The massacre that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday morning was so unbelievably horrifying, so overwhelmingly terrible, that part of me feels I should not write about it, that it is just not my place to speak about this tragedy. A stronger part of me, though, feels that it would be wrong to write about anything else.
When I think about the women and small, so very small, children who were murdered and the families who were left behind to bear such an insurmountable loss, the same thought keeps entering my mind: the little things.
My father was killed on 9/11 and while I will not minimize the enormity of the loss of my father and the pain caused by the way he died, I also do not want to imply that I think I understand the grief of parents who are burying their babies a week before Christmas. When my father died, though, I remember how much the little things that reminded me of him hurt. I remember how the bottles of Yoo-hoo in a deli refrigerator made my heart ache. How the theme song to Jeopardy brought me to tears. How the sight of a man with salt-and-pepper hair turned my stomach to knots.
And since I heard the news on Friday, I keep thinking about the victims’ families and all the little things that must be breaking their hearts.
In a photo of Madeleine F. Hsu, 6, I noticed the sweet crookedness of her smile. I imagine her parents seeing that smile when they close their eyes, remembering the way her lip dipped down just a bit on the right.
I read about James Mattioli, 6, and how he loved to spike his hair with gel. I picture his father opening the medicine cabinet, catching a glimpse of the bottle of gel and breaking down.
Olivia Engel’s, 6, favorite stuffed animal was a lamb. I wonder if her mother is sleeping with it at night, pressing it to her cheek as her tears wet its wool.
Oh, the pain these poor people are enduring.
It is the little things that make us happy, but it can also be the little things that devastate us.
I revel in the little things each day I spend with my daughter. I look at her tiny feet crossed at the ankles while she naps; I watch her while she plays, noticing every detail of her concentrated expression: her eyebrows pressed together, the plumpness of her bottom lip. I video every favorite little thing she does, the soft “aah” sound she used to make after sneezing, the way she says “Hi” while rotating her chubby hand at the wrist, even the way she chews her food.
How do you go on when these little things are taken away?
I have no answer. I honestly cannot fathom the anguish of these families. I only know what I’ve learned so far through my experiences: no matter how much pain you feel, no matter how much you don’t want life to go on, it does just that. My heart breaks for these people who must endure as days turn to weeks, then months and years.
As a mother at a time like this, I find myself questioning the purpose of this life. How can we go on enjoying ourselves and feeling happy when at any moment a monster, flesh and blood or otherwise, can enter our lives and destroy them?
Again, I have no answer. I can only say, no matter how cliche it sounds, that life isn’t about the future. It isn’t about what lies ahead. Because we only know what we have right now, right here, in this moment. And all we can do is live for that moment and enjoy it while it’s here. All we can do is relish the little things while we have them, hug our children tight because we can and tell we love them every time we have the chance.
Details on the victims were found here.