Christmas presents already wrapped,
already tagged and set out under decked-out trees--"Give me a hard present, Daddy!"
gifts that will never be opened.
with stuffed-animals so crowding the pillow,
only a small imprint is visible.
And the smell of fresh children's 'no-tangle' shampoo
or the sweat of hard playing lingers
in the air
like priceless perfume.
Beds that will never be slept in again.
Art hangs on the refrigerator,
Half-finished meals sit in plastic containers inside.
Events written on the calendar,
Lists of stocking-stuffers with that precious name
lays on the counter next to a small note
that says, "I love you, Mommy," in uneven (maybe misspelled) handwriting
signed with both first and last name--
as if Mommy wouldn't recognize the giver without such identification.
Meals that will never be finished. Art that is the last art.
First grade handwriting that will never grow up.
A note that will be kept for the length of that Mommy's life.
For the hole in it will also be kept.
These are the things I've been crying over this weekend.
These are the images that cause tears to fall.
Tears that cause my knees to buckle and prayers to join the host of others for a small town who keens with grief.
I think of the rush of a Friday school day, of trying to get a first grader (and older siblings?) out the door in time for that all-important bell. I think of the "morning noises," that aren't always pleasant. The many times those noises consist of harried words like "Did you get your worksheet?" "Finish that last bite." "Keep still while I brush your hair." "I told you to brush your teeth." "What do you mean, you can't find your shoes?" Not all mornings are like that, of course. But some are. Some were for me, I know. And this is the kind of morning I imagine. Then I picture such a morning as the last morning. The last moments of being with my first-grader. And how the horror, the absolute, rest-of-life pain of losing a child would be compounded by what I'd missed in that last morning. Though taking a few moments to simply sit and be with my child wouldn't change their home-going just a mere half-hour later (O God, so short a time?) but it would haunt me.
But it all haunts, of course. It always will. Because it started out as a typical morning. Like all such unfathomable events begin. They start from where we cannot predict. Going to shopping malls. To hear a congress-woman speak. To school. So many times, just to school. People leave their lives just as they always do, and someone takes it because...well, that's the burning pain that haunts.
And we cannot pretend it doesn't. We cannot. Even here, a continent away from those parents, I sit shiva with them. I am not IN their pain, but I acknowledge it.
We lean from wherever we are in this world to acknowledge. To pray. And to love you as you hurt.
PS.If you missed it, the speech President Obama gave at the Interfaith Service tonight was very moving. No matter what your politics, it was pretty powerful especially in the very beginning and very end. "When you become a parent, you watch your very heart beating outside your body," he said someone told him once. I'd never heard it put that way before, but it's the best way of explaining a parent's love that I've ever heard. And at the end, he simply spoke the first names of those twenty children. I was crying before he finished. Powerful.