thoughts on Newtown


Why are we here? What gives our life meaning? What gives our acts purpose?

We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.

There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have for our children, for our families, for each other. The warmth of a small child’s embrace, that is true.

The memories we have of them, the joy that they bring, the wonder we see through their eyes, that fierce and boundless love we feel for them, a love that takes us out of ourselves and binds us to something larger, we know that’s what matters.

We know we’re always doing right when we’re taking care of them, when we’re teaching them well, when we’re showing acts of kindness. We don’t go wrong when we do that. 

President Barack Obama
December 16, 2012
Newtown prayer vigil

I have felt like throwing up since 2p on Friday when I first spotted the news of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings online. Today my eyes burn from crying so much. I'm watching the news as closely as I can, because I feel like I owe it to those children and their families. I've been sleeping with a light on at night. I'm hugging Will tighter than I ever have and vowing to make steps to live my life a little better than I have been.

Tragedy affects us all differently but the fact that it affects us all somehow is universal. No matter your location or age, political or religious beliefs, if you have children or not, the latest headlines are heart wrenching. Everyone I talk to feels the enormity of what happened, and both guilt and luck, wishing there was something, somehow that we could do to help as nightmarish images fill our minds of that scene and the heartache the families and first responders are feeling.

It's unfathomable.

And it's also the time of year when we're all supposed to be joyful, reflecting and celebrating the year's end, keeping close that which matters most: family. President Obama's remarks at the interfaith vigil last night in Newtown resonated with me on so many different levels, the portion above most deeply. I feel fortunate we have such a kind, compassionate leader during this time as it's in our leaders' hands to write what happens next following this event.

Several of the portraits of the slain children we are seeing are from family portrait sessions by photographers I know in the Connecticut area, a layer of complexity that hits particularly close to home as a professional photographer and a reminder of how important this career I have chosen truly is. Those images, taken just weeks ago to send on family holiday greeting cards and share as gifts, now hold a remarkably special place in those families' legacies.

Not necessarily wall art worthy, I felt like I should share a little glimpse of what our weekend was like following this news. Surreal, really, to trim our tree and celebrate an early Christmas with my New Hampshire family. We sang songs (hearing Will sing "Oh baby it's cold outside" would melt your heart), unwrapped a few presents (Will laid down to hug every page of a calendar he received that features pictures of animals), made gingerbread houses (a tradition with my Nana from when I was a little girl), kept the tears at bay in front of the children and counted our blessings.

I'm not sure if any of us will ever truly "feel better" but like after the other previous tragic school shootings and especially 9/11, I definitely feel like I have been taking careful inventory of my role as a mom and my responsibility to make this world a better place to raise my family.

Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around.  With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice.  And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm.  And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them.  They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments.  And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear.

Lots of love to you and yours this time of year and always. xo

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