my two precious boys. photo taken by leslie norgren, november 2012.
"The flags are at half mast today," Harrison noticed as we were driving to school this morning. On Mondays he attends the Homeschool Connection, a one day program for home schooled kids offered through our county's public school system.
Jeremy and I purposefully had not mentioned anything to the boys about Sandy Hook. The timing of this tragedy is ironic for our family as it was just Thursday night, before we turned out the light and rested our heads, that we finalized the decision to send Harrison to public kindergarten starting in January. This is a decision that has weighed heavy on my heart for quite some time as we've been navigating the best options for Harrison. I am a worrier by nature and I don't ever lack for reasons to worry. But Friday morning I was confronted with a brand new reason to worry and my mantra quickly became "home school forever!"
As we went about our weekend I became sure of a couple things - it would not benefit my children, especially my very-smart, feels-everything-deeply, internalizing-everything, anxious-about-what-might-happen Harrison, to know that it was mostly children who were killed. And it absolutely would not benefit him to know it happened in a school! I was also certain Harrison would notice the flags at half mast come Monday morning. (It was just my mommy instinct. Why does he have to be so dang observant?)
As the weekend progressed I became increasingly aware that I wouldn't be able to shelter my children forever. And, now, here we were. The Monday morning drive to school. The moment when a little piece of my children's innocence will be taken away.
"Yes they are, son," I replied, bracing myself for the question that would come next. And then, before I was ready, he gave life to the word... "Why?"
I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, selecting my words carefully.
"Well, last Friday there was a man who did a very bad thing. He used a gun to shoot some people and they died. It happened in Connecticut, which is a long way from here. The families of the kids and adults who were shot are very sad. And the whole country is very sad about what happened. So we fly the flags at half mast to show honor and respect to those who were killed and to show love to their families."
Keep breathing, Rachel. Try not to cry.
Graham asked, "Did the police take the bad man to jail?"
"No because after he did a terrible thing and hurt those people, he used the gun to shoot himself. So he died too. He's dead now so he can't hurt anyone else, but he's not in jail."
Both boys were very quiet. Harrison finally broke the silence, "Kids died?"
"Yes, buddy, and their families are so sad especially because it's Christmas time and they won't get to celebrate Christmas together now. But ya know what? Do you remember what Advent means?"
"To come," Harrison answered.
"That's right. And who are we waiting for? Who's coming?"
"That's right, bud. We are waiting to celebrate when Jesus was born, when he came into the world! And do you remember why we light the Advent candle each night during dinner? What does it mean?"
"I don't know."
"The candlelight brightens up the room, it helps us see! The candle reminds us that Jesus is the light! We are waiting for Him to come, to be the light, to brighten up our dark world. You see, sometimes bad, sad, dark things happen but we need to remember that Jesus was born to rescue us from all of that."
"Okay," was the boys' response. It was the only thing left to say, I suppose.
At this point we needed to unload from the car and run inside. I needed to leave Harrison inside that building with his classmates and teacher. And would you believe I did it? I did it without thinking about it! I did it without thinking about it after we had just talked about it! I did it because that's all we can do.
We act on our instincts of faith, hope and love. We act on our ability to trust, to find the good in others. We continue on with the knowledge that we cannot give in to the fear, we cannot let evil win. We move forward, even when it's scary, believing that God is in our midst.
As I walk into Harrison's new public elementary school this afternoon to deliver his enrollment form it will be one step in the right direction. One step that shows I will not lie down in worry and fear. One step that proves I am choosing to trust. I am choosing hope. I am choosing faith. I am choosing to believe that God is good and that He loves my two precious boys more than I do!
I am choosing to be a warrior instead of a worrier.
I am choosing to see the light.