Here we are again. In mourning, shocked and left without words to communicate our feelings as we watched the horror as more innocent people died in Monday’s attack at the Boston Marathon.
For the most part, I have avoided reading about it. It’s not intentional. It’s just this time I feel so tired thinking of the violence, the missing limbs, the terror, the blood, the death, the impossible grief. It really is a lot to think about, and it’s all so horrible.
I am so, so tired of horrible.
My fifth grader brought it up at dinner last night. It was obvious that his little brother knew nothing about it, and I badly hoped big brother would shove his taco deep in his mouth so that I didn’t have to explain it.
No such luck. My youngest began inquiring, with his top front tooth so loose that it precariously dangled mid-mouth making me wince at every glance. Still, I managed to watch him as he exclaimed, “What?! A bomb blew up a trash can?!!”
Between that baby tooth clinging to childhood (even if it was totally gross), and his innocent response, I couldn’t believe that I was supposed to explain to him “No, honey, not just a trash can. But beautiful, innocent and good people blew up too, including a little boy just your age.”
Really, this is parenting in the 21st century? And, no I did not say that.
Please, please I thought, let this conversation end with the spectacle of the trash can blowing up instead of the horror of the people nearby. But before I could transition us into something more mundane and blissful, his brother confirmed that the story was much more explosive than that.
So my dangly-tooth boy, without the enthusiasm that came with the first declaration incredulously asked, “So people died?”
Calmly and without any of the emotion that engulfed me, I said, “Yes, honey. People died, and it’s very sad.”
Seconds later he was in his daddy’s arms hugging him tight, and I sat stoically as I listened to my older son explain what he learned about bombs being either hand-detonated or device-detonated from a friend at school. He wanted to know what kind of bomb was used.
I told him I didn’t know and that to the people who died or lost loved ones I don’t think it matters much. He quietly agreed and alas, the fiesta of Taco Tuesday night and the macabre conversation served with it was over.
Yet, the anguish goes on for the people affected by Monday’s tragedy, just as it has gone on for the families of Sandy Hook Elementary who lost children or loved ones in the December shooting.
Of course, neither is just a story of tragedy but also of heroics, of a diverse country that unites in sorrow and of guardian angels whose watchful eye spared even more death under the auspices of luck or circumstance.
Still, I feel weary. Those stories might be inspiring, but they are nonetheless related to the bitterness of unnatural death and the cruel irony of maiming athletes at the end of a triumphant race.
I don’t run much anymore – maybe once or twice a week. I ran for years though, even completing a few half-marathons. This was quite an accomplishment for me since I never considered myself athletic and grew up with my mother telling me if I ran my uterus would fall out on the side of the road. (For the record, I still have all my parts.)
This past weekend, my older son and I ran a 5k that benefitted a local foundation, and my husband accompanied his younger brother on the one mile fun run. It was a tough race for me because like I said, I don’t run as often anymore.
But here’s the thing I learned in my years of running and was reminded of over the weekend and once again, after Monday’s tragedy.
I can endure. I can go farther and longer than I think is possible – in running and in life. I can push and while I don’t ever win the race, I somehow am victorious for simply propelling forward.
I was proud of my race time, and was even prouder of my son who came in first for his age group. It was a happy day, and it didn’t occur to me to be grateful that no bombs went off at the finish line.
But whether you run or not, we humans are resilient. We endure. We pick up and move forward even when we should not have to; even when our grief feels paralyzing. Even when we are tired we move–because life with both its heroes and its haters moves too, and the only real way to lose a race is to stop.
Still when I think of that picture of Martin Richard, the 8-year old boy, with the big toothy grin who was killed, I ache. But I also know I have to keep moving toward the goodness and peace that still exists in this world.
I have to move past the heartbreak and the horror because my own little boy, who miraculously managed to keep that dangly baby tooth attached through the night and the better part of the next day, finally let it go. And, now he has a whole new smile, and I don’t have time to stop and miss one priceless moment of joy that comes from his gape-y grin.