A friend who lost her son to cancer once told me that there are orphans and widows, but there is no word to neatly define or identify a parent who has lost a child because there is no one word that can convey the enormity of such pain.
What of those parents in Newtown, Connecticut whose children were mindlessly massacred? How do we come to know their pain? Friday began as an ordinary day for them. The mundane repetitive morning routine of waking up, brushing teeth, eating breakfast with a rushed kiss goodbye to children who were just a few years away from having taken their first baby steps.
These children have not been lost, they have been removed. Removed before they had the chance to plan and plot the course of their lives; removed without having had the opportunity to turn accomplishment into experience; removed before they were even aware of all the possibilities that stretched before them.
Together we arrive at this dark moment of sadness, a speechless nation mourning -- a collective family -- unified in trying to make sense out of an act about which there can be no rational explanation as the din of Friday's horrifying news plays in an endless repetitive loop on television, radio, Facebook and Twitter. We gather with the palpable fear that what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, can very easily happen in our own town.
Our children rehearse their lives upon the stage of our hearts--we sit directing and guiding, never expecting them to fade to memory before their childhoods have even begun. And now so many young lives have been extinguished--a breath of sleep awaken before the sweetness of dreaming has even begun.
It has been reported that the alleged shooter in Friday's massacre struggled with mental illness, but having taken his own life, we may never know why he did what he did.
But this much we know:
He stole from mothers and fathers bedtime stories and lullabies; morning kisses and midnight comfort; new beginnings and conquered struggles; bursts of joy and growing up. And perhaps, worst of all--no more coming home.
What he has left in his wake is that silent savoring of a mother and a father trying to remember that precise place where they last left off with their child.
What he has left are parents plagued with the unsettling certainty that there was so little in-between time from their child's birth to their death.
What he has left are too many empty bedrooms, echoing with the sounds of the past -- ebbing and flowing like the tide -- begging to be heard again.