This is a guest post from my friend Trudy. Together we are our own writer’s group and this essay came from one of our recent meetings. The Newtown tragedy has, for the most part, left the national spotlight, but its effects linger among many of us. This essay represents the sadness that has descended in and around our little Connecticut towns. Personally, as I read Trudy’s words, I don’t think of it only as sad. To me it speaks also of strength. And love. Always love.
Without further ado, here is Trudy’s essay….
18 December 2012, 10:15 PM
I’m very tired and barely holding myself together after an unfathomable week. Last Friday, in the next town over, twenty children were mowed down by a disturbed young man, mowed down by a powerful weapon, a horrific death machine. Little children, first graders, human beings who were just coming into consciousness, just starting to think of themselves as individuals, beings with dreams and ideas and futures. My heart is broken for them. I can barely let myself consider the hell their families endure. The loss is an aching hole, a stark and violent wound in our comfortable world.
The conversation is all about guns and mental illness. This is good. People should talk about this: guns. Who would predict that, when Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were hashing out all the sniggling details, the givens colonials would agree upon as the founding documents of our nation, a prescription for a free society and culture, that their assertion for self-protection throughout the frontier land with an inaccurate, single-loading musket would spawn the monstrous NRA, an entity able to strike fear and abject submission into each and every one of our feckless, current-day politicians? Blood stains their hands this day. Twenty small coffins. Twenty lives obliterated by a weapon so vicious, so potent that any deer hunter would never use the weapon and its accompanying “stop power” bullets for fear of destroying the animal.
Mental illness is the hopeful conversation. The families I know dealing with a mental disorder are hidden, struggling for help and recognition. The system is fragmented and incredibly underfunded. Addressing disorders of the mind is often considered fluffy, too nebulous to be serious “medicine,” and there’s always the possibility of moral decay, genetic corrosion, the probable source of sickness of the mind. Affected families are besieged, desperate, and mostly mute. What account could the shooter’s mother tell us? Who listened to her? It is burningly, regrettably obvious that she made mistakes. What resources did she have? Does anyone know her story? Did anyone help her?
19 December 2012, 11:20 AM
I await my visiting son Trev’s readiness to go select our Christmas tree for the year, despite my lack of religion. Can I be moral and not religious? Look at me. Look at my children. If only I believed. If only, believing, I derived comfort, relief, answers from a so-called higher power. In our household I/we celebrate the inexorable spin of the earth and its circuit around our local star, the reliable turning of the seasons, the reclamation of light into our lives.
Am I moral? I am tired, worn from the exclamations and explanations – the holy proclamations reproaching all to prayer, and ashamed of my horrid curiosity – the way I can’t turn the radio off or change the channel on the television. I want to grant these families privacy and solace. They enjoy neither and I vicariously participate in the show. We turn slowly from the scene. The fiscal cliff creeps back into the headlines. Holiday spending and Super-storm Sandy and unemployment statistics vie for our attention. Strident voices clash over newly-found issues. “Jingle Bells” and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” rebuke me wherever I go. More children will be buried today.
27 December 2012, 5:35 PM
The rush and glut of the holiday are over. We passed it peacefully at home, keeping a roaring fire in the hearth, hiking down the old railroad bed to Volunteer Bridge, watching the Indiana Jones marathon, laughing over the candlelit dinner table. I raised my glass and toasted the people I hold dear. I examined their faces and listened to their voices, noted and appreciated beloved quirks I recognize in each of them.
30 December 2012, 10:15 PM
A new year begins. We say goodbye to the old. The radio and television are rife with retrospectives of 2012. I feel it every year: time accelerates. Wasn’t I just here, wondering what happened to 2011? Life feels tenuous. The “present” flows by as a river in high flood, segueing from future to past with head-spinning certainty. I grasp at moments, my thoughts swirl. The children; I think of them. They are also with me, the mothers and fathers with empty arms. Grief counseling – can there be such a task? Work that drains the soul and saps the spirit (in order to fill a gaping hole in another)? I wish for these parents something to hold onto: another child, a listening friend, each other – a physical anchor in this world.
I was a firm believer in evolution, each new generation improving upon the previous. And yet we cast aside so much of our society as we arm ourselves. We arm ourselves.