It was in “our own backyard,” not far from our home. In a neighboring community, thought to be safe and civilized, where you might leave your front door unlocked and your children could play in a safe haven, into this setting, a dark and sad presence came forth. The merry spirit of the holidays, the homes ablaze with bright lights and wreaths welcoming friends to visit, with children anticipating the visit of Santa Claus, and the happiness of parents watching their young ones in the school holiday program, a perfect Norman Rockwell painting — all of this was shattered by an unfathomable act of violence. The aftermath revealed that many of our fellow human beings were shot dead, twenty of them young and innocent children. Some of them were as young as six years old. It happened in the presumed safety of their own school room. The shock and grief are palpable in our community and in our nation.
Words are useless, yet it is mainly through words that we communicate. We humans try to make sense and find answers. There will be much valid conversation about gun laws and about security in schools and about the challenges of better understanding the mentally ill. In natural disasters, we show our concern and caring by taking action. In the recent hurricane that struck our area, we could band together, give aid, money, food, clothing, something, to replace lost homes and possessions. Now what do we give to soothe those whose children and parents, brothers and sisters, grandchildren will never come home again?
What can we do in the face of circumstances that defy logic? How can we help those dealing with loss so extreme that the nation collectively has cried out in pain? What can we do? I found comfort in wise and poignant words of author Anne Lamott, from her new book, Help Thanks Wow:
In prayer, I see the suffering bathed in light. In God, there is no darkness. I see God’s light permeate them, soak into them, guide their feet. I want to tell God what to do: “Look, Pal, this is a catastrophe. You have got to shape up.” But it wouldn’t work. So I pray for people who are hurting, that they be lifted with air and light. Air and light, they somehow get into those dark, musty places, like spiritual antibiotics.
We can only open our hearts and offer love and prayers, compassion and a sense of peace. We can spread kindness wherever we go and be gentle with those in our lives. We can hold all who grieve in our thoughts, imagining them encircled with a Grace that transcends the smallness of the world. We cannot change the vagaries of the world, much as we would like to. There will always be chaos. But we can and must allow ourselves to move inward, to make our own peace, and to let this Light shine around us. To lighten the burdens of all whom we touch and, in so doing, to lighten our own. To BE the light.
We cannot make sense of these tragedies. Death is never far away and is a fact of life. Yet we are learning with more and more depth that death is a transition, a crossing over, and that life is eternal. The world is transitory; life is not. All who die, continue to be. That is the Resurrection and is embraced by the most ancient of spiritual writings. I believe this Truth with every fibre of my own being.
Death is not extinguishing the light,
it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.