An Act of Faith
I cried with Josh in the mall parking lot like an animal, a guttural cry from the back of the throat, turning my insides out until I could feel myself gagging. It was our first time alone since we heard the news about Sandy Hook.
I woke up in the middle of the night between Friday and Saturday and had to untangle my brain at 2 am. Had the shooting really happened? Had it been a bad dream? I truly didn’t know for a few minutes, couldn’t wake up enough to coherently know, and therefore just sat in the dark in a state of disbelief until my rational brain confirmed it. I wasn’t wearing my wedding ring. I had dropped it off in the afternoon to get it fixed. The television had been on in the jewelry store. They owner had turned off the news for us so the twins wouldn’t see. It couldn’t be a dream because the ring was gone.
On Saturday morning, we opted to tell the twins what happened, a sanitized, lie-filled version. We were worried that the rabbi at shul would say something during the service and we wanted to control the news. “This could never ever happen at your school, but we wanted you to understand why adults may be sad today.”
I told them each separately while I helped them get dressed after their shower. “Did children die?” each child asked in disbelief. Do you remember how innocent they were a few years ago when we first broached the topic of death, and you guys helped me through that conversation? Back when you had to be over 100 to die or stop eating or get hit by a car. And then we added cancer. And finally they learned this weekend that there are people who use guns to kill other people. Not in a war zone. But here. In a school. And yes, children died.
In 2009, I said, “And I had to answer yes because I don’t make promises that I can’t keep.”
And then yesterday, I lied. I lied while looking them right in the eye and told them they were safe. And I held that lie in my heart all day, letting it wobble inside the ventricles and atria, flowing out through my body in the blood until the lie was even in the fingertips I was using to push their hair from the twins’ foreheads.
That night, we went out, leaving the twins behind with their grandparents so we could run errands. We were talking about vegetarianism, and while it’s something I rarely talk about — and to be frank, rarely think about — I found myself passionately explaining to Josh why I don’t eat meat. I don’t eat meat because I don’t just believe that you shouldn’t seethe a kid in his mother’s milk; I personally cannot partake in consuming another being’s child, even if that being is technically part of the food chain. Even if it’s found to be true that the mother animal has no ability to comprehend that her child has been taken away. I know, I understand, even if that cow doesn’t. And I won’t take part in that.
As we pulled into the parking lot, I felt everything come out; the guilt from the lie and moreover the grief from the lie, the truth that replaces that lie. There is no place on earth, including a home, that is completely safe. I can do everything in my power to cradle their life, and still, our best efforts will never be perfect, will never be able to keep everything at bay. I cried because there were mothers separated from their children, and they know, they understand.
There were parents who had sent their children to school and their children hadn’t come home; would never come home. I couldn’t believe there was no rewind, no re-do, no chance to repair the damage and bring those people back. There was nothing we could do to fix this; only things we could do for other children moving forward. And that grief, that we couldn’t undo, that this was broken for some families beyond repair was too much to consider while we sat in the parking lot finally alone.
I asked Josh how I send them to school on Monday, and he replied that sending our children to school has always been an act of faith. That the act of faith was the same on Friday as it will be on Monday, that our children are no more in danger tomorrow than they were last week. We are just more aware of that act of faith, the fact that we make it. I haven’t decided if I’m sending them Monday. I’ll do what I need to do in the moment (which has been the philosophy that always gets me through things). Monday is not what I’m worried about. It’s Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, it’s making that act of faith again and again for eternity.
We all need to take that leap daily; to leave the house (or frankly, even to stay in the house). To trust that we’ll return.
There is no point to this post. But I had to write it anyway. I have to keep giving myself an outlet to cry again and again. This isn’t something that can be released in a single moment; walked away from unchanged. I don’t want to read about it, don’t want to think about it, and yet there is nothing else happening inside my brain.