I check the email on my phone at about 5:30 on Monday evening — right after we say goodbye to the little friends I watch every Monday and Tuesday — and read the words, “in light of what has happened in Boston today…”
And I feel the familiar sick feeling that I’ve missed something big in the world, and I wonder what sort of horror I will find this time.
I am dreading learning of Boston today and read Boston Marathon. Explosion. Amputated. Injured. Killed.
I feel sick, and it is so senseless and familiar. I hate that this feels familiar. At an event, in a place I would not have thought to worry about, and that feels familiar too.
Just then, Michael arrives home, and we all rush to greet him, and the girls don’t know what has happened, but we all seem to hug him with extra vigor, and when they are not around, I whisper in his ear about Boston, and he says there were Sandyhook families in the stands along the last mile of the race, guests of honor.
That gets me so down deep, and I think of those survivors fragile and re-traumatized, and hate again that this is the world we live in. I think of the conversations we might need to have with our children and that the comforting words about them being safe feel so false.
No place this side of heaven is safe, I am crying into the sink, and I am so angry.
I let Michael hug me, and we feel this together in the middle of our kitchen, and it is like prayer.
The kids run up the back stairs into the house, and I splash water around my eyes and when she asks, I tell J that my eyes hurt, and they do. All of me does.
I drive to the hairdresser and then out for long-scheduled drinks and appetizers with a dear friend, and life keeps moving as usual. The voices on the radio seem unphased. Cars on the road whiz right by.
From the stylist’s chair, I see clouds part, and the light is stormy, rich and deep. Chartreuse leaves glowing more brightly, blossoms shining fuller pink. I am looking for hope and tenderness and beauty. I am hungry for it.
At the restaurant, my mind wanders, and I see the shape of an oak tree with a solid trunk and long roots right there in the foam of my beer.
I am saying to my friend, We’ve got to keep bringing light and hope and love. We cannot stop. I am reminding myself more than I’m telling her, and we both probably know this.
I’m aching for the roots to go down deep. I need them to sink deep so I can keep showing up to this world.
Yesterday morning, I wake early, thinking I might write some, but the words do not come. The birds do, though, and they are singing again. I am quiet and struggle to pray. My thoughts are fragments, shards, and I am momentarily surprised that through my window sky seems to stretch uninterrupted in swaths of light.
I walk with my friend before the house wakes, and we do pray, our voices drifting into the cool spring air.
Lala and I meet my stepsisters and niece and eat pastries and drink coffee, tell stories about our everyday lives, and it feels like luxury. Little girls chat and color happy people and boxes of yellow light and rainbow lines.
Tuesday, I remember Boston and its glowing fall and Beacon Hill and the cannoli in the West End and our trip there years ago to visit friends. I recall that it’s the only other city Michael and I have visited that we could imagine living. We loved that place.
On the way home from coffee yesterday, I talk to my sister on the phone, and she tells me her daughter’s teacher was running in the Boston Marathon this year and was on her way to the hotel by the time of the explosions. Ali’s college friend was only 20 yards away, thankfully unharmed in her (physical) body, as was her husband sitting in the stands.
I tell my sister, a full state away, that I’m struggling to get my brain around this. Evil in the world and how unsafe it all feels. I tell her I am dreading an airplane flight across several states, my husband and babies without me. Lala riding in the backseat, I spell out to Ali that Nebraska is just so F-A-R from H-O-M-E.
I say I don’t know what to tell Sici about Boston, and I know I need to say something because she is 11, and she will hear.
Ali tells me how she and Jeff talked with six-year-old E — their sparkling, effortless runner who beams and breezes around the track at school, chalking up almost 7 miles in a morning. They told her what happened in Boston because her teacher was there, and E needed to know.
Ali recounts her words to her girl, and they are echoes of Fred Rogers’, a childhood hero, who said we must look for the helpers. Police who ran right into the heart of the smoke. Runners who completed 26.2 miles and headed directly to the hospital to give blood. Spectators who stripped clothes from their own bodies to make tourniquets for the injured. City residents who invited total strangers into their homes for cups of coffee and a place to sit.
One (or perhaps a few) bent on destruction, but thousands bent toward life. Saving it. Giving it. Affirming it.
So surely we cannot tell our daughters that this world is safe — and maybe not even that they are — but I do know we’ve got to keep pointing them to the Light.
Last night after we clear the dinner dishes and while her sisters change into jammies upstairs, Sici and I talk about the tragedy, and I tell her about the helpers and the over and over again Light that shines straight through pitch black clouds and beckons us to not live afraid and to bless with what we have.
We, filled with love — we who know what hope looks and tastes like — we have got to release the light, give it away, even when life feels dark. Yes, especially then.
The days keep coming, and so do the birds chirping their incessant life songs. I tell Sici we are singing ours, too. The simple refrain, This little light of mine, I’ve got to let it shine.
It seems brave to keep shining and singing.
We sing with these faces, these hands, these words, these prayers. We shine with stuttering courage.
It can feel so small, but I tell her there is nothing insignificant about being a light bringer, a hope giver.
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Your heartfelt account of the tragedy brought tears to my eyes (again). I think most people feel like you do, WE just can’t express it. Thank you precious. I love you.
Auntie, I read somewhere that we write to know we are not alone. I appreciate this place where I can share my thoughts, even when they are painful and based on the darkness of the world, and be reminded of that once again. Thank you for being here with me.
All I can say to comfort you a bit, dear sweet friend, is that our Lord Jesus already overcame this world! Thinking and praying for you all!
Much love XX
We do know the end, but the middle sure hurts sometimes. Thanks, Mia.
Reblogged this on Faith, Life and Compassion and commented:
This is so beautiful. Let’s all keep singing and shining.
I appreciate you sharing, Sarah. Bless you and thanks so much for being here.
And you are that. And keep being that. And thank you my sweet one for reminding me that we are to be the light bringers. Always.
We are the light bringers. Always.
I feel like I want to post those words over the doorpost of this home.
Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing in this space and reminding me in all the ways you do of what matters.
tears and nodding here, Ashley.
yes, this is the way. the Light keeps shining into the dark and the darkness has not put it out. never will.
Never will. Yes, dear Kelli. Amen.
Beautiful, grace and hope in this unsafe world. Waiting, longing for the safety of Home. May you be so blessed on your trip and have the Greatest Peace in your heart while you’re away from your loved ones.
It was a glorious trip – though I would have loved if you were there, too – and I do feel thankful for the peace I experienced…once I got off the turbulent airplane ride.
Yes, friend. Especially in times like these, aren’t we just longing for home?
Oh, how I appreciate the ways you process tragedy, Ashley. Such honesty, pain, wrestling and determination to hope. I love how you paint pictures of hope and light with your words – “One (or perhaps a few) bent on destruction, but thousands bent toward life.” This. Gorgeous. Followed by this, so profound – “So surely we cannot tell our daughters that this world is safe — and maybe not even that they are — but I do know we’ve got to keep pointing them to the Light.” Girl, I’m so very proud to call you my friend. And so grateful to God for how you open up and let his Light pour through you.
Amber, thank you for the ways you hear my heart. It means so much to me. You do.
I love this and you had me at the headline- so true, we need to keep sharing the love and joy and hope… I love this quote in your piece: “So surely we cannot tell our daughters that this world is safe — and maybe not even that they are — but I do know we’ve got to keep pointing them to the Light.”
blessings dear friend Ashley- your words are poetical, lyrical, light-filled as you are-
cornelia becker seigneur
Blessings to you, my friend, and thank you so much for your words. Glad to be on this journey of writing and seeking the light with you.
I remember being pregnant with Alejandro when 911 happened and it was all so tragic and for me at the time, hard to believe that I was bringing another one of my babies into this world where things like this can happen, can even be imagined. But the optimist in me, which almost always wins out, started whispering that bringing my baby into this world is exactly what I should do because I knew that my little girl was already a shining light and that her little brother would be too. There are people who might think that having as many kids as we do isn’t the most responsible thing in the world – but I honestly feel that my 4 children are the greatest contribution I could add to this place. I have no idea what they will be, and I don’t think they have to be anything other than who they are – bringers of light – to make this whole world a better place. Thanks, Ashley – beautiful reflection.
Wow, Barb. I, too (of course), was pregnant when the planes hit the Twin Towers, and I was overcome with the same sense of grief and loss and wanting to protect our little baby from this horrifying world on the outside. I also experienced that desire to bring forth light, though not so beautifully defined at that time as yours. I agree, my friend. The world needs those sparkling, light-filled Suarez children. Bringers of light…that sums them up perfectly.
Dearest Ashley. We used to believe we knew how to (mostly) keep our children safe. Don’t run with scissors; don’t take candy from strangers; stop, look, listen. But no rules exist to keep them (or us) safe from those whose intent is to give full vent to the hate that fills them. You’re so right, and I’m so grateful again for the truth you speak – all we can do is continue to believe in, look for, and give expression to the Love and Light that Are. “This little light of mine, we gotta let it shine…..” And all the brighter on such dark days.
(And as I said to you yesterday morning, how I wish I had the little house on the prairie to give you…and yours… and all ours….) I love you so. Mama
Yes. If there were only a way we could keep them safe. I know…it really hurts, Ma. I have to believe – like you – that light can still shine through darkness. And perhaps we recognize the light shining all the brighter because we’ve known the darkness. How I love you, Mama.
“One (or perhaps a few) bent on destruction, but thousands bent toward life. Saving it. Giving it. Affirming it.”
Dear Ashley…thank you for putting words to what my heart feels. Thank you for being a helper, a light bringer. Your words – YOU – bring such sweet comfort in a time of such tenderness.
“It can feel so small, but I tell her there is nothing insignificant about being a light bringer, a hope giver.”
I love you, dear person.
I love you, Julia. Thank you for being you and for being brave as you shine your light.