Now that we have the faces and the names of those killed in Newtown, I am stilled, stirred to the memory of my experience at the Holocaust Museum in Israel. There also, my heart and my mind could not contain it’s entirety. I couldn’t take on the depth and magnitude of the travesty. My mind could not bear the burden or absorb the whole of what I was exposed to there.
Time has eroded clarity of all that my senses took in, but what does remain too close to the surface is the gripping anguish that engulfed me as I moved through the children’s memorial; a narrow corridor of darkness.
The only light; the images of their faces.
The only sound; the recitation of their names and age of death and where they were from.
I thought that maybe the reason that memory is strongest is because I was thousands of miles away from my own children and the thought of outliving them unconscionable. But Friday morning I realized why.
Life was stilled. Lives were eradicated from existence and generations lost.
Now from so close to home, Newtown, we have their names and their faces and the bits and pieces of their lives.
The teachers and other administrators. The nurturers who led by example. They were protectors of their children. I have an adult daughter. She is a music teacher. Her students are also her children. She is equally devoted and protective of them as she is her own son. I think many of us can attest to a great teacher who has impacted our life or that of our children.
The adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, their valient sacrifice and dedication to their students also reminds me of another exhibit at the Holocaust Museum. The statue of Janus Korczak. The statue sits surrounded by pebbles. Visitors can place pebbles on the statue in memory of the children.
“The Korczak Square recalls the bravery of Jewish/Polish educator Janusz Korczak. During the Holocaust, Korczak refused to abandon the children of his Warsaw orphanage, perishing alongside them in the Treblinka death camp. Located in the square is the statue “Janusz Korczak and the Children” by sculptor Boris Saktsier.”
In Sandy Hook, visitors are leaving flowers, candles, balloons, teddy bears, Christmas trees and toys these children should be receiving in life, not death.
I have not lost anyone to homicide. I do not understand the pain of the survivors of these 27 souls. But I do know the grief of suicide.
When researching the difference between suicide bereavement and other forms, suicide was often lumped into a category of traumatic death which included homicide and that of parents who have lost children via trauma. This is when I learned that our language doesn’t have a word for such a tragedy. I resisted the label of widow and technically don’t qualify by the letter of the law. Yet in my heart I do. I needed a word to cling to. I suspect these parents who have lost their children unnaturally do as well. Friday, I researched again and found a mom who lost her son, who found the word ~vilomah~ which means an unnatural order of loss. I sat with that word for a while. It may suffice for those searching for a label. The more I thought about it, I came to think that maybe the reason we don’t have a distinct word for such, is because there shouldn’t be one, because as parents we can’t even compose a word to give death to the life we create.
I have learned that sometimes grief is like water. Constant, capable of changing shape and taking on many forms. In my experience grief doesn’t leave. It is like an ocean. Sometimes, I can stand at the edge on the shore and while I appear to be rooted firmly in place, the pull of the tide is taking grains of sand underfoot from my stance. I’m forced to move. Sometimes depending where I am on shore, the water barely reaches me, making its subtle presence known only as the salt water foams around my feet. Other times, the waves knock me down like a relentless tidal wave, pulling me under, disorienting me. I resurface and want no more of it. But traumatic grief becomes engrafted into your DNA. One is forever changed and you learn to live together coinciding with grief and the love we have for those we lost to horrific death.
Tomorrow, we won’t have the luxury of a weekend to grieve with the media and all the other trappings of tragedy. In time, the candles will be extinguished, the teddy bears gathered up and people will have to go back to their lives.
The families, parents and siblings have to buy coffins and cemetery plots. They will have empty beds in their homes and unfillable holes in their hearts and lives. They will gradually learn to live without their loved ones. Their need to grieve will live on as will the spirits of those who died this Friday. Remember their need to grieve.
I pray that Newtown will find a way to memorialize their love of these precious souls taken before their time.
Please also find room in your heart to remember The Lanza family who lost their mother and son. Adam was also a brother and a son. I believe his father and Ryan have lost their son/brother twice, first to mental illness and then to a senseless death.