I hear the news, I see the photographs, I shut my eyes tight and gulp down the sobs that threaten. Yet a few tears escape, a sob makes it up my throat, I gulp it back down. Then the slide show begins in my head, I see myself walking up the sidewalk staring into the face of the fire chief, he says “I am sorry”. I see myself bent over with the shock of it, my mouth open, the single word “no” erupts. Then I see my husbands arms around me. I can’t stand still, I am pacing, trying to grasp it. The rest is a blur. Then I see myself standing in front of the church in my black dress, hugging the many, oh so many, people that come to honor my son. I cry for this person, I cry for me. I now know the difference between sympathy and empathy. Mixed in with my personal slide show is imagined faces of parents looking into the face of emergency personnel or clergy. I feel the hope that is held so tightly crushed. I feel them bend over and utter that one word, NO.
There is a difference between sympathy and empathy. Empathy hurts, it reopens wounds. Empathy threatens to pull me back into a dark place, I wonder if I go there, will I come back? I swallow these feelings, like I swallow my sobs. I allow a few tears, but I can’t go there again. I pray for these families that went home without their babies, to Christmas trees and bright lights. I pray for peace. I pray for good night’s sleep. I pray for the comfort of the Almighty to encompass them.
And then, in the most unexpected place, I am reminded God cares. I don’t need to go to that dark place. Walking out of Walmart, he reminds me, there is light, always there is light, and I feel a peace wash over me. He loves me enough to take my breath away int the beauty of a sunrise. He reminds me, after the dark of the night there is always light. An unexpected joy washes over me, right there in the parking lot of Walmart. And, my heart cries, God is good, all the time.