue with me on that choice. But I just couldn't do it. I couldn't tell her. I won't tell her. I'll love her more, harder, better. We're all doing that, aren't we?
What I want to say is this: it was the 'mother' in me who took the brunt of the pain when I heard what happened. I know it was the 'mother' in me who put the vehicle in high gear to get me to my children...It was the 'mother' in me who saw the photos of the kids lined up, holding each other's shoulders as they were led out of the school where the shooting happened, and sobbed because what if...what if....And I know for certain it was the 'mother' in me who didn't want to listen to the news anymore, who didn't want to believe that this actually happened...
But I also know that you don't have to be a mother to feel this tragedy in your blood. In your bones. You don't have to be a parent or a school teacher, a sister or a grandparent. What unites us all is the human condition. The human ability to feel loss. To feel sadness and pain for others - unconditionally. And just as we are united by loss, we are united by love. As much as we feel pain we are able to feel AND give love. It's the only thing that gets us through this.
All of our actions - our re-actions, our responses - which are unfolding by the tweet, by the FB feed, by the hugs and the tears - connect us all in the loss. In the love.
What difference do these words make? What difference does telling that person you love that you love them, I ask you. All the difference. What difference does my feeling one tiny shred of the pain the parents, friends, families of those who were killed today make? It makes all the difference because my shred binds with your thread and soon enough we are blanketing each other in love and support.
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