Sometimes I wonder why I write when few of my experiences cannot be expressed in a song, poem, or expression that someone else has already put on paper. After watching every bit of available news on Friday evening, I put Avril Lavigne’s “Innocence” on repeat (yes, my own flash back to middle school) and cried for the same reason the rest of the country did—6 and 7 year olds? Kindergarteners? In the words of our president, beautiful 5-10 year olds with their whole lives ahead of them. Why?
Today, it was “Flags” by Brooke Fraser. “I don’t know why the innocents fall while the monsters still stand.” I don’t.
My students wrote some extraordinarily heartfelt, albeit somewhat tactless, cards and letters. Many have lost loved ones to homicide, some have watched them die, one was unfortunately re-traumatized during our conversation and left class in tears, but eventually wrote a beautiful letter of encouragement. At the beginning of the next class, a student squinted at me: “I dare say those teachers who died for their kids—would you do that, Ms. G? Would I want to be in your class if there was a shooter here?” I told them that I wish I could say I would, and they would, but that’s the thing about heroes—you don’t know until it happens, and I hope my kids never find out.
That wasn’t enough. They wanted to know for sure.
And that’s when it struck me. These teachers showed real love, and the world knows it. The world is dying for it, maybe literally. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends” is hard to deny. I read this poem after school, one that has been personally meaningful to me and is breathtakingly beautiful in its original French, and it is my prayer for the grieving community. (Italics mine)
Jesus, you are my true friend, my only friend.
You take part in all my misfortunes;
You take them on yourself;
You know how to change them into blessings.
You listen to me with the greatest kindness
when I relate my troubles to you,
and you always have balm to pour on my wounds.
I find you at all times, I find you everywhere,
You never go away;
if I have to change my dwelling, I find you wherever I go.
You are never weary of listening to me,
You are never tired of doing me good.
I am certain of being beloved by you if I love you;
my goods are nothing to you,
and by bestowing yours on me you never grow poor.
However miserable I may be,
no one nobler or wiser or even holier
can come between you and me,
and deprive me of your friendship;
and death, which tears us away from all other friends,
will unite me forever to you.
All the humiliations attached to old age
or to the loss of honor will never detach you from me.
On the contrary, I shall never enjoy you more fully,
and you will never be closer to me
than when everything seems to conspire against me,
to overwhelm me, and to cast me down.
You bear with all my faults with extreme patience,
and even my want of fidelity and ingratitude
do not wound you to such a degree
as to make you unwilling to receive me back
when I return to you.
Jesus, grant that I may die praising you,
that I may die loving you,
that I may die for the love of you. Amen.
–St. Claude La Colombiere SJ