Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why and what if?

With everyone else, I have been contemplating the events at Newtown. I have wept often in the days since the shootings; it seems so unfair that little children, with their whole lives before them should be torn from life so violently, so senselessly. I have tried to understand why people disagree with simply banning the kind of weapons Adam Lanza used that day. I have discussed the issue of mental illness with many other people. I have lingered in the why  and what if questions for many days.

Again and again I travel around the why and what if circle. Why did the shooter choose that school, that class? What if the shooter had grown up in a home without guns? What if we had spent more money researching solutions to mental health problems?

In the end I come back to the same place every death takes me to - that every person we grieve is evidence of love in the world. We do not grieve those we do not love. It gladdens my heart to know that there is love to be found in all of this. It hurts my heart to know how much these families grieve, but their grief bears witness to love.

Someone I personally knew died six days after the Newtown shootings. And I was reminded of a friend whose elderly parent died on September 12, 2001. She said she felt selfish to mourn just one who had lived a good and full life,  in the midst of the other tragedy. Not so, I said then. Honor the one you loved by grieving your loss. Only those who love someone can truly grieve them.

I cannot grieve the people who died in Newtown - I didn't know them, much less love them. Yet I feel great compassion for everyone affected by this, because I too have know the pain of losing someone I loved. And I feel compassion for the shooter's remaining family, because I too know the pain of losing someone to suicide. I know the guilt that accompanies that kind of loss. I too know the pain of losing a brother.

This is the place where we all intersect: love, and the inevitable pain that accompanies it. Almost all of us think that everything that love brings makes it worth the pain. Apparently God agrees. God loved us enough to bear the pain of coming into the world and suffering beside us. God loved enough to give up the Only Son. God loves enough to walk with us through every painful step, and every joyful one too.

We all share this - love and grief are our common experience. Love and grief transcend race, gender, geographic location, economic status, and models of governance. The great source of that love binds us together with love. Let yourself be bound to neighbor, friend, and family. Yes you will grieve, but first you will love.

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