Until you experience death up close, you have no idea what it feels like. I watched my mom take her last breath as she lay in a hospital bed fighting for her life. And as horrible as that was, I will forever be grateful I whispered ‘I love you’ a million times and held her hand as she slipped away.
The loved ones of school shooting victims never get that chance.
Every morning, we kiss our loved ones good-bye, perhaps hastily or in a rush, assuming we will see them in the afternoon or evening. Morning after morning, we scurry around, conducting the same routine so everyone can get to school and work on time. We nonchalantly pull clothes out of the dryer, shove breakfast down our throats, yell directives and questions throughout the house, look for a textbook here or a lunch box bag there. Never do we think it will be the last encounter with one another.
I keep thinking of this as I read social media feeds and watch the news coverage of the Florida school shooting. We never think it will be the “last time.”
They keep showing the face of Nicholas Dworet, the star high school swimmer who was set to attend the University of Indianapolis. A short 21 days ago, he announced the exciting news on his Instagram page. His parents were probably putting UIndy stickers on their cars, and I’m sure Nicholas bought a UIndy hoodie when they visited the university bookstore. My little boy is on a swim team, and every time I pick him up, I watch the high school swimmers with their skills and finesse in the water. All that hard work, talent, dedication and drive. Never when Nicholas shook the hand of the UIndy coach did anyone think his life would end like this.
Something very twisted and awful must be going on inside the minds of individuals who feel the need to walk into a school and mow down children and teenagers with bullets. I can’t begin to imagine where these deranged thoughts or intentions originated or were encouraged.
I have a lot of opinions about guns in general and especially guns in America, but this post isn’t about that.
This post is about my heart feeling horribly heavy this evening as I think of parents walking into an eerily quiet house or a house with one child instead of two. As hard as it was to lose a parent, I cannot fathom the pain and agony of losing a child. When you lose someone close to you, the finality of it is so overwhelming, it’s suffocating.
When Columbine happened, I was a freshman in college. I thought it was shocking and insane, but it didn’t affect me like future shootings have. And the reason it didn’t was because I was too young. And ironically, most of these school shooters are too young to realize the suffering they inflict on the loved ones of the victims.
The minute I had my own children, I learned of a love that is so vast, so raw, so deep, it leaves a lump in my throat just thinking about it. When the Sandy Hook shooting happened, I fell into a depression. I thought of the children’s fear as they hid in cabinets and under desks. I thought of the parents and their utter turmoil. I thought of the community having to drive by that school and think of the bloodshed and wonder if they could’ve done something to help. I thought about the parents’ nightmares and the waking up in the night thinking all their children were safely in their beds until reality set in. I could not stop thinking about it. And then I felt guilty. If I was that sad about the shooting, how were they even putting one foot in front of the other?
As I sit here, my heart aches for those who lost someone yesterday during a senseless act of violence. I can’t begin to think how they are coping.
The night my mom died, we saw one twinkling star in the night sky as if she had already become our guardian angel. There is no way to get through grief unless you fully believe the person is looking down upon you and will live on, not only in your heart but somewhere else in the heavens. You must always have your ears, eyes and heart open to feel them.
It is the only way to survive such a darkness.