In church yesterday they lit the joy candle for advent, and all I could think was how odd it felt to light a candle called joy in such an impossibly dark time for our nation. How one young man with guns in CT could cast a pall over an entire country, making the joy we once took for granted during this season feel so far out of reach. I heard a news commentator remark over the weekend that, from now on, Christmas will always be mixed with this event, tainting this time of year. And, sad as it is, I feared he was right.
But still the pastor lit the joy candle, and we sang songs about joy and I looked around me and tried to feel something besides sadness, that constant pricking behind my eyelids I've felt since Friday, the tears ever threatening. Joy just didn't seem possible. It seemed absurd. "My mind flits over this," I told my husband after church. "I can't dwell on it for too long or it will drag me under." I barely got through the pastor's prayer for those families without having to run weeping from the church.
This morning I made myself look at those little faces. I read the bios of each, how special they all were, their sparkle, their smiles. And then I hugged my own extra hard. And I smiled even as they fought over the same old things and dawdled and did the very same things they did on Friday morning. But on Friday morning I didn't know that such things were possible... not really. Now I do. We all do.
Last night our school sent out an email to parents assuring us they were evaluating their own security with law enforcement. And I felt like all of us probably feel. Like I just want to keep them home and safe forever. I want to wrap them in my arms and never let go, to keep them in my sights because in my sights I have some measure of control. Yet when I hugged them this morning, they wriggled away, oblivious, darting for the door, the world at large. And I know to restrain them out of fear would be no way to live at all.
And so I watch them bound away, happy about their new puppy and the coming visit from Santa Claus, dreaming of school parties this week and a long, much needed break. I watch them and I pray for the grace to let them go and the protection beyond the reach of my own arms. And I pray for those families gripped by grief in another state, a place far away, yet so frighteningly close. I pray for us all and I think about the joy candle burning, burning, burning, a light in a dark, dark time.