Browsing through a morning of posts on Facebook, I see a picture of a youth soccer team captioned as the season’s final game won. I look closer at the sweet faces of nine-year old boys and think how innocent they all are. How untouched by life. Thrilled they won. Excited they played soccer. Being silly.
Then it hit me my son was just nine. He was a happy sweet boy playing soccer one day, then the next he was trying to convince someone he flagged down on the road his mother had been shot and to call 911. Like a punch in the stomach, I had to catch my breath as I stared at the picture. I cried. He was just a little boy, much like those little boys in the picture, until suddenly he wasn’t. And I will always mourn that loss.
I wonder what it must feel like for him. Shortly after I was discharged from the hospital I had asked him how he was doing. He non-emotionally declared ‘I am the man of the house now’. When I reminded him he was still just my little boy and I knew he must be very sad about losing his dad, he flatly stated “I’m over it.”
That early interaction has defined all others. He is unwilling to communicate any of his feelings about his father or what happened. When I inquire, he shuts me down by insisting he does not want to talk about it with me. I will try again another day but for now leave it until he is ready, yet I always wonder how he can possibly not have so many conflicted feelings that it perhaps is too overwhelming to delve into any one of them.
It is one thing to hate me, to be so possessive or obsessed, or whatever it is that would make a man want to kill the woman he professes to love, the mother of his children. It is quite another to be so cruel and heartless he’d destroy his children by robbing them of their innocence, their sense of safety and security, and leave them with disparate images of who he was and what love is. I might have forgiven him my own trauma, but I find it impossible to dismiss the pain which he inflicted on them.
I am grateful to have survived to love my children. To show them what love is, how it feels, to unwrap those images. Yet every year my son’s birthday will be connected to the shooting. Every. Single. Year. The mental picture of a joyous, carefree nine-year old at his birthday party is a stark contrast to the lifetime he aged in those few minutes the following day.
With my dying breath I will fight for my children, and for all children so they can live in healthy, loving and safe homes. I don’t even think it’s a mission anymore, it has become such a part of me, with God’s help, to change the landscape so this can happen.