As a mom, this tragedy has left a deep wound on my soul. I see my own baby in the faces of all of the victims. Not an hour has gone by in the past few days that I haven’t had those lost lives on my mind.
Playing blocks with my daughter brought me to tears at how lucky I was to get to share such a tiny moment, when so many moms weren’t able to do that. My two year old asking for a kiss, playing in the sand with her dad, asking about the Christmas presents wrapped up for her under the tree, all made me feel like the luckiest mom in the world: my baby is safe, healthy, happy, alive!
In the midst of such horror, I have learned so much from those amazing souls, I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned over the past few days:
- Wear your fancy dress on an ordinary day. Six-year-oldCharlotte Bacon was very excited about her new Christmas dress and boots, and kept asking to wear them. On Friday, the day she died, her mother gave in, letting her wear her special dress and boots to school. In honor of Charlotte, use your fancy plates, and those expensive candles you don’t want to burn, put on your shoes that you think are too pretty to wear, because everyday that you are alive and with the ones you love is a special occasion.
- Carry your crayons with you. That’s what Emilie, age 6, always did, says her father, Robbie Parker. She drew the world as she saw it: beautiful. In the midst of such a horrific tragedy we need to remember the good in the world, take out our crayons and draw the world as a child sees it. Take time to appreciate the beauty around us, take photos with your phone, stop to enjoy the little things, see beauty in small things, let yourself be wowed by it.
- Loving people means putting them first in every way. No one will ever embody this more than Victoria Soto. She is the teacher who hid her students in closets, staying in the open to make sure, beyond all doubt, that the shooter wouldn’t hurt her kids. She gave her life in exchange for the safety of her students, and my guess is that she would do it again without hesitation. I hope and pray that any of the teachers whom my daughter will have in her life are like Victoria, and someday may I be half as selfless as she was.
- Say I love you, a lot. In words, in actions, in notes, in everyway you can. After the tragic loss of Jessica, her parents came home to find a note she had left in a journal they hadn’t seen before, it just said, “I love you so much, mama.” I grew up hearing the story of the day my Dad died, and the fact that it was one of the few mornings my moms forgot to say “I love you,” before they headed their spate ways. I heard versions of this same story so many more times from the families of 9-11 victims, and the morning Jaycee Dugard was kidnaped, was a morning her mom was running late and forgot tell her daughter she loved her. We all have those crazy mornings, when we know there is a traffic jam in our future, when our kids flush our make-up down the toilet or spill juice on the couch, those mornings when we say thoughtless things like, “you are driving me crazy!” What happened in Sandy Hook reminds me to hold tight to patience, always say, “I love you,” before leaving my family. I can control so little in this world but I can have control over this tiny thing: I can always tell my daughter, “I love you,” before we part ways. I hope that even when I am 80-years-old, on my way home from dinner at my daughter house, I will think of little Jessica and never forget to say, “I love you.”
- Slow Down, Add Memories. Take a day off work, blow off an appointment, just slow down. Even if it would be a financial strain for you to take a half-day off work twice a month, or even just a long lunch, to have a one-on-one date with one of your kids, you will not regret it. No one gets to the end of their life and thinks, “I should have spent less time with my kids.” Think of it as life insurance, giving your kids a few more memories that they wouldn’t otherwise have once one of you is no longer here.
Because of what happened Friday, I needed to take a long day, stay at home and cook Sunday Supper that took hours. For me, this is healing. The active time on this dish is small, but the long cooking time ensures that you will need to be home, hanging out with your family. And there is something about putting slow food on the table to makes me feel like I am loving my family in a special way.