This is what I imagine:
I drop my children off at school. They rush out of the car because their friends are playing on the playground. No kisses are exchanged, but I get an “I love you” from each and every one. Satisfied, I pull out of the school parking lot and I drive the twenty minutes to work. I think about the hustle and bustle of the season. I think about the last-minute toy I need to swing by Target and pick up during my lunch hour. I strategize the holiday parties over the next two weeks.
The children are all so happy and I love them all so much. I know they are going to love what “Santa” got them. I know this is going to be the best Christmas yet. They are growing into such beautiful little girls, I can’t help but spoil them a little. Every mother wants to dote over her babies– and aren’t they always our babies, no matter how old they are?
Soon, the children will be on vacation from school. They want to bake cookies for Santa. They want to go see the Polar Express. And then Christmas Eve, the children will struggle to sleep. They will tuck away and try to stay awake because they want this year to be the year they hear Santa’s reindeer on our roof. They will tuck away and excitedly count the long hours until morning. Oh, how I love this time of the year! The innocence and excitement of children makes everything worthwhile. The family time is priceless– watching holiday movies and playing all of the new games.
When I arrive at work, I get right to work. I have so much to accomplish before the holiday break. For the first hour, I leave my desk and go run errands through the building. I stop in the duplicating room and in the mailroom. My girlfriend and I compare notes about local sales. Just a few more days of shopping until Christmas morning.
When I get back to my desk, I see that I have three missed calls and seventeen text messages. All I see are these words: Shooting at the children’s school. Children are dead.
I do not grab my coat. I do not say I am leaving. I rush out the doors and drive the twenty minutes back toward home. Please God. Let my children be safe. Please God. Let my children be safe. I try to call my husband, but the phone lines are jammed. Who would do this? They’re just children! Please God. Let all of the children be safe.
Are my children all right? Are my children all right?
I cannot go any farther because I cannot imagine what it would be like to receive this news. I am a parent, and I cannot imagine what it would feel like to hear the news that my child is dead. I cannot imagine that drive for any mom or dad– knowing that you were thinking about shopping at Target over lunch and now you are anticipating that you could receive the worst news possible. Knowing that this morning, the children had been so excited about their art projects and the upcoming holiday parties. They walked into school this morning expecting to learn, have fun, and be safe.
I cannot imagine hearing that one of my children is among the dead. I cannot imagine the horrifying happiness of knowing my children is alive but others are dead.
All the excitement of Christmas seems murky. Children are crying. Families are mourning. A community is aching. A nation is brokenhearted. How do we celebrate Santa Claus and happiness and the birth of Christ among all of the suffering, pain, and death?
Roll up the holiday. Box up the ornaments. Cancel the Christmas goose.
Oh, you were looking forward to a holiday concert or play? Sorry, no time for that. There is only time for sorrow: Tears will be shed. Funerals will be arranged. Graves will be dug.
And for what?