I have always loved these pictures of our grandson Noah: he was three and modeling a scarf I had just knit for him.
Less than three years later, he died in a hail of bullets in his first-grade classroom. He had just turned six. A therapist advised me not to think of his death in terms of murder or massacre as I was traumatizing myself all over again every time I used these words. She said it made it much harder to start the mourning process.
She also said that I should try to accept the fact that six years was all he ever had, that all the hopes he may have had or we may have had for him had been just that: hopes. Not based in reality. Six years. That was the reality. Clinging to what never was could only stoke the pain.
I tried. I did learn to stop using the m words and it helped. Like a cast helps walk with a broken leg. I got unstuck. Despair slowly morphed into grieving.
But no matter how long I mulled over the idea of the six years as the only reality, I could never make it mine. Noah was robbed of his life on December 14, 2012. The hopes and dreams lived on. They still do. And that reality is just as inescapable.
Noah’s siblings have changed a lot in two years. Strangely, he has too. I no longer see him as a six-year old. In my mind’s eyes he is taller, his face has lost some of its roundness, his voice has deepened a bit, he is strong and he does look older. Deep down he is still the same though: all at once thoughtful, mischievous, provocative and tender.
Although I rarely see him in my dreams nowadays, in daily life anything can bring him back: a look, a shock of lustrous hair, the width of a little hand, lashes fanning on a cheek.
Punches to the heart.
Noah adored his brother and sisters. On December 14, 2012, evil irrupted into their world. He was taken. They now live with the knowledge that anything can happen to anyone, anytime and anywhere, and that those closest to you can be torn away in the blink of an eye.
A Noah-shaped fault line. Shaky grounds to build young souls on.
But they also live with the memory of the bond they shared.
It may take years for their world to stop shuddering but I do believe that, because they were raised to love, one day it will. That, like Albert Camus, each of them will come to realize that in the midst of winter, they carry within themselves “an invincible summer.”
Noah’s legacy. His reality. Rock-solid.
The lone light in these dark days.
The ornament below was given to me when the memorials were dismantled, a reminder that our family shares its profoundly personal loss with twenty-five others. A fellowship of grief. Joined by many more since Newtown. What a heartbreak…