“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston

Sandy Hook Elementary School Hoa Nguyen Patch
Sandy Hook Elementary School
by Hoa Nguyen (Newtown Patch)

                   

“Weary at the close of day, wondering if tomorrow brings me joy or sorrow.” ~ Leon Redbone

Friday afternoon. Sunny and mild, 50’s.

I’ve picked up some new followers recently, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have some new voices commenting, which is always nice. I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all of you out in the ether who take a few minutes to peruse what I put here. When I first began this blog, I didn’t really know what my goals were, but I hoped that along the way one or two people would stop by. That this has come to pass gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment. I mean, someone besides my family and dogs is tuning in, and hey, that’s a nice feeling. So thanks.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Schooting  Curbside Shrine by Emmanuel Dunand AFP
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Curbside Shrine
by Emmanuel Dunand (AFP)

I’m hoping to get the house ready for Christmas this weekend, and while Alexis is out of town I’m going to work on Christmas stockings. At the very least I need to finish a stocking for Olivia. I’m hoping that I’ll get inspired once I go to the craft store, but right now, my creative side is coming up blank.

I stopped by my mother’s house yesterday with Olivia. I was watching her while Lex was trying to get ready for their road trip to Mississippi. My mother was glad to spend some time with her great-granddaughter. I am sad that Lex and the baby won’t be here for Christmas, but I remember when the kids were young and how we felt pulled in so many different directions at holiday time, so I’m trying not to make a big deal out of it. My mother, of course, does not understand and thinks that it’s weird that Mike wants to see his family. How is that weird?

Oh well. We are talking about my mother, after all.

” . . . how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.” ~ Bob Hicok, from “In the Loop”

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and mild, 50’s.

I began this post yesterday afternoon and had planned to come back to it in the evening after Corey and I ran some errands, and then what happened in Sandy Hook entered my consciousness, and I just couldn’t go on with a bunch of drivel about my life, all of which seems terribly insignificant and unimportant when compared to what happened.

Connecticut School Shooting
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Woman Waits to Hear News about her Sister
by Jessica Hill (AP)

So I wrote, just wrote whatever came to mind, uncensored, raw, without thought to structure or logic or development, and it helped, a bit. But I suppose the emotion that most of us are feeling (and yes, I am assuming here) is raw. How did this happen? Why did this happen?

And dammit, who are these people who think it’s a good idea to go to an elementary school and take out as many six and seven-year-olds as possible?* And this was before we learned today that the gunman wasn’t satisfied shooting his victims once but rather chose to inflict the children and adults with between three to eleven wounds. Who does this?

Truthfully, my overwhelming question is why in the hell didn’t this guy just kill himself if he was so mad at his mother, mad at the world, dissatisfied with his lot in life? What possesses a person to take a weapon into a school filled with young children and decide that this is a good thing? And yes, obviously his thinking was not logical, but I refuse to give him the excuse that he was a psychopath. That’s just too easy. And no, I won’t name him because the last thing he needs from me or anyone else is publicity.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth (IV,iii)

And so, like many others, I watched hours of news coverage, and even as I did so, I had to wonder why. Why was I watching? What was I hoping to glean from the talking heads? I mean, everyone was saying the same thing, and no one had anything new to report. It was all just a hodge-podge of sad commentary by dour-faced journalists, many of whom chipped in and said that perhaps now we would have a real discussion on gun control, and you could tell that they didn’t believe it even as they said it.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Schooting Children Being Led from Building by Shannon Hicks AP slash Newtown Bee
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Children Being Led from Building
by Shannon Hicks (AP/Newtown Bee)

And yes, I am particularly cynical and bitter today. Having no answers makes me this way.

Seriously? All I could think was that if someone had done that to one of my children, or if it had happened to Olivia, I could not be responsible for the rage that would consume me. Odd words for one who abhors gun violence, from one who purports to hate violence of any kind. But it’s different when it’s one of your own, right? Isn’t that what we tell ourselves?

“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

The loss of a child is an unbearable thing. But to lost a child to violence—this I cannot even begin to comprehend. When I hear news stories about young babies who have been beaten to death, my mind immediately jumps to a place of logic, for it is with logic that I try to face the unbearable: Why didn’t they just give their child to someone who really wanted it? If having that child was such a burden, just open a door and step outside. Finding a family who desperately wants to have a child is not hard.

Sandy Hook Firefighters Hanging Black Bunting Mary Altaffer, AP
Sandy Hook Firefighters Hanging Black Bunting
by Mary Altaffer (AP)

But then multiply that senseless death by 5 or 10 or 20? What then? How to begin to process such senseless devastation, for surely it is devastation that has been wrought upon those families—the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends. The repercussions of one man’s violence will spread and multiply for years.

Consider the first responders, the carnage to which they had to bear witness. How to live with those images? How to survive the nightmares that will surely follow?

Consider the survivors and the families of survivors, filled with gratitude and then overcome with guilt. How to resolve the antithetical emotions?

“For the poison of hatred seated near the heart doubles the burden for the one who suffers the disease; he is burdened with his own sorrow, and groans on seeing another’s happiness.” ~ Aeschylus

What happened yesterday morning in Connecticut will stay above the fold and at the top of the hour only until the next great tragedy usurps it and takes its place. That is the way of the news cycle, and unfortunately, that is the way of the human mind. We focus on what is put before us.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Schooting  Emergency Responders, Media, Parents Gary Jeanfaivre Newtown Patch
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
Emergency Responders, Media, Parents
by Gary Jeanfaivre (Newtown Patch)

But how many other disgruntled employees, displaced teens, disassociated spouses are out there at this very minute stewing over injustices perceived and real? The violence does not end, will not end, certainly not in my lifetime.

And that violence will be visited upon countless other innocents in more ways than we can conceive of our begin to enumerate: guns, knives, poison, baseball bats, letter openers . . . The means are endless, and no, we cannot outlaw every single item that could be used to visit harm upon another. But does that mean that we should not regulate those things that can be regulated? Consider, in China a crazed man attacked students at a primary school, but none died; he used a knife. Students lost fingers and ears but not lives.

It was so easy to strip travelers of anything remotely sharp in the fallout of 9/11: no nail files, no box cutters, no pen knives, no multi-function tools, no aerosol cans, no large containers for liquid, and on and on and on, ad infinitum. We did that. This country and many others enacted those laws. So why so reluctant to enact or amend the laws we have regarding firearms? Yes, it’s in the Constitution, but when the Constitution was drawn, firearms were necessary to many aspects of life. Is that still the case today?

The times have changed, the circumstances evolved, yet our approach remains steadfastly 1950’s Cold War mentality when it comes to weapons.

“Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish” ~ Thomas More

But in spite of everything that happened, I refuse to believe that there is not goodness in this world. In the face of certain death, how many teachers thought only of extending their classroom role to that of protector? The teacher who read to her students during the gunfire? The teacher who shielded her students, losing her life in the process? The principal who ran towards the gunman, not away?

Sandy Hook Elementary School Schooting David Goldman AP
Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting
by David Goldman (AP)

When we talk of heroes and role models, we should talk of these people, not NBA stars or mega movie stars. Everyday people doing their everyday jobs in extraordinary ways.

The ramifications of yesterday morning are still unfolding. I am not understating when I say that a lot of people are going to need a lot of therapy just to be able to close their eyes at night. The people of Sandy Hook, like the people of Aurora and the people of Blacksburg and the people of Columbine and the people of too many other places to name individually need our support now, a month from now, a year from now. The people of this nation need change. Now. The people in charge of this nation need to step up to the challenges. Now.

But it all begins with each one of us and what we are willing to do, or do we just go back to business as usual? Do we just retreat to the safety of our living rooms, the glow of our holiday lights, the warmth of our family’s arms? Or do we look at our children, say a prayer of thanks, and vow to work for change?

*List of victims; all the children killed were 6 or 7 years old.

Music by Vienna Teng, “Lullaby for a Stormy Night”

                   

Beyond Even This

Who would have thought the afterlife would
look so much like Ohio? A small town place,
thickly settled among deciduous trees.
I lived for what seemed a very short time.
Several things did not work out.
Casually almost, I became another one
of the departed, but I had never imagined
the tunnel of hot wind that pulls
the newly dead into the dry Midwest
and plants us like corn. I am
not alone, but I am restless.
There is such sorrow in these geese
flying over, trying to find a place to land
in the miles and miles of parking lots
that once were soft wetlands. They seem
as puzzled as I am about where to be.
Often they glide, in what I guess is
a consultation with each other,
getting their bearings, as I do when
I stare out my window and count up
what I see. It’s not much really:
one buckeye tree, three white frame houses,
one evergreen, five piles of yellow leaves.
This is not enough for any heaven I had
dreamed, but I am taking the long view.
There must be a backcountry of the beyond,
beyond even this and farther out,
past the dark smoky city on the shore
of Lake Erie, through the landlocked passages
to the Great Sweetwater Seas.

~ Maggie Anderson

“Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart.” ~ William Shakespeare

Yes, I’m cheating, doing a bit of back posting to fill in days on which I was unable to post. This time, I’m using words found on a new site that I discovered: Other Wordly, which is filled with strange and lovely words, not all from the English language. And you know how I do love my words.

Enjoy.

“Beauty is ever to the lonely mind a shadow fleeting; she is never plain. She is a visitor who leaves behind the gift of grief, the souvenir of pain.” ~ Christopher Morley

Entrance into Green by Wim Lassche (Pixdaus)

“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 80’s.

People around here are still reeling from the 5.9 earthquake from earlier today. I, however, slept through it and am glad that I did. Last night, I took three Seroquel to ensure deep sleep. You see, my mother-in-law died yesterday afternoon.

We had visited on Sunday, and it was obvious then that she did not have very long. She was not conscious, but her breathing was labored. We talked, and I rubbed her arms with lotion and massaged her hands. I cleaned her teeth as I knew that she would hate to have dirty teeth. When I left, I told her that I loved her and said that I would see her later. I had every intention of going back yesterday or today.

Now, she’s gone.

Her body will be cremated, and there will be a memorial service at her church. It will have to be on a weekend so that Ann’s daughter can get back from Virginia Tech. Since next weekend is a holiday weekend, it will probably be the weekend after that. She had said that she would like for her ashes to be buried beneath a tree or spread in the Pacific Ocean.

I have volunteered to write the obituary, which is what I should be doing at this moment but cannot.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.” ~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

Ann called me yesterday afternoon. The rehab center had called her as she was on her way home from taking my niece to Blacksburg. I had Brett with me in the car as we were on our way to do school errands, and I called Alexis and Eamonn. I was also the first to reach Paul. In the midst of phoning everyone, my mother called, and I was crying. Her response was to tell me to stop crying.

I love my mother, but she refuses to acknowledge grief.

Actually, at this moment, my face and head hurt from the effort that I’m exuding not to give in to tears as I do not wish to be consumed at this moment. To be honest, I do not want to feel, do not want to acknowledge everything that is coursing through my heart, my head, my soul. It’s just too much at the moment.

Perhaps later, I will write about the woman that she was, the things she loved, the memories that I have. But not now.

Not now.

“Joy and sorrow in this world pass into each other, mingling their forms and their murmurs in the twilight of life as mysterious as an overshadowed ocean, while the dazzling brightness of supreme hopes lies far off, fascinating and still, on the distant edge of the horizon.” ~ Joseph Conrad

The sink is full of dirty dishes, the bed unmade. The laundry hamper is full. Frankly, I don’t care. I cannot make myself care.

I was supposed to see my pain doctor today, but I rescheduled. I don’t want to see anyone, don’t want anyone to ask me how I am, don’t want anyone to touch me.

If I had a shell, I would retreat inside and hide from the world for as long as it takes, but of course, I don’t have a shell. So I will just shut myself off for a while. Yesterday, I kept myself busy until the moment I got into bed, the logic being, of course, that if you are busy, then you cannot focus on other things; if you cannot focus on other things, you cannot think too much.

I always think too much.

I don’t want to think at all. I don’t want to feel anything, let alone sorrow, and certainly not grief. I’m not in denial. I know what has happened, or at least my brain knows. But I am in postponement. I actively choose to wait to feel. This membrane between normalcy—the moments in which everything is as we know and expect it to be—and loss—after everything has changed—is far too thin. I have chosen not to let the knowledge of her death reach my heart yet.

Not yet.

This is all for now. Let me close with these words:

“Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.”

~ Barbara Kingsolver, from The Poisonwood Bible