Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mourning

{Photo credit: AP}
My old college roommate Katie is from Newtown, CT. Through Katie I met my close friend Tom. He too was raised in Newtown. And they both went to Sandy Hook Elementary School. 
I've been to Newtown only a couple of times. I remember thinking how beautiful it was. It seemed like a nice place to live and to grow-up. Quiet. Picture-perfect Americana.  
And then, on December 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed. The loss is indescribable. 
Many articles and blog posts have been dedicated to the Newtown shooting victims. But Olga's post, and the poem she chose to share, were among the most beautiful I've read. The following passage is from Thomas Lynch's eulogy, which was written after the September 11th tragedy:

 "But the bodies of the dead are not “just” anything or “only” anything else. They are precious to the living who have lost them. They are the seeing–hard as it is–that is believing, the certainty against which our senses rail and to which our senses cling. They are the singular, particular sadness that must be subtracted from the tally of sadness. So the cruelty is real, the pain of it unspeakable. It is as if, until they are returned, their deaths belong to their murderers, the media, the demographics or the larger history of the world. But if they are victims of terrorism, casualties of a widespread war, part of a national tragedy, they are no less spouses and parents, daughters and sons, dear to friends, neighbors and fellow workers who are not only missed in the general sense, but missed as surely in the flesh–in beds, at desks and dinner tables, over drinks and talk and intimacies–the one and only face and voice and touch and being that has ceased to be. And their deaths, like their lives, belong to the precious few before they belong to the many who care.

When do the missing become the dead? When do the lost become the lost forever? When does hope give way entirely to grief? When will searching no longer serve the living or the living that have died? How will each family’s lamentation be heard above the nation’s keening? Where is God in all of this? The dead, of course, do not much care. They are predictably indifferent to such details. Perhaps it is the first gift of paradise. The dead don’t care. Only the living do. Whether faith furnishes our heavens, or doubt leaves the decor up for grabs, or wonder keeps the particulars ever changing, Whomever Is in Charge There must take care of them. God is good to them, wherever God is these days. The dead who occupy these places know our hearts, our hurts and how we have searched and watched and waited for them.

We do what we do for the living’s sake. The living must decide when the time has come to cease looking and begin to mourn, to organize the liturgies of thanks and praise and affliction, to shake a fist in God’s face and say the ancient prayers. All the dead require is witness and remembrance–to say they lived, they died, they matter to us."

* * *

To the parents who buried their children, 
our hearts are with you during this time of immense pain and suffering. 
To the people of Newtown, 
may you find healing and strength through your community.
To my own children, 
we will work to make sure nothing like this happens again.
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