I wish the Mayans were right

I wish the Mayans were right December 20, 2012

For the past four months it has felt like somebody pushed my head underwater into the pool of grief and is holding it there, attempting to drown me. I can’t come up from air until the one thing I don’t want to happen —  my mother’s death — happens.

Then came the massacre at Newtown.  I can’t quit thinking about those babies and their families.

Underwater, all I can hear are the horrific wails of the men and women whose babies have been slayed, like the ones Herod had murdered. I hear brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers crying over all those babies killed, like the Scriptures tell us:

God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.”

Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: “I called my son out of Egypt.”

Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.) That’s when Jeremiah’s sermon was fulfilled:

A sound was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much lament.
Rachel weeping for her children,
Rachel refusing all solace,
Her children gone,
dead and buried.


I wish the Mayans were right. I wish the world were ending. I wish the wailing would stop. I wish those families were not going to wake up this Christmas morning and every Christmas from here on out weeping for their dead children, or dead mothers, aching for the embrace of them.

I think about all those unopened Christmas gifts, and about the Sandy Hook children who died knowing that they would never get to see the hope that is Christmas morning.  I find little comfort knowing all those children are in the arms of Jesus. I suppose that makes me a terrible Christian but those babies belong in the arms of their mamas and daddies.

And it is so damn unfair and wrong and wretched and all things evil and wicked, and The Destroyer points to the scoreboard and taunts the crowd with the number.

I am submerged, along with many of you, in cold stilled darkness, awaiting, hoping, aching.

Just trying to breathe without choking to death.

I keep telling myself to not think about all those children huddled together in that closet and the gunman screaming, Let me in! Let me in! 

So I asked Mama if her family celebrated Christmas when she was a little girl.

Not much, she says. But there was this one gift, Mama remembered so clearly she etched it out for me with her finger on the wall beside her, telling me it looked like this: A rectangle desk with two holders built into each end to hold pencils and crayons.

Grandma Ruth, her momma, bought it for her.

But Uncle Carl and his first wife had a baby who died, stillborn, nobody knows why, and they put that baby’s coffin on Mama’s desk, with the baby inside it, so the neighbors could come by the house for the viewing and when they took that coffin away and put that baby in the cold, cold ground, there was a scratch all along the top of Mama’s lone treasure.

It upset the little girl in her, having her desk marred up that way. Mama was never able again to sit down at that desk and imagine anything but the dead baby inside that casket.

And that is what I think Newtown has done to this nation — carved deeply into us the memory of babies in caskets, and a Christmas where the silence is filled with the wails of parents in mourning.

I want to take a line straight from a Flannery O’Connor short story and yell at all the demons looking to assault each and everyone of us: “STOP! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!”

If only there was some mysterious mantra that we could chant that would stop killers in their tracks, make them lay down their semi-automatics, and fall to their knees, seeking mercy from the God who saves, even the worst of these.

I wish there was a happy tune we could learn to whistle like Anna, the teacher, taught the children in The King and I to do whenever they were afraid.

If only there was a protective whistle, or a magic mantra we could teach the children to sing or shout: “STOP!! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!

One that we could repeat ourselves, so that we, too, could quit being so afraid.

I have never understood Advent like I understand it this year. This longing, this actual physical aching for Christ’s appearance.

What about you?











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  • Gloria

    I am sitting in the darkness with you Karen. You put into words what I could not.

  • Sharon O

    It has been very hard. As a grandma of six I cannot even imagine the reality of knowing so many were murdered by a sick man. The news hurts my heart so I don’t watch it. The shooting in Oregon the first of the week then this shooting the end of the week was too much. We cannot take it in. I am also deeply in prayer for the first responders. My own son a police officer. They should never have to deal with that kind of carnage. All we can do now is pray.

    • Sharon: Having worked with the police and firefighters for so many years, I have thought so often of those first-responders finding those bodies at Sandy Hook and how it must have looked like My Lai on first glance. Praying for all of them and your son…

  • It’s sad, sick and disturbing. I intentionally have not watched any of the coverage of the story. I can’t do that to myself. My best friend was killed in an accident when I was a 6-year-old in front of my house while we were playing. I don’t do well with children’s deaths. I’m hoping and praying to God this shooting madness ends somehow. It is tearing this country apart and ruining the lives of so many of the victim’s families. It aches my soul to think about this stuff. And there is NOTHING I can do about it. I’m in a place that just is sad, lonely and heartbroken again. Seeing this stuff just breaks my heart and makes me wonder WHY? WHY does this stuff have to happen?
    Thinking of you and praying for peace, comfort and healing. Hugs to you and mama.

  • Hi Karen. I wrote a piece on my thoughts on Advent you might want to read. Mind you, this was written before the Newtown shooting. Peace.


    • Thank you Victor for reminding us that many are in waiting places.

  • monicalyn

    Beautifully written! I find myself thinking of these families every time I wrap a present or start to scold my child for getting crumbs on the floor. I love the analogy concerning your mom’s desk.. Her upbringing sounds similar to my own mother’s. God speed.

    • I love the story of Mama’s desk too. I had never heard it before.

  • Karen, I’m so sorry to learn of your mother, losing those we love/or watching it all happen, is so hard. I know very well. I’d seen on your Facebook page and Twitter feed some mentions of your difficulties but hadn’t gotten the story till reading this. I will be praying for you my friend.

  • pagansister

    There is no way I can accept as any consolation the phrase: “God has taken them home”. Those babies are not at home—their home was here with their families—parents,siblings, grandparents, Aunts, Uncles. Those who tried to protect them and died with them are not at home either. They too belonged with their families, home here. May their beautiful little spirits continue in the universe forever, as well as those of their protectors. Blessings.

    • Absolutely agree with you. God didn’t take these children home. Adam Lanza killed them.

  • Rachel

    There is a song my children learned at church camp that they sang when 9-11 happened and were exposed to that violence. It goes like this “When I am afraid I will trust in YOU, I will trust in YOU, I will trust in YOU. When I am afraid I will trust in YOU in God whose Word I praise…” This was their comfort song on that horrible day, and I know that there are still moments as teenagers and young adults that they still sing that song when there are things that frighten them.

    Christmas love to you and your family and your Hero Momma. We’re making our mother’s famous fried chicken dinner for our family gathering. Signs are pointing to this one last Christmas celebration before she goes Home.

    • Thank you Rachel. And about that fried chicken? I made that once for a holiday meal and the kids still talk about it. Merry Christmas.

  • Thank you for this; I feel the same way.

  • Jim

    I am sorry for your loss. I hope that you find the strength to get through this emotionally dark time, and that you have a good Christmas and a happier New Year.