My door bell rang and I opened it to three wonderful little boys staring up at me. One was a sweet kiddo who I haven't seen in two years, since he moved to another part of town. The other two are brothers who live just two houses down.
"My brother got killed yesterday," one said.
Cars sped by, my own children were inside begging for snacks, our gigantic Lab burst out the door, and six pained eyes waited for my response.
Loss is prevalent, and I know this first hand. I work at a children psychiatric facility where I teach lots of broken youth, all whom have incredibly traumatic backgrounds. But nothing could have prepared me for this.
Two days before this, my husband and I heard the loud blare of sirens flying down our street. All the first responders couldn't get to where they were going fast enough--which was to the location where a teenage boy had just been shot and killed. We heard the tears coming from our sidewalks, middle school-aged children crying and loudly mourning. Later that night we quietly entered our son's room and sat on his floor; we didn't even know yet what had happened or who it involved, we just knew something was terribly wrong. In the morning when we learned of the age and incident, our hearts just sank.
The very next day while I was at work, text message alerts came to our phones that there had been a shooting in our neighborhood: One was dead, the other in critical condition. In the middle of broad daylight, two young men shot each other; the one killed was the half-brother to my little neighbor boys.
What do you DO when young hearts ring your doorbell and bear such heart wrenching news?
Amongst the three children outside my door, my own kids inside, and my husband who wasn't yet on his way home from work--I needed to be packing for Tennessee, where I was supposed to be headed very soon; my world froze for a moment and I looked in to the eyes before me. "I am so sorry, Guys," I quietly said. "I love you all SO much, please be safe this weekend." I gave them all giant hugs and closed the door, where my world, for the most part, would be un-phased.
But what about theirs?
The whole weekend I spent out of state, my heart constantly thought about these families. I prayed often, and I thanked God for keeping my own family safe amidst the crime. I drove home 48-hours later and shortly before I got off the exit for our house my phone rang. My husband said the Vigil was happening at the park and that our road was blocked off--"Let me know when you're close and I'll ask the police to let you through," he said. When I pulled up to the house, my eyes shifted to the park. I saw the neighborhood children, their sad and somber faces, and my husband kneeling beside our little ones trying to keep them quiet. How do you explain to them what was going on? How much is too much for them to know? Later that evening we walked in our bare feet to their house, carrying a vase full of fresh flowers. Flowers? I asked myself. Is flowers a terribly insensitive idea? I just wanted them to know how much I love them.
The days continued to pass by, the boys always waved whenever they saw me. I was often greeted with warm hugs when I would pull up to the house or when they got home from school. We ordered them a pizza one night; a house full of kiddos and two hurting parents, I just wanted to be able to do something--anything.
Our two kids really didn't have a clue what was going on and at that point I was grateful. Explaining guns and violence to a three and four-year old just didn't seem pertitent. They probably thought we were just hanging out with friends at the Vigil and with the flowers, they assumed we were being nice neighbors. But flash forward a few months later, when my world was shaken even more...
Trolling Facebook mindlessly one evening, my eyes did a double take at someone's post. It was the gal we actually purchased this home from; she had shared a blog post and some sweet words of her own about a woman from this neighborhood that had passed away a few days prior. I clicked on the blog post and slowly read paragraph after paragraph, not even knowing yet that I actually knew her. I exited the link and decided to click on the profile of the woman who had passed away and my eyes just flooded with tears. I let out a horrified gasp and dropped the phone. Honest to God, I felt like I was in shock. I wasn't close friends of the woman, but I had met her several times at the park while at the playground with my kids. She was with her six kids, she had a friend with her, and both were talking and chatting so carefree amongst all the chaos. My kids played with hers--pretend kitchen is what they were doing, making dirt pies and desserts from underneath the slides. I introduced myself and went home to tell my husband all about her. My mom too, on the phone, I bragged about this woman. "Oh she'll be a great contact for you to get to know when you take time off with the kids," she said.
And now she's gone.
I don't know many details, except that she passed in her sleep. She has six children, three whom are adopted, and she homeschooled all of them. It was clear when I met her that she was a Believer, and while I should be assured that she is resting now with her Savior, I'm just not. At all.
I've prayed for her family daily, often multiple times a day. I sobbed uncontrollably after realizing who she was and thinking about how young, how much more life here on Earth she 'should have had.' It's not my place, right? To think something like that. None of us know the hour or the day of which we'll be called Home to our Creator, but six sweet children and a husband woke to their wonderful mom and wife, gone. Thinking about it honestly kind of haunts me, I have done the "what if" in my mind; what would my kids do? How would my husband react? Who would he call first? WHY would Jesus allow this to happen? I walked through the park with my kids last week and we passed her house. The dog was barking in the backyard and tears again immediately flooded my eyes.
I was alone with the kids and quietly asked, "Hey, Guys. Mama wants to pray. Is that okay? I just want to pray for the family who lives in that house." My 4-year old immediately said, "Why, Mom? Are you afraid they're going to die?" How he was that intuitive or immediately came to that concern is beyond me? But he continued to ask over and over and I felt like I was going to snap. I felt like I would be lying if I beat around the bush and avoided the question, so I answered honestly. "You know what, Buddy...? There are a lot of kids who live there and their mommy actually did die." Of course this brought a series of questions and a little bit of concern from my young son who cannot grasp the concept of death or his mommy no longer being here. And once again, my heart just broke. My son can't process it or understand, so how are her children doing?
The world is still spinning around and around, construction workers still working, basketball players playing ball on the courts, little kids riding their bikes... but a household is without their mother. A husband without his wife.
And the same for my neighbors... the world has continued to survive without their sweet boy; homework and school and sports and family dinners. But a giant piece of their heart is still missing. And what do we do about that?
Friends, I'm just immensely shaken. There is so much pain and hurt and suffering in this world. There are babies without their parents and parents without their babies. I don't have a solid answer on how to fix it and I know it's not my job to. But will you just pray with me? For the lives and hearts of Gods' children who all just need HIM to show up for them? To be their shoulder, their voice, their comfort, their song. It's times like this that I often begin to doubt the goodness of my Father, but I am fighting hard to hear Him through the tears. And the days for these families will be so much brighter if we can be in this together. Stand with me, pray with me, and remember that everyone, everywhere, is dealing with some hardship, so let's just LOVE.