Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Remembering & Honoring Sandy Hook

This Saturday, December 14th marks the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. A year of pain and sorrow for the families of loved ones ripped from their arms much too soon. At this difficult time I keep them in my thoughts and prayers and grieve for their loss; for every day they don’t get to see their child’s smiling face, for every missed birthday and milestone, and for the stolen promise of tomorrow when those bright young children would’ve become amazing men and women, maybe talented doctors or lawyers and/or caring mothers and fathers of their own.

Life is so precarious and the hand of fate so fickle. I take heart in believing that though God, in all his infinite wisdom and power, might not have stopped this heinous crime from happening, whether because of his gift to us of free will or some other to us unimaginable reason (I truly don’t know, for who am I but a lowly servant to question His will), he was nonetheless present at Sandy Hook on that fateful day; he was there comforting a scared or wounded child, he was there giving strength to a frightened yet brave teacher, he was there with the EMTs and police responding to frantic calls. He was undoubtedly there with each one of them to ease their pain, fear and sorrow, as he was and continues to be with all the loved ones that lost someone on that winter day; and above all else I know that when all was said and done on that dark, dark day that left so many hearts broken, he was there in heaven to welcome 26 new angels into his arms.

After senseless tragedies like Sandy Hook or Aurora, we are reminded of our true priorities in life. The grief of each family impacted by these events should serve as a reminder to us all to hug our loved ones close, to tell them how much we love them, and to not take a single moment for granted for tomorrow is not guaranteed to any of us. During a news conference yesterday, many of the Sandy Hook parents bravely stood in front of the cameras and said that on the eve of this first anniversary they will be lighting a candle for their loved one in memory of the last night they spent with their child. One after another stepped up, saying: I will light a candle for Jack; I will light a candle for Olivia; I will light a candle for Victoria, and so on. As I listened with tears in my eyes, I thought of the countless simple tasks they might remember from that long ago night; tasks that we (and maybe they did too) sometimes take for granted or which we in our ignorance feel burdened by because of other responsibilities; whether as a parent it's helping with homework, brushing teeth, breaking up sibling fights or reading a bedtime story; or as grown adults dealing with elderly parents, answering pesky phone calls and inconvenient appointments; treasured moments shared with our loved ones, which we sometimes don’t fully value until they're gone.

It is also in these moments of darkness when the better angels of our nature come to the fore. There is a belief in the Buddhist faith that like the beautiful lotus flower grows out of the mud and blossoms above the muddy water, we (humans) too can rise above our struggles and sufferings in life. I know there is truth in those words for even in the midst of the Sandy Hook tragedy and innumerous others like it, good has blossomed. Whether it’s the countless acts of kindness shared with Sandy Hook survivors and grieving families, the worthy foundations started in memory of those lost, as families look to help others as a source of hope for the future and remembrance of the past, or laws and legislations enacted for our safety in order to save another parent, son or daughter from living the same nightmare in the future.

In that same incredibly moving news conference I mentioned above, the Sandy Hook parents asked the media to stay away from Newtown on Saturday to let them grieve in private and also asked each of us to mark the date and honor their loved one with an act of kindness or service. So this Saturday hold your loved ones just a little closer, remember that even the most thankless task and chore for a loved one means you have them with you, say a prayer for the 26 souls lost at Sandy Hook, and touch someone else’s life with kindness and love; do all of these for Charlotte, Josephine, Daniel, Arielle, Rachel, Jessica, Victoria, Benjamin, AnneMarie, Dawn, Caroline, Ana, Madeleine, Catherine, Noah, James, Mary, Emilie, Lauren, Allison, Chase, Dylan, Jesse, Olivia, Jack and Grace. May they rest in peace and be forever in God’s loving care.

Visit My Sandy Hook Family, a heartfelt online memorial created by the families, to learn a little more about each one of the names above, as well as the organizations and funds established in their honor.