When Columbine happened, it seemed unthinkable. I know it wasn’t the first ever recorded school shooting, but it was unlike anything I’d ever heard of. It was a 24 hour news cycle nightmare I found myself glued to. Just trying to make sense of how this could happen. How could we prevent such a tragedy in the future?
That was 20 years ago.
Since that fateful day, there’s been numerous school shootings – I’ve lost count. It should come as no surprise that there’s active shooter drills in our schools. It grieved me as a young youth pastor’s wife with a heart for students that they would live in a world where this is just reality; a normal occurrence to be prepared for. It grieves my 40 year old heart today not only as a children’s ministry worker but as a MOTHER. Becoming a mom gave my love steroids. My feelings are big.
My kids have had these drills before, but now they’re 7. They’re big boys. And they get it now. They get that bad stuff happens sometimes.
Levi was in the shower the other night when he called to me to come into the bathroom. I put the seat down and sat on the toilet and told him I was there. He said, “Ok, I’m shampooing my hair.” “Good job!” We seemed to be slipping into our normal play-by-play of what to wash next. Our exchanges are often filled with laughs and inside jokes during these times. And sometimes he pulls back the curtain to shake his naked booty at me and I try unsuccessfully not to laugh. Kid is hilarious.
“Mom, we had a drill at school today.” And my heart sank because I knew where this conversation was headed. This isn’t like my sunny California upbringing where we did frequent earthquake drills. He went on, “So, we had to hide in the room and be quiet.” “How’d that make you feel?”, I said biting my lip. “Well, I was with teachers and helpers, but mom, does someone want to hurt me?”
“Did you feel safe?”
“Kind of, but I wanted you.”
“Mom is never far.”
“What if someone shot me?”
I swallowed that lump in the back of my throat really hard, trying to find the right words and praying God would give them to me.
He stepped out of the shower, and I wrapped him in his towel and my arms. I don’t have words for something that just should not happen.
When a parent dies, you’re an orphan. When a spouse dies, you’re widowed. But there’s no word in the English language that I’m aware of for the loss of a child – because it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.
“Mom, what if someone shot YOU?! Could you still see me from heaven?”
“Yes.”, trying not to cry here. Oh Jesus, help.
“Cuz heaven isn’t far. And mom is never far.”, he added. I tell him that all the time. I work from home (mostly) just blocks from our school.
“That’s right. And someday we’ll be there together.”, and then I held him maybe a little too tight and he might’ve had trouble breathing. I’m grateful for the promise of heaven.
In the wake of another school shooting that should not have happened, my heart hurts.
I don’t know what else to say other than the lyrics of a song written by a friend after Columbine:
When they’re out of my hands, oh Lord, let them be in Yours.