Last evening I went to a prayer service at my local church for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. For the last 24 hours I have been afraid to slow down to even imagine the young souls ripped from their families.
The news of the Newtown tragedy I skimmed news articles -squinting- as if looking at the burning sun I just had to turn my eyes away from the sickening and unimaginable loss.
How would these families ever recover?
Looking for distraction at every turn, I found myself scanning the the social networks which had all kinds of unavoidable expressions from gun control- to a godless society to our countries unaddressed mental illness. Suddenly for me It made me feel even more sad that these young souls, their honor, were being lost in a haze of diagnosis and analysis in attempt to make sense of the senseless.
The following morning after the shooting, loss loomed in the background and for me the shooting details were just too difficult to look at straight on though felt pulled to go to the late afternoon prayer service at our local church.
As darkness fell into the early evening the minister in the Episcopal church in the small rural town of Upperville, Virgina Church the Reverend Rob Banse quietly read each name and date of birth -I could feel my heart wince.
I admired Rob’s bravery- his ability to say each name and the moments he conducted to slowly honor -respect and pray for each soul. To really look at the specifics and to pray for each.
This was really the hard work – seeking not the details of the tragedy but the heart breaking understanding that these victims were not statistics but loving and giving souls.
As one name was read after another I found myself in survival mode of sorts slipping into a distracted gaze towards the Nativity scene in the back of the church next to where I sat.
Escaping from the reality of what the minister was saying , my attention became more focused on the carved figurines of the Christmas scene.
Soon I was back in time recalling a childhood memory of my hand being encased by my mothers leather gloved hand pulling her back , creating a drag to slow her down down so if I were on my tip toes as we passed the nativity scene on the alter in our church I might catch a glimpse of the mystifying Christmas scene over the alter railing.
I knew what it was like being these children’s age looking at a nativity scene at eye level with all kinds of wonderment about Christmas. Christmas for me as a child was all about hope.
I remember that age -special Christmas cookies -art projects of cut out Christmas trees and molds of our hands made in plaster and pie pans that soon would be wrapped up to be a proud Christmas gift to my mom and dad.
This would not be the case for those families and children.
As the focus drifted back to the ministers voice gentling listing the victims names.
I wanted to cry for these children- these families -this community.
I am reminded what I tell my own children – “lead your life with your heart -walk in into a room with your heart leading and live your life in love .”
I believe that now more than ever.