Last night I heard on the news that a post office box has been set up to receive condolence letters for the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.
I felt like I should send notes to the grieving parents. But, what could I possibly write?
What words of condolence could I share that could uplift these heartbroken, bereaved families?
On September 11, when I heard that terrorists had attacked our nation, I immediately drove to the elementary school to pick up my children.
The principal met me at the door and asked me to let them stay in school because it was the safest place for them. The school was in “lock down” mode and the principal wanted the children to stay in classes and return home on the bus as usual. Then, parents could explain the events of the day to them after they’d had time to process it themselves.
I saw the wisdom in the principal’s words and went home without my two daughters. They were in the safest place for them at that time, I kept telling myself.
Those words have haunted me for the past week because the children in Sandy Hook Elementary were thought to be in one of the safest places for them. Most children spend the bulk of their time at home or in school, and both places are supposed to be safe havens for them.
Parents worry about their children every time they walk out the door — even when they leave for school. But, for most of us, school shootings of the magnitude experienced in Newtown, Connecticut are beyond our fears because they are so utterly evil that we can’t let our worries even go to that extreme.
So when I think of those bewildered parents in Connecticut, and see them on television or read their words in the newspaper, my heart literally hurts. I know what it’s like to have your normal breathing pattern halted, and I wonder when they will breathe normally again, and when will their goals of survival stretch beyond a mere second at a time?
I want to console them but I am lost for words.
We went to the Kennedy Center Monday night to see “An Enchanted Christmas” performance by The Choral Arts Society of Washington.
As we sat in the Concert Hall listening to and singing Christmas carols, I thought of the peaceful feelings and the spirit of warmth that enveloped that beautiful roomful of strangers.
Then I thought of the people in Connecticut and wished I could transport the sweet serenity that fell upon us in that Hall to Newtown, and just wrap the entire town up in a cocoon of safety and love.
Yesterday, we went to the White House and marveled over the gorgeous holiday decorations and listened to a children’s choir sing “Still, Still, Still,” one of my favorite Christmas songs – “Still, still, still, one can hear the falling snow…”
As we left the White House, we noticed all the flags at half-staff, and again I wished so deeply that just one of the peaceful still moments I’ve experienced this week could float in a cloud to Connecticut and hover there for months to come dropping heavenly dews of tender mercies on the heartbroken, devastated people there who are just trying to get their bearings.
“…The tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance…”
Deliverance is what I want for them.
I guess if I were to send a letter to the new post office box, I’d say something like this:
“To all the families, friends and loved ones affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy:
I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. I won’t pretend to understand what you are going through, but I want you to know, I love you. I pray for you. My heart breaks just knowing of your unfathomable loss and acute sorrow.
I know the deep, unparalleled love that parents have for their children, and that just the fear of losing them is unbearable.
So, my urgent and heartfelt prayers on your behalf are that during this time of sadness and bewilderment that God will swoop you up and cradle you like a child in his arms, just like he is cradling your little ones. And, that you will feel his love, warmth, understanding, and compassion and know that his heart beats in sympathy with yours.
I know your lives have been permanently altered, but I also know there is a God who lives and loves you, a God who can and will carry you through this, a God who welcomed your babies home and healed their wounds instantly, and one who will heal yours too.
While I’m sure you feel utterly alone, there are good-hearted people all around the world kneeling in prayer and pleading with the heavens on your behalf.
I wish my words had the power to elevate your grieving souls and to assure you that while your heads hang down in sorrow now, they will rise up in joy again. You will be reunited with your children one day and your joy will be exquisite. I hope you will all faithfully live for that day.”
Sometimes our words are all we have, and yet, they are so inadequate and can seem so empty at times like this. I can only hope that when I send my words skyward that God will hear them and send these dear families the healing balm that they so desperately need.
Check out this beautiful piece by Jeff Benedict http://www.ldsliving.com/story/71249-jeff-benedict-witnessing-grief-and-compassion-in-newtown