Just a photo of my blue-eyed girl playing under our patio table last week. Those chubby little cheeks and baby teeth peeking through make me grateful for all the time I get to spend learning from, and with, her.
But today, it makes me ponder … How many other parents have taken photos of their kids as toddlers, playing outside on a Spring day, completely joyful and unaware of the tragedy that would hit them like a ton of bricks thirteen to fifteen years later? How many parents have had to stand at their kids’ funerals over the past decade, mourning the beautiful life that was taken away far too soon … by a classmate with a gun?
Today, I was happily scrolling through my social media, reading funny commentary from my friends, congratulating them on big life milestones, and enjoying all the pet pictures. Today is Friday, a day meant for relaxing and looking forward to what the weekend may hold. A day of hope and anticipation. Until I came across a news story that’s become all too familiar.
Another one. Another terrifying school shooting. Another student who felt he had no other option and had to make this statement. More lives gone in a matter of seconds. More grieving parents. More empty chairs at graduation. More hopes and dreams shot to pieces. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised. These days, if a week goes by without an incident like this, it’s shocking. My first thought was for the parents. I suppose I relate to them more directly since I am a parent now. All those moms and dads who watched their high schoolers, still babies in their eyes, get on the bus or back out the driveway in their car and head off to school. They probably weren’t thinking that this could possibly be their last moments with their child. They were probably thinking about that big presentation they were giving today at work. They were probably reminding themselves to add that upcoming appointment to their calendars as soon as they got in to the office. They were probably thinking about what they needed to pick up from the grocery store on the way home tonight. They weren’t thinking this. God, none of us ever wants to think this.
And yet, here we are. It happened. Again. It’s happening and happening and happening. It’s happening so much that no one is reacting with shock. We should be shocked. We should be speechless. But we’re not. We’re all loud, very loud. You see, because this has happened so often, we all already know where we stand on the gun control issue. We all already have a side. We don’t need to take the time to process it. We’ve processed it twenty something times already in the last five months. We all get it. A change needs to happen. We need stricter gun laws, or more mental health availability, or both. We need something. How is this still happening?
Today, I mourn with the parents. I’m sad for them. I’m angry for them. Their little babies, their beloved littles, their princesses and little buddies and munchkins and kiddos … they’re gone. Forever. They made it to high school, and that’s it. That’s all they get. And they’re left with all those memories and all those dreams about what those young adults were going to turn into. When you’re a parent, in the back of your mind, I guess you always know that someday your kids will be grown and all you’ll be left with are your memories. Memories of newborns and toddlers and kindergartners and third graders and middle schoolers and high schoolers. Of birthdays and Christmases and family vacations to the beach and camping trips and plays and ballgames. You try not to think about it in the moment, but you always know that someday, these little beings that you created and nurtured will fly out of the nest and into their own destiny. You know you’ll have to let go of them. But Jesus … Not like this. Never like this. No one should have to lose them like this.
I can’t imagine what the parents of today’s shooting, and past shootings as well, are thinking or feeling. To be frank, I don’t want to try to imagine it. I want to live in my own safe little bubble and hug my child and kiss her cheeks and run my fingers through her hair. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we’re all living in our own bubbles and pretending this kind of evil won’t come for us. But it came for these kids, these parents. And that should be enough to scare the living shit out of all of us, and make us wake the Hell up and stop talking, stop yelling, stop being loud and just TAKE ACTION.
Not for some votes, not for our political stances, but for all of the parents who ever laughed at something funny their toddler said, ever played outside in the dirt with their kindergartner, ever watched their middle schooler round the bases with a proud, wide grin on his or her face … And never ever imagined that someday, this is how it would end. Their memories end just before their teen’s graduation from high school. They don’t get anymore memories. This is insanity.