Billy Coffey
Billy Coffey

Hold each other’s hands and close your eyes

December 17, 2012  

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“Hold each other’s hands and close your eyes.”

That’s what the police said just before leading the survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary from the school to safe ground. Of all the horrible things I’ve read about Friday, all the stories of grief and anger, that’s what remains most in my mind.

Three days later and it’s still in every place and upon every mouth and inside every heart. Those poor kids and teachers and administrators, gone. The hole they leave behind is one we all feel. It’s palpable, almost. It’s a coppery taste in the back of our mouths and a cold wind that follows us no matter where we go, hunkering us over.

Like you, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since Friday.

I thought of the children lost and I thought also of the children who weren’t. Millions of them all over this country, whose Friday was spent not unlike any other. And I thought of those children who received that night a love they’d always deserved yet haven’t been given for a very long while, all because of what happened in Newtown.

I thought of all the ones who had never prayed or had given up praying lowering their heads and speaking to God.

I thought the grownups—of this country as a whole—and how even this unspeakable act could not unite us. As soon as the news broke and the word spread, we turned our grief into shouts of more guns and less guns.

But most of all, I thought of Christmas. I thought of how Christmas was magic to all those poor children and about all those gifts already bought and hidden away in attics and closets, and how those parents will have to pull them out knowing they’ll never be given.

We are left now with the same questions times such as these always offer. Why? always comes first. How can we move on? always comes after. We’ve all heard reasons why these things happen. It’s the guns or it’s secularism or it’s the lack of care for the mentally unstable. It’s because God wills it or because we subscribe such power to any god other than ourselves. I have no answer to why, and maybe that’s for the best. Maybe if we knew why—if we understood the people who did such things—we would be less human than we are.

But the question of how we can move on? That answer may come easier. Not by any insights I have, but the insights of those police officers last Friday afternoon.

Hold each other’s hands and close your eyes.

That’s our answer. Given to groups of innocent children that they may survive those harrowing moments. Given to us that we may survive the harrowing aftermath. In that simple statement lies all we have in this life and all the comfort we need—the gift of the moment, and the promise of eternity.

Because what more can we do now and always than hold each other’s hands and understand that the only breath we’re ever guaranteed is the one we’ve just taken? That all we have—our very lives—lie neither in yesterday or tomorrow, but in the small space of this one moment? Shouldn’t that moment then be spent with a sense of passionate urgency?

We should be ravenous with life. We should devour our moments. And we should never, ever let that moment pass without drowning it in love.

And we should close our eyes. Not to the darkness of this world or the dangers that lurk in it, but so our hearts can ponder the One who transcends both. People wonder why Christians are so adamant to keep faith as the center of Christmas, why we fight for our Nativities and bemoan the generalization of the holiday. Newtown is why, precisely that—because we know that by Christmas this dark and dangerous world has been overcome. That we have this moment and eternity both, and by each of them we need not live in fear and despair.

I cannot tell you why those children died, but I can tell you why Christmas came. And if I could only know the answer to one of those questions, it would be the latter. Perhaps we’ll all know the answer to the former one day, perhaps not.

But until then, let’s take this moment to hold tight to each other, and let’s close our eyes.

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20 Responses to “Hold each other’s hands and close your eyes”

  1. Robin Dance says:

    A sweet telling of the only way out….

    Brushstroked with the heart.

  2. ed cyzewski says:

    True wisdom. Thanks Billy.

  3. Kathryn Arnold says:

    Thank you, and I wish I felt heartened. It’s getting so difficult. My own troubles had me feeling distinctly grim this morning, but I was praying and coming out of it slowly (too many mornings are like this). Then I got into a facebook conversation with my little niece for the first time… Last night (with no little trepidation about the possible consequences of “prying”) I wrote to her mother after seeing too many posts of musicians in black clothes and black makeup, the last of which included pentagons and the number 666. She wrote me back and told me her little girl didn’t know what those symbols meant, that the post had been removed, and that she couldn’t try to stop her daughter’s musical interests without driving her toward them. Music my 12-year-old niece is listening to is frightening me. Her favorite bands are very dark and this morning she told me that this is the only kind of music that makes her happy…that everything else is boring to her. Bands like Black Veil Brides and Blood on The Dance Floor. I asked her to give me an example of one of their songs…she gave me BOTDF’s Believe. I found the lyrics and told her that if anyone but God is saying those things to her that they’re blowing smoke at her, that only He is able to back up words like that. We had quite a conversation with the bottom line being I’m old and can see what she can’t and she’s young and believes she’s “gotta do what feels right.” Lots of “this is me.” She lives in poverty in a large, grim Texas city…her mother falls into street drug abuse often enough to keep it hanging over the family like a sword. How do I give this little girl light and hope? Sorry to dump this on you…I know prayer is powerful, but I feel so weak. Like my niece, feelings seem so much more real sometimes than the God I know in my head is with me.

    • There aren’t simple answers, Kathryn. I lost one of my children at Christmastime years ago and my heart breaks when I hear of others who believe there is no harm in “doing what feels right” even if it leads them into darkness. Keep letting her know you love and care about her and are praying she’ll find a better way to express her individuality.

  4. Peggy L. says:

    Thank you so much for helping us all to heal a little bit more…

  5. Billy, Beautifully said, as always. I’ll remember those words for a long time.

  6. Joanne Sher says:

    Thank you so very much, Billy.

  7. What a most powerful reminder of the God-grande love He gave to us through Jesus.

    Continuing to close eyes and join hands in prayer.


  8. Beaautiful. Thank you for saying it so well.

    Eyes closed and moving forward.

  9. Barbara Frazier says:

    Your words always touch my heart!

  10. Hanging on over here on the left coast, gripping hands in both directions and attempting to move forward in trust. Thanks for this today.

  11. Sharon O says:

    So so beautiful. I will share this on my facebook page so all can read and experience this ‘wonderful writing’.

  12. Hazel Moon says:

    God’s Love is why he gave us His son – knowing that Jesus would suffer and die that we might live.

  13. Take a hand and walk on.

    Powerful exhortation!


  14. preacherbilly says:

    Dear Billy:

    My wife told me about your blog as I’ve been wrestling with my sermon prep for this coming Sunday, and I really appreciate what you’ve written for us here. We live in NC, and it would be pretty easy for most of us to breeze through this Christmas like nothing has happened here – not saying its right, just that it can be done. As the Body of Christ, you’ve given us some great direction for how to respond to the Sandy Hook murders.

    Putting things in context with the “Christmas story,” I feel prompted to go to Matthew 2:13-18, and how King Herod ordered the murder of all boys in Bethlehem under the age of two……Herod’s plan for holding onto power. The world we live in is a fallen world, and we need Jesus all the more. Christmas will come to Newtown this year, just like it came to Bethlehem so long ago. Lord, we look forward to your return in final victory – be near us this day.

    Blessings to you,
    preacherbilly (husband of elaine@peaceforthejourney)

  15. Joanne Kraft says:


    Thank you for this gift of words. They made me cry and gave me comfort. Most especially, thank you for giving me a post I can share with others during this grieving time.

    Merry Christmas

  16. Haven’t visited your blog in awhile. I remember what I’m been missing. Amen to this piece! Your wisdom rings through as always.

  17. […] in the “simply beautiful” category, I adored this post about Sandy Hook by Billy Coffey. I wish I had more to say, it just says it […]

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