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Amidst the holiday cheer tragedy strikes. Tragedy struck. Tragedy will strike again. I’m confounded by the juxtaposition of life and death. The memories play over and over again.

The Spring day eight years ago that my grandmother’s chest continued to rise and fall with tubes and machines, so that my uncle could marry his bride before we said our final goodbyes in that ICU room. 

The Christmas Eve three years ago when in the stillness of a long distance phone call I was told to “sit down” and asked “Where is David?” and “You’re not going to believe this” and “We’re so sorry.” The grief can still hit me fresh when I imagine my dear friend afraid of pregnancy in the midst of a secret, abusive relationship. The details only got more gory as the weeks unfolded. Yet, the Christmas lights winked on and the tree swirled with colors and baubles unknowing.

The months when one set of dear friends watched their sweet newborn Lydia Ann slip into eternity on her Earthly daddy’s chest, while another set of friends welcomed their newborn Lydia Ann into this world to watch grow for years to come.  

The day of my grandfather’s 80th birthday and the words vibrated again over telephone lines. “Sit down” and “Where is David?” and “Your grandfather has gone on to glory.” 

And, my most recent heartbreak, the blood and the negative pregnancy test. Not this time. Not this month. 

Now this…This horror so much worse…

I can’t erase the imagined images of dozens of families going home without little ones only to see wrapped Christmas gifts under trees and mantles, bearing the names of children murdered in innocence. I’m undone. We are undone as a nation, as parents, as  teachers, as human beings. What do we do? How do we do process? Are we wrong to let life proceed?

To be perfectly honest…

Life must roll on, despite the fears, the guilt, the pain, the grief. But, life will never be the same. Never sound the same. Not without the voices of children brutally murdered. Not without the comfort of teachers and administrators who have left empty places.

Even in my yearning to have children of my own, I can’t fathom the depth of pain to which dozens of families are subjected to this day. A measure of relief fills me that I don’t have a child for which to fear. Yet, we can’t be stilted by the horror of tragedies at hand and to come.

Life must continue to roll on… 

In my classroom on Friday, students wrote about biblical leaders that they admire and why they would like to become like those leaders. Words decorated my whiteboard such as “humble,” “forgiving,” “patient,” “loving,” and “trusting.” Words ascribed to great men and women in our history. Men and women who faced tragedy after tragedy and still trusted, still forgave, still loved. Men and women who had feet planted on this rugged, broken Earth, but hearts sheltered and rejoicing in the the throne room of their Savior above.

How do we live like that?

I believe we can only trust the One who placed His Son in our place under the symbolic Christmas tree to once and for all defeat Death and Darkness. “In this world you will have tribulation, but do not fear for I have overcome the world…

Do not fear…for I am with you. Do not fear…for I am your God. Do not fear…for I will never leave you nor forsake you.

He has never left nor forsaken His people. He grieves with the families who gather bereft next to lit Christmas trees. He mourns with the loved one left holding only memories and photographs. He is love.

We can only hold onto that love in midst of tragedy. Horror is not greater than our God’s Compassion.

For more, click here to read Ann Voskamp’s thoughts on “What to do with a broken heart this Christmas.”

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