“Oh, as I was young and easy, in the mercy of his means,

Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.”

–  Dylan Thomas

My plan for today was to post a quick message here and let everyone know that I would be taking a few days off from blogging.  In three years’ time, I have missed fewer days than I could count on the fingers of my own hands; but as I begin some long-awaited time off with my sweetheart and share with him the joyful preparation for the gathering of our whole brood this Christmas, it seems like a good idea to spend some time immersed in the life we share.

Then the news landed from Connecticut.  With Christmas only ten days away, a whole bunch of families — those who have lost loved ones, and those whose children have lost beloved teachers and friends, and those whose lives are impacted by the story of such random darkness existing in our world — will never be the same again.  It is doubly sad that such horror should take place at the time of year when the world is festooned with Christmas decorations, when parties are being held in schools, when most people are just a little bit kinder and more generous than they might be at other seasons of the year.  As one who has buried a child, I can tell you for certain that time heals; but I also can tell you that the amount of time such healing takes can leave us changed in ways that make it difficult to see the things that once brought us joy.  For many people who are touched by yesterday’s violence, it will be years before tinsel looks like anything more than funeral crepe, before lights trigger memories of anything but the darkness, before their broken hearts can open up to celebration rather than mourning.

It has now been almost thirty-two years since I buried my son.  At the time his accident occurred, I was folding laundry inside my house while my boys played outside with their neighborhood friends.  It was a warm February day with a bit of drizzle in the air and a sunless sky made gray by the mist that hung there.  The car came down our quiet street.  It’s driver was traveling below the speed limit.  As ten children poised to cross the road, nine saw her coming and one — my dear Brett — did not.  In an instant, my whole world changed.  In an instant, time was out of order.  In an instant, I had outlived one of my children.  Unthinkable.  Unimaginable.  Unbearable.  Life-altering.

I told myself at the time that I could never again risk loving a child, because I knew how painful losing that love could be.  I told myself many lies about who I was and what sort of mother could fail to protect her son.  It took years of forgiveness, of healing, of vowing to live the sort of life that would have made my son happy, to undo those lies.

I have loved many children since that day.  I have learned to let them venture out and grow, in spite of my desire to protect them at all cost.  I have watched them become parents themselves and bring with them an enhanced love of family that cannot exist in a world that never has experienced loss.  I have found some parts of me, on the other side of the lies I once believed, that I really like.  I have learned that the flip-side of grieving is compassion.  I have learned that the darkness only wins when we fail to shine our light.

My heart was broken thirty-two years ago.  It will always carry a scar that is just the shape and size of one beautiful child who inhabited it for almost seven years.  A thin scar has grown to cover the crack in my heart, and the most amazing thing has happened in that place with the scar.  As the years passed, I began to notice that there was a light that shined out through the scar.  I realized that it had been there all the time; but it took some breaking to set it free.  It is when our hearts are broken that we discover the light inside of them.  Broken hearts often shine the best light into our dark world.

Many people were changed yesterday, and the change is permanent.  It feels like their world has ended; but I have lived long enough with my change to know that is not the truth.  Hearts are broken when innocence dies, but hearts heal; and in that healing they begin to glow with something rich and beautiful.  The light of their healing and compassion can send the darkness running.  We who have discovered that light must tell the wounded that there still is life to be lived, there still is hope for the world, and the darkness must not be allowed to win.

On certain days, when I am folding the laundry, I think of that surreal day long ago.  On certain days, when the clouds hang low and misty rain turns the whole world gray, I think of the day when my life was forever changed.  When I look at the lights of Christmas this year, I will see the faces of the broken-hearted and say a prayer that one day they will be able to celebrate life again.  Amen.