In my old green kitchen one night, peeling and chopping sweet potatoes. In my bathroom on a sunny fall morning, brushing my teeth and getting ready to take my son to daycare. This is where I was when I got the call about my cousin’s murder. About my sister’s fiance.
I have these moments stored in my mind in a place to which I don’t often return, but I know they are always there, waiting, crystal clear. They will never go away. Since last Friday, I’ve found myself going to these two moments often as I read about Sandy Hook. In fact, I’ve cut myself off from reading any more about it. The details that keep coming out are more and more tragic, if such a thing is even possible. And my mind just travels in circles when I read the articles, trying to work it out into something that makes some sort of sense. Trying to shape the incomprehensible into something that can be grasped. I do this because it is too hard to admit that it is beyond any kind of understanding.
I’ve written before about how I used to compulsively watch a show called “I Survived…” I don’t watch it anymore because l no longer get the channel that shows it, and I don’t like watching TV on my little old laptop. Besides, it wasn’t doing anything good for me in terms of my suspicion of the intentions of the human race. But I’ve thought about it a lot since, and all I really needed of that show was the last fifteen minutes. Although of course the stories were compelling and sometimes even inspiring, what I really wanted to know came at the end of each episode, when the people profiled were asked to answer the question of why they survived. This was especially poignant in cases where two people had been attacked and one survived while the other didn’t. Of course, people answered in all kinds of different ways – God was given as a reason frequently, or someone’s kids, or sometimes people literally explained the physical steps they were able to take that led them through their trauma. But only one person ever said, “I don’t know.” She just flat out said she couldn’t figure it out. She cried as she said it, and it seemed to me that there was The Truth. At least, this is my truth so far. I have been digging and searching in my own mind for why and how these things happen, and I can’t come up with anything at all. There are no answers; it’s just feeling around in the dark. I was watching and watching that show hoping that someone could give me the answer when there is no answer to give. But still I search.
This is how I feel every time I read about those murdered children, those murdered teachers and staff members. There is no answer. There are no words wide enough to encompass what was lost. This is how it is with every murder; to the family of the victim, the world ends. My cousin may not have been 6, but don’t you think my family knows and remembers his 6-year-old self? And his 12-year-old self, and every other self there was before he died at 22? Didn’t we see the man my sister’s fiance might have become if he had made it to 24, to 34, and beyond? There may be differing levels of tragedy, but grief is grief. Sometimes the world can be rebuilt, sometimes it cannot. Sometimes the ripple effects cause you to lose other people, other parts of lives. And you have to find a way to go on.
I don’t want to talk about gun control, or mental illness, or anything else right now, at this particular moment. I’m too exhausted to do it. All of those things are important, but they aren’t the heart of the matter. They don’t have anything to do with how this is NOT OKAY. I just want to know how we are supposed to come to terms with losing someone to murder. Because murder is insidious, it slinks into all corners of your life even if the person who died isn’t yours as intimately as your own child is. I want an answer that is more than “I don’t know.” I can’t accept that there may not be one.
(This title is a line from “Two-Headed Boy, Part 2” by Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s a beautiful song. You can listen to it here.)