December 21, 2012

I think that when people die the first days and the first week is the hardest. For me… it’s…. 24 hours ago they were alive. 48 hours ago they were alive. 72 hours ago they were alive. Last week at this time they were alive.

Then the weeks become months. Last month at this time…

Then comes the first year. Then the second. The pain never gets better. The hole in your heart never heals. The day that you lost them just feels like it gets further away.

Any given second you are brought back to that day, that moment. When you realized they were ripped from your life. The smile leads to tears and that big heavy gasp, the one that takes your breath away and the world falls down all over again.

I haven’t slept in a week. I stare at the ceiling. And I wasn’t involved in anything that had anything to do with Sandy Hook. Over the past week I have read about every single one of the children and amazingly brave heroes that were killed. Their faces are memorized and I stare at the ceiling at night and think about them.

As a pediatric nurse I could handle when children were in pain, and when they were hurt, because I could do something about it. What rips my heart out is when children are afraid. The thought of how afraid those children were keeps me awake. It takes my breath away in the worst possible way. And I knew none of them.

But I am a mother. And a human being. The what if this happened to me…. has cycled through my mind more times then I want to admit to you.

I am also the mother of a child on this damn autism spectrum.

Over this past week I have read every story. Looked at every picture. Tearfully watched each interview with families. I don’t know why I watch and look…. I am curious I suppose. I can’t wrap my mind or my heart around such evil that I seek that answer…. WHY. The truth of the matter is….. no why in the world could make this make any sense at all.

We allowed our son to learn what happened. To understand what happened. We talked about what to do if we ever find ourselves in this situation. We haven’t hugged extra this week or said I love you any more…. because we have always done that anyway.

I watch these families who have lost their children go on TV and give these interviews….. they inspire me. I don’t understand how they are able to breathe. I don’t understand how they are able to smile. How they are able to function. In each of these interviews I have witnessed unbelievable strength and faith. They are telling stories of their sons and daughters. They are imagining what they are doing up there in heaven. You can almost feel the faith that these parents seem to have.

I find that to be inspiring. I find that it gives me strength to lend to someone else who needs it. In the hope that they lend it to another. In the hope that we spread faith and strength around as far as it needs to go.

I will admit to you that I am scared. I will admit to you that I fear being in a place like a movie theatre where someone opens fire. I fear that my face will be one of those plastered on the cover of People magazine next week because someone decided to take their own life and bring innocent people with them.

I fear that I will not be able to defend myself…. or worse…. I fear that I will not be able to protect my son.

I fear that one day I will get that call. It never happens to you…. until it happens to you. I fear being one of these parents. I know for certain I would not have half the strength that they have.

This fear of mine will not stop me from living. From going places, from experiencing this world. But it’s still a fear nonetheless.

I want to be angry. I want to stage a revolution. I want to fight back. The problem is…. there is too much to fight back against. There is not just one issue or one problem. There are twenty. I don’t know where to start.

So I start at home. I start with what I can control. I am the mother of a child on the autism spectrum. What that means is that we still raise our son right. That means I work harder because the stigma is now bigger. That means we work together as husband and wife to raise a good man.

I feel helpless. I feel lost. I can’t sleep. So imagine what they are going through. I am just a person hundreds of miles away peering into their world. Getting to know people I shouldn’t have ever known about unless our paths crossed. Being so inspired by the strength and faith of a community. Smiling at pictures of mischievous little boys and girls. Feeling my heart sink at the same time it swells for those adults who were true heroes. And I feel grateful for those who chose to share the stories and the memories with the world.

Sometimes I am afraid that these holes in my heart will heal because i am terrified that I will forget. At the same time I don’t know how I could possibly forget. I don’t want to forget these beautiful faces and these beautiful spirits. I don’t want to forget their mothers and fathers who are so incredibly brave.

As I lay awake at night … I imagine they are laying awake at night as well. I am lucky. My life will go on as planned. Theirs will never be the same.

I can honor all of them by doing right by our son. By doing right by other people. We can honor them by taking care of one another instead of tearing each other apart. By being part of the solution and not part of the problem. It’s easy to complain about lack of this and lack of that. As they say complaining is a lot like being in a rocking chair. You get a lot of movement but you never get anywhere.

So let’s do this right. Let’s be good to one another. Let’s take care of one another. Will that create change? To those who do it, it can. While we are doing that…. we can hold those who are at the epicenter of this great big nightmare tightly in our prayers.

If my biggest problem is that I can’t sleep for a week or two…. I have a pretty sweet life. I don’t know how these families will ever be able to go on. But I do know one thing…. their strength, faith and hope…. are the most inspiring I have ever seen.


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