And so this is Christmas ... and what have we done?
One of the best things about living out in the country is the enveloping darkness each night. I can go outside before bedtime, look up and actually see the stars – hundreds of them – so near you want to reach up and touch them, especially on cold, clear December nights. Thankfully, there are no streetlights near my house to wash out that enfolding darkness or the brilliant intensity of my stars. This is where I do my best praying. I was out there last Friday night, Dec. 14.
Like many others in our country, and probably beyond, I have not been able to forget what happened in Newtown, Conn. I stood under the stars that night, crying as if my heart were being savagely wrung, and it seemed as if the tears would never stop. It wasn’t for a specific person – I did not lose someone I loved that day. But, I am a mother. And, I cried for those mothers who were in immobilizing despair that night, who were beginning a journey of despair that would last the rest of their lives.
I, also, kept thinking of my grandsons, safe at their own school that day, especially Georgie, who is in first grade as those murdered children were ... I think of someone forcing his way into Georgie’s classroom and opening fire on those tiny faces who didn’t understand ... would never understand even if given the chance ... why this man hated them. And, most painful of all, I kept imagining that instinctive cry most likely chorused by those babies: Mommy! I want my Mommy!
I know, it was a self-tormenting personal video, but I am Italian and a mother – I couldn’t stop it. I went to church two days later, and the instant the children were called to the altar for their Christmas lesson I began to cry. I had no tissues, and the tears just kept coming, all the way through the sermon, which, naturally, had to do both with the immeasurable heartbreak of that Friday, and with how to be able to rejoice, still, this Christmas.
I was using my fists, my sleeves and the collar of my blouse to blot my tears, but they truly would not stop, and as I looked around the church, I realized there was no need to be embarrassed; others were crying, as well. One man had his head on his hands, on the back of the pew in front of him, for a very long time. A woman in the choir pulled tissues from her sleeve, and all around me I heard the muted grieving of people unable to process this kind of evil.
So, here we are at the holidays, and here I am, a humor writer, but writing this final column before Christmas, I couldn’t find much to laugh about. Not because healthy laughter is not a good thing, or strengthening, or healing, or life-affirming, or even healthy. Because it is. And, not because there is no room for laughter in our memories of these loved ones. Because there is. It’s simply because evil has once again touched our nation, and we are called not only to mourn, but to remember that malevolent wickedness exists as surely as life exists.
(It is my opinion, in fact, that wickedness does not reside inside the barrel of a gun, but inside the soul of the person who wields it. And, even with no guns in the world, evil will always find a way to devastate, with weapons more simple and terrifying than we can imagine.)
Then, even through the tears – for those who lost their lives because of the sick malevolence of another; for those who will never see their children grow up; for those who will never again be able to put their arms around their sons or daughters, mothers or wives; for those who will forever have an empty chair at their table and a hole in the center of their hearts as surely as if a bullet had passed through it, too – I began to hear the words of the sermon, as if from far away, and, finally, to feel what he was trying to get across ...
That there was, even in the midst of this anguish, a reason to rejoice ... that Jesus would still be born ... that there were new angels in heaven to herald His coming ... that another mother long ago lost her Son so that those little angels could be with Him ... that He was, even now, holding those children close to Him on one side, and their parents close on the other.
So, tonight I went out into that wintry darkness, to ponder the sky, to pray and to look at my stars ... and, I swear there were some new ones twinkling overhead, just out of reach ... I’m sure I counted 26.
Vicki Wentz is a local writer, teacher and speaker. Readers may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website, www.vickiwentz.com.