Since the Sandy Hook shooting, I’m just not the same.
On December 14th, 2012, 20 students and six staff members were gunned down at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. As the news revealed the tragic, beautiful pictures of the young souls that perished, my naïve, blissful approach to the world collapsed. If this could happen to these babies, surely mine were no different. Every time I choose to let my children out the front door, the world is there for them to experience—her blessings and curses, her goodness and evil, her angels and demons.
This past Wednesday reminded me of that lesson. Students and faculty at UCLA barricaded themselves in bathrooms, libraries, and classrooms, fearful that a gunman would come looking for his next victim. The news reported that two people were dead and surrounding schools were on lock down, unsure if the situation at UCLA would filter up the streets of Westwood. As alum of UCLA and a rabbi up the street at Sinai Temple, I thought over and over again, “This is my backyard. How could this happen here?” And I smiled a sad grimace, reminding myself, “This could happen anywhere.”
And so, the morning after, I engaged in the ritual that I was motivated to begin after the Sandy Hook shooting. I always give my children “one last kiss.”
This is not meant to be morose. Quite the opposite. I want my children to feel my embrace, to smell my perfume, to sense the wrapping of my arms around them as they explore this mysterious world. God forbid they encounter some of life’s most difficult challenges, I hope they’ll remember the kiss they received when they left that morning. That mommy is there to comfort them. That mommy is there to support them. That there is nothing to fear because mommy is there…at least in the form of a lingering kiss on a cheek.
The Talmud reminds us of the conversation between Rabbi Eliezer and his disciples. Rabbi Eliezer said, “Repent one day before your death.” His disciples inquired, “Does then one know on what day he will die?” He responded, “All the more reason he should repent today, lest he die tomorrow.”
If I dwell on the thought that tomorrow may never come, I may be paralyzed in thought and action. But I take Rabbi Eliezer’s words to heart. What do my children need from me before that door is shut? What can’t wait? Whether the sounds of sirens or celebration fill the streets of Westwood, what can I give my children so that they know I am near, that I am always close by?
Pull them close. Give your kids one last kiss. It can’t hurt, right?