“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.