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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