Wednesday, December 11, 2013

One Year Later

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion.   
~Dalai Lama~

This Saturday, December 14th, marks the one-year anniversary of the Newtown shootings. One year ago, twenty-six families' lives were forever changed and a shroud of sorrow settled over our country. When something as horrific as what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary occurs, you can't help but look at the world through different eyes. Certainly our eyes were opened to an evil that we never believed could happen. Innocent children and teachers gunned down in that most sacred of institutions-an elementary school. But after something like this occurs you also have the choice to see the world through softer eyes. You have the choice to focus on the good that surrounds us, not the hateful. It's what many of the parents of Newtown are asking us to do.

On Monday, the families of many of those who died gathered to encourage people to perform an act of kindness on the anniversary of the slayings. This amazing gesture of generosity on their part is moving and selfless in its simple request. Intuitively we know that kindness towards others deepens what it means to be human. We know that even the smallest gestures can cause a chain reaction with positive consequences. Imagine the ripple effect that could occur on Saturday if people really take up this challenge: A Day of Loving Kindness. What better way to honor these families and acknowledge their anguish than by focusing on compassion and kindness. One of the moms, Krista Rekos, whose 6-year-old daughter Jessica died in the shooting said the following: "In the midst of our grief, we have come to realize that we want our loved ones to be remembered for the lives they lived and how they touched our hearts."

The families also announced the launching of a new website to honor all of the victims. Its intention is to serve as "a singular place of sharing, communication, and contact with the families of those who lost their lives that day." Through the website, people are able to communicate with the families and honor their loved ones.  If you have thoughts you'd like to share with them, this is where to do it.

So on Saturday besides performing a random act of kindness, I will also light a candle for the twenty-six victims. As I light it, I will continue to hold all of the families in my heart as they cross over the threshold into the second year. I imagine they will be glad to put that year of "firsts" behind them.  But I know that their grief journey continues, and I will continue to walk alongside them. As a bereaved mom who is three years into this, I want their friends and acquaintances to know that these families will continue to need their support and their love, even if it appears that their lives have resumed to "normal." Their new normal is very different now. Their lives have been changed in ways that are only just beginning to be understood. And while they certainly don't want your pity, they do want you to remember their child. So please don't be afraid to say their names or to tell their stories. Memories are what they have now and it's important to keep them alive.

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