I would never be so insolent as to even suggest that I have any notion how the parents of the Newtown children left dead by an assassin are feeling. It is unfathomable to me to even consider the depths of sadness, anger and disbelief which are inherent when a parent is forced to do the unthinkable and bury a child. The emptiness which can never be sated is truly unimaginable. It is unnatural and horrifying.
I have not had to purchase a child-sized casket. Nor have I had to sit with clergy to discuss plans surrounding a funeral service for a person I have been attached to from the second they arrived in the world and have come to know better than the back of my own hand. I have, however, lost a child in a different way.
I lost a son and, if we are being honest, the pain associated with that loss is greater than I have probably let on. He was a delicious, gorgeous baby with bright blue eyes and an impish quality which, while frenetic and tiresome, was also rapturous. People would stop me on the street to comment on his bright blue eyes, his crazy blond curls or his high-pitched squeals. Wherever we went, upon leaving everyone would call out a “goodbye, Georgie” due partly to the joy of his leaving (he was loud!) and partly out of adoration for his huge personality. He was known the world over (okay, just the town) for his unique, hysterically funny and captivating personality. A legend is his own time. And then, with only slightly more warning than the horrors of Newtown, he was gone.
In the days since the attack on the Sandy Hook community I have been obsessively thinking about loss. About how quickly the world can (and will) change. About how lucky I am to still have my child, albeit in a different package. I’ve been acutely aware of the increased, unexplained slip-ups in my choice of pronouns and my calling her “dude” and not “doll”. I want to reach out and hold onto the child that I loved and lost last year. I wonder, given the pain I (along with the rest of the world) am struggling with these past few days, how the parents of the babies (and they were just babies) that they dropped at school on Friday morning then headed off to the gym, or work or home to do laundry or clean up the mess those same babies had left behind are ever going to be able to face another day. The void is incomprehensible.
I still have my baby. No, she doesn’t have the name that I gave her. No, she doesn’t wear the clothes that I lovingly packed away when her older brother outgrew them, knowing that because their birthdays are so close together, they could potentially be the same approximate size during the same approximate season. The curls are long gone and her bright blues have faded to a green like my father’s. Her presentation is different, but I still have my baby. When I am at a low, and mourning George’s having faded away, I remind myself of how fortunate I am to have her under my roof, eating my food, trashing my family room and continually expecting me to get up and make her breakfast before she heads off to school.
Unnervingly, the horrors of the Newtown massacre have forced me (and maybe you, too) to work a little bit harder to treasure every moment and to reassess that which pushes us to the edge. During those times when I feel that I am at my limit, can no longer take another moment of the ambiguity and struggle, I try to remind myself how lucky I actually am.
Being a parent is hard. Losing a child is harder. My heart is broken for these families. I have not buried a child, but I know the pain of losing one in a different way. The pain they are facing cannot be compared to my own. Knowing that, my heart is broken further.