Connecting to tragedy

In a college lit course we studied a book, The Stranger, I believe.  Although I remember almost nothing about the book, one passage sticks out which we touched on in class…and that was the proposition that people will always find a way to become intertwined with a tragedy that is seemingly unrelated to them.  They swarm to interject themselves in some sad tale.  They become interlopers in the grief of strangers.

Since reading that passage I have tried not to follow the same pattern.  To have sympathy and empathy for victims but to not make it “all about me.”

Sometimes, I come up short.  For the past 24 hours, I have completely and utterly failed.

I cannot divorce myself from this tragedy.

I cannot extend detached sympathy.

I will not downplay the connections that I feel to these poor families.

I am a Connecticut native.  I am a mother.  My son is six years old.  My baby girl will be in school in a few years.  I am sick with sorrow and anguish.

I was off yesterday but rode to work at lunch time for my office Christmas party.  Just before leaving the house I skimmed a headline about a school shooting in Connecticut.  I dared not read further.

I went in to the party and let it go for a bit.  When I went to my office afterwards to shut down my computer, I checked Facebook, and came across my cousin’s post about missing kindergarteners, and scrolled down to see a headline declaring the body count.

I drove home in tears.  Not wanting to be alone in this, I call my mother, my friend, my husband, and my mother-in-law.  At home I busied myself with housework, occasionally checking only headlines, as I knew I was not prepared for the harrowing details.

I sat on the porch, waiting for my son’s bus to come.  I recalled with detail meeting his bus on his last day before Christmas last year, when he was a kindergartener.  He had stepped off the bus with a large brown paper shopping bag which had somehow been cut and fashioned into a reindeer, so large he had to carry it in both arms.  The bag was stuffed with trinkets, art projects, coloring books, and candy.  He was so satisfied with his new cache of goodies.  He’d had himself a good day.  I thought of this now with anguish for the families who would not get to experience the Christmas of their baby’s kindergarten year.

Nolan’s bus rounded the corner and I jogged to the top of the driveway to meet him.  He emerged from the bus with a red paper sack.  “Mommy, I have a present for you!”

Inside I carefully unwrapped my ceramic bowl from its newspaper cocoon, pulled Nolan into my lap, and covered him with kisses.  After a bit, he squirmed out of my lap.

My waking thoughts today were with the Connecticut families and survivors.  Fresh tears came as I wondered if or how any of them slept last night, and contemplated how the parents of those victims must feel to face their first dawn without their child.

We ache for them.  Their pain is our pain.  As a parent, a family member, and a human being, I share in that pain.  I wish for a way to relieve their devastation, these people whom I don’t know and will never meet.

This tragedy is our tragedy.  This is a great sorrow to God, and an agonizing blow to humanity.


About Joyce

40-year-old university advisor, 10-years married with two small children, trying to do it all and have it all and still manage the occasional social interaction through the wonderful world of blogging.
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8 Responses to Connecting to tragedy

  1. Joyce – We personalize tragedies and reflect on our lives when terrible events like the Connecticut shooting occur. I think we’re all going to hold our loved ones a little closer this holiday season.

    – K.

    • Joyce says:

      In my heart, I think Christmas will be a little less bright this year.

      • Valerie says:

        Yes, my Christmas happiness was strangely gone by the weekend. I am right there with you. What you wrote about the parents not sleeping made me cry. It is SOOO hard to even imagine what they are going through. 😥

      • Joyce says:

        Some tragedies stay with me for a bit, but this one, I can’t shake it. It’s impossible.

      • Valerie says:

        I know. It only takes a single thought and I am crying again (and I am not a crier!) It is perhaps the combination of the time of year and the horrific way it all happened that makes it so, so hard? 😦

      • Joyce says:

        Yes, I think the combination is hard to swallow. It’s never a good time to lose your child or loved one, but my God…

  2. That is really interesting what you wrote about from the book. I suppose it is a strange human behavior that we do that but it sure feels more instinctual to empathize. This incident hit very close to home and affected me maybe even a bit more than 9/11 because it certainly felt like I could feel all of those parent’s grief and the community’s fear.

    • Joyce says:

      I know…I have had to take the news in very small bits. Those parents and other family members have weighed so heavily on my heart. I also really hurt and worry for the sibblings…

      Yeah, I think the book got it wrong. It is in our nature to recognize the precious fragility of life in the face of a tragedy, and to respond to grief with empathy and sorrow.

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