It’s 4 am and a crescent of light falls near your left temple, as a whir of chilled air fills the room. You are snuggled next to me–your slight, warm body curved round my own–and I hear the sweet sounds of your suckling; the rhythm, so delicate, nearly lulls me to sleep.
I know when you’re finished, you’ll sigh, turn your head to the side, and push your lower lip out in tender protest. I will carefully remove the pillows from beneath your head and lift you toward me as our breath becomes one. And then, stepping from bed, I’ll carry you silently to your crib while patting your back in time with the beat of my heart.
In those last moments before sleep, you will hold your arms to your chest and then, like honey from its dipper, peel them away in one languid movement, leaving them prone at your side.
This sweet image, of your wide-open arms, is what stays with me as I hear of our nation’s latest tragedy.
I think of them and imagine a night of dancing and fun cut short by a hailstorm of lead. I think of them and imagine innocents begging for life, folding themselves ever so small, attempting to disappear. I think of them and imagine terrorized souls hiding in bathrooms and a/c vents, cowering beneath tables, chairs, and bodies. I think of them and imagine receiving a text, as Mina Justice received from her son, Eddie:
Mommy I love you
In the club they shooting
Trapp in the bathroom
Im gonna die
In these wee hours, I think of your wide-open arms, your innocence, your precious life and feel a familiar warmth on my cheeks–a warmth that solemnly whispers:
You can’t protect him, no matter how hard you try.
I wish I could tell you no harm will come to you, sweet boy. That as long as you choose love and light you will be saved from hatred and darkness. But none of us are afforded such certainty.
There will always be those who choose the strident siren of violence over the softer strum of dialogue. Who find justification for hostility and intolerance in the pages of sacred texts and the name of sacred beings. Who mistake fanaticism for faith and forget the human element of humanity. There will always be those whose very existence is in direct opposition to your own.
And in moments of chaos and grief, when it’s easier to hate, I beg you: please don’t. Choose love. Be stretched by it, dear one, and grow in it.
Every parent’s worst nightmare is losing a child. I know that in a way I didn’t before.
Whether lost through accident or malicious intent, outliving one’s children goes against the laws of nature and much higher laws of heart and soul. It is unnatural, unthinkable…
Today, 50 sets of parents are living that nightmare.
Today, 50 sets of parents are remembering their child’s sweet slumber.
Today, 50 sets of parents are remembering their child’s wide-open arms.
F. I. F. T. Y.
So, this evening, as I lay you in sleep’s warm embrace, I’ll pray for those affected by such senseless brutality and those with the power and privilege to stop it. And then I will pray for you, my sweet. For your life. For your heart. And your wide-open arms.