It was the first thing she said to me as we entered church to rehearse for the Christmas play –
“Isn’t it awful? It’s just SO sad… have they figured out ‘why’ yet?”
She took my stunned silence for shared shock and moved on - when, in all honesty, I was wondering what connection she’d had to them, how she had heard and what I was ‘allowed’ to say to her.
It took me a full two minutes to figure out she meant the multiple murders in the elementary school in CT.
You see, most of us in the ER on Friday weren’t even aware of what had happened across the country until late in the afternoon.
We were too busy dealing with the pediatric tragedies right in front of us.
We were busy comforting a family who sent their healthy 5 yr old to school in the morning and were called to our hospital 3 hours later to be told he was dead.
Brought down, not by an assassin’s bullet but by an aneurysm in his head which burst while he was playing on the slide at recess.
We were busy examining a 4yr old rape victim, notifying law enforcement, making sure she had somewhere safe to go and arranging for therapy to begin once she left our ER.
We were busy comforting family members whose vehicle was hit head on by a drunk driver; leaving presents strewn along the highway, a mom paralyzed from the waist down and an infant sent to our PICU in critical condition with a closed head injury.
None of these children got mentioned on the nightly news.
For most people in this country, children who are victimized or dying, on a daily basis, are invisible.
It’s a blind spot our society gratefully accepts.
But those of us on the front lines know that they’re ALL our children and their deaths diminish us all.
Bearing silent witness to the pain of their families is as heartbreaking as it is life altering.
We also know that the answer to “Have they figured out ‘why’ yet?” is always “No.”.
Even if a diagnosis, cause, mechanism or etiology is known, the knowing is never an acceptable antidote to the pain and loss; it never restores life to the way it was 'before'.
Knowledge is an inadequate substitute for the totality of what’s been lost.
Before moving forward toward seeking answers or resolution, we have to settle into both the pain of absence as well as the pain of not knowing.
Those are places most of us spend considerable emotional energy trying to avoid.