Shadowed by the deaths of little children and their teachers, the holiday season in Connecticut passed heavy with sadness. Thoughts of grieving neighbors tempered every day. As I moved through my days at the bookstore, acknowledgement was shared in the minutes spent with strangers while finding or bagging their books. These usually frantic exchanges before Christmas, slowed slightly by a connection of shared sorrow. The season, while bleak, had a poignancy. Customers were kinder. As if feeling the rawness and wonder: how do we go on after these unbearable losses?
Healing seems impossible. How will those parents ever again smile, feel any joy? Yet look: here is the face of the mother that last Christmas of 2011, who woke to a house in flames that killed her three beautiful girls and her parents. In these photos she looks beautiful, smiling, surrounded by her friends who all draw close to her, loving her. Yes, there she is, a year later, living life. In pain, of course — but surely glimpsing a light. For these past 365 days she has carried on with that unbearable weight of her horrible loss — as others have before her. How has she done this? How will the others?
Love, Madonna Badger, the grieving Stamford mother says, saves us all. When we are in the dark night of grief, it seems that light might be smothered, but somehow – lit it stays. This remarkable essence, this life, makes us extraordinary. Inevitably, we all will experience deaths of our loved ones. While quietly we are grateful that this time, this terrible story is not ours, that it is not our beloved, we glimpse the truth that it might have been. And so, a very little bit at least — it is. Helpless to make anything better, we still want to take action, to comfort. Even knowing there are no words, we reach out to our friends and strangers alike, sending messages – because in this world of grieving, no one is really a complete stranger, not for long.
Out of this longing to do something we shower the Newtown community, with toys for their children. Chances are, those families did not need more under their trees but the rest of us needed to do something. To show our love. We drive through blizzards to gather around parents mourning the death of their child. No words can comfort, but we can fill a room, our faces glowing with tears, we can acknowledge and share the one thing that we hope may keep our friends, our fellow humans going forward: love. It is what saves us all.