Today, it will come.
The pictures. The stories. The sweet faces, the missing tooth grins, the tousled hair and the school-photo-blue backgrounds. There will be names to go with them and sentences like “Loved Superman and Lego,” or “Her favorite tv show was Phineas and Ferb.” Each word, each picture, each little antidote will break your heart. You will read the synopsis of the brief life of a five year old and your soul will shatter into a million pieces because no one should ever have to read the obituary of a murdered kindergartner, let alone twenty of them.
I will try to not read those stories. I will compartmentalize this until the names and faces of those children are folded up into tiny shapes, sorrow origami stored somewhere in the dark recess of my mind where I store all the other names and images from stories I can’t fully fathom.
I will fixate instead on the murderer.
I will fixate on the fact that this young man was once a five year old boy sitting in a kindergarten class.
I will fixate on what his mother was thinking as her child gunned her down. On what his father thought when he heard the news.
You bring a child into this world and you imagine what this world has in store for him. In your mind, his life fast forwards and you see your child reaping all kinds of rewards; the honor student bumper sticker, the baseball MVP, valedictorian, employee of the month. Your mind only lets you see great things ahead for your child. You don’t look into your baby’s eyes and envision him growing up to be a mass murderer, let alone your own murderer.
I fixate on this as I watch the news and they talk about the dead gunman and who he was. I imagine him as a baby, his mother cradling him in her arms, brushing his cheek with her finger and silently hoping that her son will have all the good things life has to offer.
He was a child once. Someone had hope for him. Someone held him and sang to him. He was a toddler, unsteady on his feet. He was a young boy, watching cartoons and playing ball. What happened to turn that kid in the grade school photo into a killing machine?
A childhood friend described Adam Lanza as “developmentally disabled.”
I fixate on that.
Was he getting help? Was anyone helping him take care of his emotional needs? Was anyone making sure his mental health was being taken care of?
Something snapped. Something went wrong.
As a parent, all you want is to be proud of your child, from birth to adulthood. You want to look at them one day and say “what a fine young man you turned out to be.”
All the things that happen between infancy and young adulthood, all the things that create your path and direction and lead to your future, they are not at all controllable. You can only do you part to give your children the values and morals they need to become decent adults. But you have no control over the outside world. You have no control over the influences of people they meet outside your home or the effect the events of the chaotic world around them have on their psyche.
What happens when that psyche is broken? Where do you turn? Who is there to help you help your child? What happens when you live in a society that shuns the mentally ill, that turns away people with mental health issues and tells them “it’s all in your head” or “get over it”?
You sometimes end up with this. A mother recognizing that the person she held as a baby, the person she fed and clothed and taught to ride a bike and write the alphabet is going to kill her. You end up with a classroom of dead kids.
I tend to make other people’s grief my own. The grief of twenty mothers, twenty fathers, twenty families is too much to bear. It becomes overwhelming to the point where I need to fold it up and put it away. It will come out. The empathy tears will come. The sudden stops in my day when I look at my six year old nephew and try not to frighten him with a spontaneous hug because life is fleeting and random and you never know when the people you love will be taken away from you. But for now I have to put this away.
I will fixate instead on Adam Lanza and wonder what happened to make things go so terribly wrong for him that he ended up a cold blooded, evil murderer of children. What in the world leads a person to pointing a gun at five year olds? There’s a story there as well, a story about a kid who once posed for a school photo, who once possibly loved Superman and Legos. It’s no longer a sympathetic story because no one sympathizes with a killer, but it’s still a story that will need to be told. Did the world fail him before he failed the world?
I can’t watch the news today. I can’t see those twenty faces with names and lives attached to them. I can’t spend the day thinking of what they had ahead of them, what was taken from them. What was taken from their families. It’s too heart wrenching. It’s too much. My mind will not allow it, not just yet.
I can only fixate on why. And how. How we never let this happen again.
It’s a discussion about guns. It’s a discussion about mental health. Neither of them are pretty discussion, but they both need to happen to make this never happen again.