My children seemed even smaller today, even more fragile and fleeting.
The whole day shifted, slanted towards helpless with the news from Newtown. Everything felt ugly and overwhelming and exhausting, like being punched in the chest, the core of my heart.
What to say or do or think in the face of horror, of violence wrenched upon a corner of the world, so much like our quiet own, ripped inside out and left bleeding and broken and raw beyond recognition?
The second I got home, I gathered my boys in my arms, smothered their hair with my kisses. Tried to breathe in the simple fact of their existence before they squirmed away. Before they went back to laughing, playing, whining, reading. Being.
For the rest of the day I watched them with other eyes.
I watched them from the corner of the kitchen over dinner. From the bedroom doorway during bathtime. From the top of the stairs while they giggled under the Christmas tree.
I lingered on the normalcy of our night, the ordinary peace of our day. And with every regular breath I felt behind it the weight of families in nightmares, the wail of parents plunged into the deepest loss, the darkness I cannot close my eyes to name.
. . .
Both boys’ skin seemed translucent today. The palest flesh on such small bones, warm blood racing through thin veins just below the surface. At any moment, it seemed, their heart could stop and mine would, too. Any ordinary day. A day of school or church or the mall or the movies – nothing feels safe, nothing feels sacred anymore.
After I cuddled the smallest to sleep, I paused for a moment by our front door. The strong steel door, the door with the lock and deadbolt, the door that blocks the world outside. The thought of opening it tomorrow, of grasping their small mittened hands and leading them out into the cold, choked me with overwhelming.
Taking a single step outside seems an act of faith after a day darkened by so much death. It’s an exhausting prospect, this vulnerable living, this throwing ourselves back out into the world, day after day, never knowing how or when the end will come for those we love, whether that end will be sudden or violent or terrifying or tragic. We never know; we can only keep going. And trying and helping and loving along the way. The simplest acts of living, of chosing to go on, become a daring defiance of violence and hatred and evil and horror.
. . .
This afternoon, my oldest, oblivious to the news I’d flipped off, asked with a grin if we could to do some baking. I figured there was nothing else to do but to do something.
We pulled out flour and eggs, peanut butter and chocolate chips. He snuck extra licks from the spoon as we stirred. I figured life’s too short to care about a few germs.
His baby brother grabbed the sugar canister and stuck his chubby fists inside, spilling out handfuls on the floor. I figured why not add some sweetness to the day.
So we baked. We sang. We played piano. We danced in spinning circles before bedtime, once more, always once more, once more extra on a broken, bittersweet, too-much night like tonight.
In short, we lived. And tomorrow, I pray we will get up and do the same.
Tonight my babies are tucked safe and sleeping in bed. But tonight I think of all the beds that go empty, all the places on the globe where violence and murder and fear are all-too-familiar. I think about God’s head bowing low, bearing the weight of all this pain, grieving the world so far from its created beauty.
I wonder how we go on. But I know that we go on. I am left with nothing but the sheer aliveness of the ones I love, the stubborn fact that we are still here.
That we still have to face the test of tomorrow.