Like the rest of our nation—and especially all mothers—I spent the weekend sharing (in a very small, limited way) the grief of the families who lost loved ones in Newtown, Connecticut, last Friday. Friday night when I took my nine-year-old Goddaughter, Sophie, to our local community theater for a wonderful production of the musical, “Annie,” I asked her if she had heard about the shootings. She hadn’t heard yet, which was surprising. So I shared a G-rated version of the news with her. And I held her hand as we walked to and from my car.
Sunday morning after church, she told me that her father had shared more details about what happened. And that on Saturday night she had nightmares. She thought she saw the shooter standing by her bed. I held her in my arms, trying not to cry. And as we stood in front of the large icon of her patron saint, Sophia (and her martyred daughters, Faith, Hope and Love) as we do after Liturgy most Sundays, we prayed that Saint Sophia would comfort the mothers who lost their children. And that she would help Sophie sleep peacefully and not be afraid. As she returns to her fourth grade classroom today (for two more days before the Christmas holidays) I pray that she will not be afraid. And I wonder how many parents will just keep their children home a few days earlier than the holidays begin here on Wednesday.
But this tragedy isn’t just about the children and women who were killed in Newtown on Friday. It’s about the epidemic of mental illness in our country, and what we can do to help people like Adam Lanza and their families. Of all the reflections I’ve read on the events in Newtown (and similar tragedies across our nation in recent years) there is one that touched my heart more than all others. It was written by Liza Long, a mother who struggles every day with the unpredictable behavior of her own 13-year-old son. Her words, written from a loving and broken heart, are words I think we all should listen to. Thousands have already read them as they’ve been shared over and over on Facebook. And Long was on the Today Show this morning. But in case you missed them, please take a few minutes to read them now:
I know parents who are now dealing with—or have in the past—children with mental illness issues that surface with episodes of violence. It’s a helpless feeling. It’s too late to help Adam Lanza and his mother, but I hope that our nation with all of its rich resources will focus on finding ways to help other children and their parents who are struggling with mental illness today. And that all people of faith will pray for God’s wisdom and mercy on these families.