Some days it’s the little things that set you off. Last night is was Glee of all things. When Kurt’s dad came to see him and told him he had prostate cancer, the tears began. It has been twenty years since my daddy died but all it takes is someone mentioning prostate cancer to start the tears. I know treatments have improved since he died, but even back then, he caught it early. It didn’t matter. All it took was one sticking cell to send it to his bones. When people say it is the easiest cancer to cure, my outlook is totally negative. I keep thinking that it will change but it hasn’t. The next thing that started the tears rolling was a delightful note from a sweet friend who has just finished her first novel. (third book, first novel) There is a character in it named for my sister. What a bitter-sweet tribute to her. Again, tears. So, as we are in this season of joy I am joyful, but I am also a bit sad. It’s just those little things that get to me sometimes.
When writing last night, I had not seen or heard anything about the tragic events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Today as I read what I wrote yesterday, it seems selfish. I have experienced the death of many loved ones: all my grandparents, my father, my sister, the maid of honor in our wedding, a former boyfriend, an aunt, and many other older friends however, I have never experienced the death of one of my own children. I have been told it is the worst death to deal with because it is not natural for a parent to outlive a child. I won’t even pretend to understand the pain or agony one must feel. I can only speak to what I know.
My husband does genealogy research. Stay with me, I’m going around the block to get to my point. In the quest for information and verification he often needs pictures of tombstones. Throughout our marriage we have visited many cemeteries while on vacation to take pictures of tombstones and I’ve even eaten picnic lunches under trees in some of those cemeteries. Recently, after a move across the country, we have been on several quests for pictures. Somehow in this process he ended up taking pictures of tombstones for others. This has turned into quite a hobby for my husband. I have been, as my daughter put it so eloquently, “sucked into his cemetery vortex.”
Through this I have discovered several things about cemeteries which I find to be interesting. They are typically very quiet and serene which causes one to contemplate life and death. There are often interesting tombstones, especially the very old ones and by old, I mean the ones from the early 1800’s or before. These are the ones that have interesting quotes on them or very ornate carvings. In fact, some of them are quite beautiful. It seems obvious at least to me, we, as a human race need to memorialize the lives of our loved ones in some way.
Where we live now, the cemeteries are out in the country, up in the mountains and often very secluded or as they say in Oklahoma, “out in the boonies.” I enjoy being in those cemeteries until the sun begins to go down, but then they start to feel a bit creepy. I’m not sure I’d ever want to live next to one. I don’t believe in ghosts however, sometimes, depending on the weather and where it is located, I feel like I’m being watched not necessarily by people, but by something or someone else.
Typically, I don’t feel much emotion as we are looking for names of people from days gone by however, there is one thing which gets to me every single time and that is the tombstone of a child. It always tugs at my heart. We have learned throughout our treks to cemeteries there are certain era’s to expect a higher instance of childhood deaths. Even knowing this, I still get emotional. I always wonder what happened to the child. If the death happened in the past 10 to 20 years I always wonder about the parents and say a little prayer for them hoping it might ease their pain.
All of this to say, if you are like me and have never experienced the death of your own child, don’t even pretend to understand what the families of the children who were murdered yesterday are feeling. Unless you are made of stone, you will feel something, but do not think you can understand what they are experiencing. As for me, I am terribly sad and upset over this tragedy. I am only a person who lives hundreds of miles away from where this travesty occurred who happens to be a mother, an aunt, and a teacher who loves children. My heart aches for the children that had to see and hear what they heard. My heart is broken for the parents and families of the children that are no longer with them. It makes me sick to my stomach.
My heart swells with pride when I think about the teachers and other personnel that risked their own lives for the lives of the children. They are truly heroes. Hug them. Appreciate them. Thank them.
If you are a parent, tonight before you put your own children to bed, hug them a little tighter and for a little bit longer as you tell them good night and that you love them. Be thankful you have a child to put to bed. Savor the moments you have with them because you never know when those moments might end. Then, after you tuck those little ones safely into bed, take a few moments to send good thoughts and prayers to those families who lost their little ones and know it is okay to cry. Sometimes our emotions leak from our eyes because there are no words that can be said.
May the peace and joy of this Christmas season somehow ease the pain for all parents today, especially for those parents dealing with grief and heartache.