This heart-rending photo, captured by Justin Lane of the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), paints the vivid picture of a very real horror many families are experiencing after this morning's horror in Newtown, CT.
A couple thousand miles away from Connecticut, and a number of hours later, I watched as my 7-year old son pranced merrily down the aisle at church, shadowing his new best friend, Jason -- the sound and lighting tech at church. Wherever Jason was, there was Joshua. In all his glory of electronics, and lights, and plugs, and wires, and speakers -- Joshua's face beamed a smile from ear to ear, revealing his big front teeth with just as big a gap in between them.
Joshua was helping Jason prepare the sanctuary for tonight's Christmas cantata to be sung by the children's and adult choir. He pranced behind Jason -- almost robotically, deliberately stepping heel-to-toe in all of his glee. He glanced back at my wife and me ever so briefly. We noticed the joy in his face. And we smiled at each other, knowing what the other was thinking: "God, thank you."
I leaned over and said to Heather, "There are some parents in Connecticut who were probably going to take their children to church tonight to watch them sing in a Christmas concert. But they're not now. Their children have been taken from them. But we have ours." Tears welled in her eyes, and she quietly spoke, "Don't make me cry." I gently touched her leg, hoping to convey the message, "I will never let that happen to your sons." But I knew better.
To the families who fell victim in Connecticut this morning, to the families who lost their husbands, their wives, their sons, their daughters, their grandchildren, their parents, their grandparents -- I am so terribly sorry for your loss.
I cried a small handful of times throughout the day.
I held my children just a little bit tighter and longer today than I usually do.
I kissed my wife a little more tenderly and lovingly than I usually do.
I touched them.
I hugged them.
I prayed for them.
I prayed with them -- for you,
Because I know my family could also be taken from me at any instant of any day.
I won't begin to try to answer your "Why's?" because I don't pretend to know all the answers, if I even know any.
I'm not God, and I don't know why He allows such tragedy.
I don't know why He allowed it to happen to you.
And I certainly don't know why He didn't allow it to happen to me.
But I DO know this: God loves you.
As you walk through the dark, cold, ugly valley of the shadow of death, YAHWEH IS STILL WITH YOU.
And this I also know: I am praying for you, for your families, for the surviving children and teachers. Not only me, but other American Christians are praying for you;
European Christians are praying for you;
Canadian Christians are praying for you;
African Christians are praying for you;
Arab Christians are praying for you;
Asian Christians are praying for you.
South American Christians are praying for you.
No doubt, we all wish we could turn back hands of time and have this day end differently -- much differently -- for you.
We wish you could tuck your sons and daughters into bed once again.
We wish you could hug your husbands and wives once again.
None of us want to imagine taking our children to school one day and having it be the last hug, the last kiss, the last goodbye we would ever receive from them.
None of us want to imagine kissing our parents or spouses goodbye for a final time.
None of us would ever want to be in your shoes.
But know this: people close to you will walk with you. If I was there, I'd be right next to you. And we will all cherish our families a little bit more. Sadly, it took your terrible loss to get us there. And we know you would feel the same for us if we were in your position.
We are sorry, Newtown's families.
I am sorry.
I do hope you are able -- somehow -- to receive the joy of Christmas even this year amidst your sorrow.
I love you,
Grace to you,