The Bad News…
I was driving south on highway 163 through Balboa Park when I turned the radio dial to KPBS for the news of the day. That’s when I learned of the Columbine shootings. After a few seconds of shock, I pulled to the side of the freeway and gave in to some tears. Though I was in San Diego looking for a house, my wife and daughter were still back in Colorado. Columbine was an unincorporated area of Littleton, adjacent to where were lived in Highlands ranch. This truly hit home.
Eventually I gained control of my emotions and returned to my empty apartment. Despite the early hour, I crawled into my sleeping bag and took it all in, continuing to listen to the radio, and to all the media analysis and speculation as to why the shootings happened. I wasn’t interest in why.
My most immediate thought was not about the reasons why, not about the perpetrators, nor even the victims of the tragedy. The image that stood fast in my mind was that of a married couple – two silhouettes of unknown parents standing in the doorway of their child’s bedroom on the first morning after the shootings, and staring at an empty bed. And that was the tragedy to me; the doorway, the empty bed, and the parents with nobody to wake up on that first day after. It’s an image I have never been able to go.
Since that time, other school shootings notwithstanding, I have been proximate to the deaths of too many children, some by accident and some by disease. When I become aware of these losses, that’s where my head goes first; to the doorway, the empty bed, and to the parents standing emotionally paralyzed with nobody to wake up and get ready for school.
Two months ago, after learning that a friend’s adolescent daughter passed unexpectedly, I went there again in my head. My heart ached at the thought of my friend and her husband standing in that doorway, looking at an empty bed, with nobody to wake up and get ready for school on their first morning without Clara.
I checked out that day. I cancelled my sessions, took my dog to a nature trail and spent the day immersed in heavy thought. Trying to be grateful for all I have and all I am, I took inventory of my life but came up short. For the next several weeks I tried to reconcile this untimely loss. Despite the strength her mother has showed in the wake of this tragedy, I just can’t do it – I can’t get good with the loss of this child.
Several weeks later I would learn of another young girl stricken with cancer who may not see 2017. Again, I went to the doorway, to the empty bedroom, and the parents who will be left behind with nobody to wake up the next day and get ready for school.
As I think of these young people, and of the parents they leave behind, regardless of what circumstances lead to their passing, I will always think first of the parents in the doorway, and of the empty bed.
Though the bed can be removed and the room can be reassigned, the doorway – that portal of access into a child’s life, always remains. I can’t imagine the strength that is required to pass through that doorway on a regular basis. I can though, love and appreciate all the parents who face this, and I bow down to them with enormous respect and a great deal of love. Be well… rc
Beyond the doorway there is an empty bed
Two shadows stand and nothing is said
This moment is a vacuum as love can’t breathe
It falls to the floor and two parents grieve
Tears form but aren’t able to flow
Dreams fall never to grow
A blanket of sadness covers the two
Souls filled with lead not believing it’s true
Though the sun may shine, and the world may turn
And as the lives of others may flicker and churn
The parents in the doorway are unable to feel
Unable to cry, not ready to heal
The empty bed may stay or may go
It might be a shrine or may be let go
But the doorway is there, and will always remain
An ongoing reminder, and a portal to pain
Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Hymns from Nineveh…