It’s funny how one insect can damage so much grain.
~ Empty Garden, Elton John
“It’s not fair, Dad.” Emily must have repeated that at least four times. “It’s not fair.”
Eight short months ago, we were in Great Lakes, Illinois watching as Shianne Soles and my daughter stood at attention with hundreds of other men and women, presented their flags and became sailors in the United States Navy — teenagers promising to protect and defend the Constitution as part of the most powerful fleet on earth.
Today, Shianne is gone — the victim of a horrific double-murder suicide and Emily is lost for words. It’s a devastating victory for darkness.
Before she was laid to rest, Shianne’s mother spent a few precious final minutes with her. I debated sharing her words. It feels private. But her pain places me in that room and in her shoes. It changes me. I hope it changes you. We cannot defeat darkness without staring straight into it.
We must be light.
We must shine like Shi.
I saw my baby yesterday. Actually I saw her twice. It’s something I had to do to make my mind believe this is not just a bad dream. I had to see her with my own eyes so I knew this wasn’t some type of elaborate bad joke.
And yet, while she lay there looking so peaceful – her big pouty lips, the nose she always hated, and baby eyelashes – all I wanted to do was shake her awake. Because in my mind, it was still just a bad dream. She was just resting.
I gently stroked her hair…her beautiful brown hair which was always so silky smooth and her little baby hairs that grew around her face just like mine. I felt ANGRY – angry that he did this to her. WHY would he have done this? And then I had an overwhelming sense of guilt. Even though I know there was nothing I could have done to prevent it, I felt I had failed as a parent.
You see, as parents we just want to protect our children. From the moment they are born, we protect them from diseases and from bad news, we try and protect them from hate and injuries. We try to protect them from harsh words and mean people. And I know that they all experience these things throughout life. But as a parent, as a mother, we do everything in our power to protect our kids. This was my ultimate failure.
Then I remembered all that she had accomplished – not only her goals but the lives she has touched. I told her how very proud of her I am. And I just wanted to scoop her up in my arms and take her home with me.
The second time I visited her yesterday was a little easier. We laughed about how they should have put eyelashes on her and that her makeup reminded me of the early years of dance stage makeup.
Then I spent some alone time with her. I won’t share all that I said, as those were my final moments with her, but I got to say my goodbyes. I stroked her hair some more. I held her hand. And I kissed her forehead one last time. I didn’t want to leave. I just wanted to lay there with her and rest quietly. My sweet baby girl that I once rocked to sleep, held her hand, braided her hair, and hugged too tightly.
I finally, very slowly, left the room. Leaving her there was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Knowing that I will never see her sweet round face again, except for maybe in my dreams.
Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
~ John 16:22
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