tears without end

Today is the sorrowful fourth anniversary of the unspeakable horror at Sandy Hook, a moment forever seared into my memory. In remembrance of the many lives so tragically lost that day, I’m posting a piece I wrote just one day after the tragedy took place…


I am wakeful with the rain.

Beyond my window, our backyard oak lifts empty arms to a leaden sky; every tree holds a posture of profound supplication. Oh, please, please, let this not be so…

It’s getting late, but how can I close my eyes? Incomprehensible violence has visited Newtown, Connecticut, and sorrow keeps sliding down the windowpane. The rain began as evening fell on Friday, the day of the terrible shootings; it pattered on the rooftop all night long. Morning dawned grey, tear-spattered. I barely slept, if I slept at all. Rain continued all through the day, tears without end.

When the dreadful news reached me, my first thoughts were of the Holy Innocents. How could any person, past or present, look into the clear eyes of a little child and brandish a sword or pull a trigger? With the rest of the nation, I wrestled with my emotions. No, no… please, not the babies, not the little darling ones…

Later, a pile of letters to be mailed and other necessary errands put me behind the wheel. Renewed sorrow clawed my heart at Hamilton Elementary as I passed a line of parents sitting in cars, waiting to pick up their living, breathing, precious children. Gratitude and grief collided, welled up, streaked down my cheeks.

At Butterworth Center, I met a bright yellow school bus. I suppressed a half-crazed impulse to leap from my car to embrace every child on that bus.

As I turned down 16th Street, several parents were walking hand in hand with their children. A glance in my rear view mirror revealed a scattering of children walking home from school, a commonplace sight at this hour of day. But not everywhere… I thought of the sweet children who would never come home again and wept my way to the post office.

Next stop was the high school, where I was volunteering to set up for the next day’s Speech Tournament. I caught sight of one of my daughter’s friends at the end of a long hallway. I opened my arms to her and she came running, arms flung wide. I hugged that golden child to my heart. Dear God, make my arms a protective circle to surround all children everywhere…

But it was when I returned home again that I came entirely unglued. My son texted these simple words from Des Moines: “I love you, Momma.” Memories of him at age five, at age six, sprang to mind… my gentle, dreamy-eyed boy, now a young man. Reading his words, I paradoxically began keening over his sweet life as if he, also, had been lost. Never one to pose the question mathematical, I dared in that moment to multiply my love for him by twenty-six; the staggering equation of loss in Connecticut broke over me and swept me under. I sobbed again when our oldest daughter phoned from Minneapolis, yet again when our youngest phoned on her way home from work…

The woeful, grey day sank to its knees and faded to black while the rain kept its vigil, tears from a star.

How fragile we are…

15 thoughts on “tears without end

  1. I was teaching in my first grade classroom in Connecticut when we received the horrific news. My colleagues and I were stunned. Time stopped all around us. School: a safe, secure place; a place that puts its arms around children surrounding them with enduring love had become violated. As the news of what happened unfolded in the following days our hearts were broken. Every morning after that when I walked into my classroom and saw the beautiful, sweet faces of my first graders I was reminded of how fragile life can be.

    • Oh, Ellen, I cannot imagine how it must have been for you and your first graders, for your colleagues, for all the children in your school, there in the same state of Connecticut… How tragic, that sense of feeling insecure within the quiet retreat of your classroom. Just thinking of you walking in each day to see the bright eyes of your first graders in the days following the incident sets me off all over again… Simply heartrending…

  2. Heartwrenching piece Amy. So poignant and beautifully written. It is true that all those precious years we can count out our own children’s lives will always be stopped for these poor families. As painful as it is to think about this horrific act and the loss of those dear innocents and the sorrow their loved ones will always live with, it’s important to remember this day. To honor the lost and the suffering, and be aware that this can happen, anywhere, any time. We must be vigilant and we must never forget. Thank you for honoring and remembering.

    • Oh, my dear Maude… I honestly believe a portion of my heart permanently shattered that day. I feel that familiar pain with each passing December. I cannot begin to fathom the grief of the families of those innocent children… Incalculable heartache… I agree that we must never forget. Not ever. I’m sure I never will. And yes, we must remain ever vigilant.

    • In the aftermath of incomprehensible violence, the only thing I suppose we can do to honor the lost and the grieving is to remember and to encircle everyone around us with the arms of love… I know that’s just what you do…

  3. Dearest Amy, this is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. It is so true how fragile we are, and also, how powerful and strong our love is. That our hearts break over and over and yet keep loving more and more. This is our greatest gift to ourselves and the world. Thank you for sharing in words the beauty of your vast loving heart. Much love and a hug to you. ❤

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