It has been five years since our grandson Noah was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre. Five years. The grief and shock are not letting up. The loss is there, unyielding, massive, like a rock in the middle of a rushing river. Time has been divided ever since into a before and an after.
I miss Noah every day even though I didn’t see him every day when he was alive. We lived on opposite coasts but there were Skype conversations, trips, summer vacations, plans for the future. The simple joy of knowing that he was in the world. Like his siblings and his cousins. Grandparents may not see their grandkids every day or even every week or month but love simmers on regardless and it pours out hot and fierce.
So I had Noah on my mind, as I always do, when I spied the above stencil on a wall in Paris a few years ago. It didn’t occur to me to jot down the exact location. We had been walking out and about for a couple of hours already and I think we were in Belleville or close to it. I took the picture and stood there, staring.
That little boy was Noah. No doubt about it. But how could it be? To the best of my knowledge there existed no such photo of him. Yet he was the little boy in the stencil. Same silhouette, same head, same thick hair, same nose, same posture. Pure Noah. Absorbed in his thoughts. A dark-haired Little Prince.
I sent the picture to my daughter, Noah’s mom. We googled it. The same piece had appeared on city walls in Berlin, in Stavanger, in Istanbul. At first I couldn’t discover the name of the artist. But I wanted to secure permission to post the picture, so I tried again. I finally stumbled on a clue that led me to Icy and Sot, two brothers, stencil artists from Iran then living in Brooklyn, NY. I wrote to them and they kindly gave me leave to use the image. Thank you, Icy and Sot. (Later they also sent me two prints. What kind souls these two are.)
I asked what their inspiration for the art had been. They wrote back: “We made the Walking Alone stencil for the first time about six years ago in Iran. Since then wherever we travel we always put that up, it is our signature piece. I think the inspiration came from that sometimes we felt like a kid that is not paying attention to what’s happening around him in this crazy world or he is sad because of that and some time he is just reflective as innocent kid.”
It fit. Noah had his ebullient moods but he also had his “old soul” moments. I will never forget his pensive eyes the last time I saw him, the Tuesday before the shooting. We were on Skype, his sisters had left to go look for something in another room and, motionless for once, he stared into my eyes for a long time without saying a word.
I remember something gripping my heart but I had no premonition. None.
Noah had been three when Icy and Sot had created the Walking Alone stencil. The little boy they portrayed looks like he could be six. Noah had just turned six when he was gunned down.
I don’t understand how Icy and Sot came up with Noah’s likeness long before pictures of him started circulating widely on the Internet. But they did.
I don’t know what guided our steps to that quiet Parisian street on that particular day but something did.
I’ll leave it at that.
Nothing makes sense about the horror that enfolded at the school on this terrible day five years ago and because it is utterly senseless, I know none of us will ever come to terms with it.
We just have to live with the consequences and with the certitude that painful as it is, love is the only link we have with the ones we lost on December 14, 2012.
And that makes sense.
(This post is adapted from another post which I wrote two years ago and later removed from Farine.)