You know that moment after a funeral is over when the phone calls, food and support just, kind of, stops? From the moment your loved one passed on leading up to the funeral, you’ve been overwhelmed by the tremendous support from others. Really. It’s incredible. But something usually happens a day or two after the funeral. It stops. People get back to their lives. It’s not anything intentional, but for them the grieving process is over. For you, it’s most likely just the beginning. You ask yourself, “So now what? I’m supposed to go back to my life too?” It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. A person you love is gone and life doesn’t care.
As I laid in bed on Christmas Eve trying to fall asleep, I kept wondering if this is exactly what some families were feeling in Newtown, Connecticut…
I spent the day in Newtown Friday before Christmas. Several people have been eager to hear what it was like. I knew I eventually wanted to write a small reflection, but I just haven’t been able to come up with the right words to say. This may come as a little late being it’s heading into late January, but it’s a sensitive subject, and I don’t want to make the town of Newtown or the people in it just something to “write about.” Being respectful is my first priority.
So first things first, I’m extremely thankful to the people of Newtown allowing myself and a few others to enter their community and pay our respects. They are as kind as they come.
If you can imagine an entire town in mourning, then you’ll have a slight picture of what I saw that day. As myself and four other leaders at my church drove into town, as did so many others with the traffic built up to the point of just parking and walking was easiest, we passed a church that was holding a funeral. That’s when it hit me that I was about to encounter something I never could prepare for.
If I had to choose one word to describe the state of the town, I’d choose somber. It was quiet, rainy and cold. So many people were on the streets, yet it was eerily silent much of the time. The memorials were beautiful and so many items had built up since the beginning of the week. It was overwhelming to see. You couldn’t help but tear up about every five minutes. My heart ached for each and every person there.
As two different funeral processionals drove by that day, and as I stood staring at the Fire House where so much took place just a week before, it became so very real for me. I spent some time talking with a lovely Newtown couple that very night, and I admitted to them in an honest voice, “I really didn’t want to believe it.” I stood their teary-eyed for a moment in their town, in their grief, and they took the time to comfort me. It was extremely sobering. And I was extremely humbled. These people, I thought, are incredible.
I had never heard of this town just one week earlier. Now here I was in front of the fire house where so many hearts were broken. Yet what I took from that day wasn’t that lives were taken, though that was the unfortunate fact, but that people were coming together in so many ways and loving one another. Like the family from North Carolina who drove up so their daughter could bring them her stuffed teddy bear. Amazing.
The quote from the musical, Les Miserables rings true for me in times like this. “To love another person is to see the face of God.” That was never so imminent than during my time in Newtown. There may have been evil done to that place, but there was nothing but love now.
From that day forward, my heart expanded all the way to Connecticut. I will never forget that wonderful place. No body wants to be remembered for what Newtown will be remembered for, but if for some strange reason anyone from Newtown happens to read this, I want you to know I will not rememeber you for what happened there. I will remember you for the love you showed to not only myself, but to each other. I will remember you for your strength and kindness. I will remember the beautiful, quaint, lovely town you created. I will remember you for what you will become from this.
My heart felt a lot of emotions that day that it had never felt before. But there was one thing I knew as we drove out of town late that Friday night …
Newtown, Connecticut is a beautiful place.