Last night I sat with my daughter and watched the news – something I would not have expected to do a year ago. So much has happened in the past 12 months: she has grown from being a trouser wearing tomgirl into a skirt wearing, young woman with pierced ears, a greater collection of make up than her mother and the ubiquitous smart phone. Last summer her biggest concerns had been her SATs, this year she has become alert to uncertainties of western ‘civilisation’, not quite able to get her head around her country choosing to leave Europe and the reality of a ‘superpower nation’ choosing an insensitive buffoon as their leader.
So we sat and watched the news together. Social media being what it is, my daughter had discovered the events in Manchester before I had; she was seeking more info, I was catching up. We sat together and our hearts broke.
Our hearts broke for the children whose dream night had ended in trauma, for those in hospital, those reliving the nightmares at home, those lost and those who had died. Our hearts broke for the parents who were mourning, sitting by bedsides, by telephones, searching the streets. Our hearts broke for those who had survived as we watched them retell their experiences – those who needed to keep telling the story, to purge themselves, and those too stunned to speak. Our hearts broke for those who would be suffering from PTSD, from survivor’s guilt, from a misplaced sense of responsibility. Our hearts even broke for the young singer, who according to my daughter’s sources, was also in hospital, who was also traumatised, who was struggling with a sense of guilt for ‘luring’ her fans into a death trap, who was considering giving it all up.
Did our hearts also break for the parents whose son had taken his own life? The parents who had left violence behind to start a new life, who had loved their son and done everything they could to give him the very best. Did our hearts break for the mother and father who will never be able to publicly grieve their son, their child who was neither a ‘monster’ nor a ‘loser’, but their beloved child? Parents racked with grief and guilt, wondering where on earth did they go wrong, how, for heaven’s sake could they not have noticed the influences that had brought their son to this desperate place? At what point did he no longer value the sanctity of life, including his own?
We lit a candle.
What else could we do? Too far away to provide food and lifts, too young to give blood.
We prayed, words….
Words of despair, words of brokenness, words for the injured, the lost, the traumatised. We gave thanks for the medics, the taxi drivers, the givers of food, water, shelter, comfort. We gave thanks that there are more people doing good, doing love, doing kindness, than there are people doing evil.
We extinguished the candle before going to bed, and as we watched the bright light of the flame turn to a smoulder that curled and twisted its way to heaven, we were reminded that God’s light is always present, whether we can see it or not. Even when darkness encroaches and closes in around us, God’s love is never extinguished.