We just got back from Disney World. When we told the kids about my cancer diagnosis back in the summer, we promised them that we would celebrate with a trip to Disney World once my surgery and any treatments were over. This was that trip. But something else that motivated me to plan this trip was the shattered sense of limitless time that came with my diagnosis. Even though my prognosis is excellent, I lost any sense of security that I have infinite time with my children, any sense of a guarantee that we have years and years together in which to do all of the things we want to do. So "wouldn't it be fun to go to Disney World around Christmas someday?" suddenly became "we're going to Disney World next month!"
So we were in Disney World, surrounded by sweet, innocent, wide-eyed children at the mecca for sweet, innocent, wide-eyed children, when we heard about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. My phone had run out of battery power early in the day on Friday so I didn't have access to the news, but at one point David asked me where Newtown was, because there had been a shooting there. But it wasn't until we were back in the hotel when we learned of the magnitude of the horror. It just hits so close to home on so many levels -- as the parent of elementary-aged kids, as a Connecticut native. Connecticut is a small state, and when you grow up there it feels like you "know" all of the towns much more than in any other place I've lived, just because none of them are much more than an hour away. Newtown is only 20 minutes from my hometown, and I immediately thought about my college friends from Newtown. Leann. Dan. My mother has friends with children who teach at Sandy Hook. My friend Maureen sent us an email to let us know that Sean, who accompanied her on the piano whenever she sang at 10:00 mass, has a son at Sandy Hook. Sean played the piano in our wedding. His son, Brendan, was okay, but they lost many close friends on Friday, including the school psychologist.
To be at Disney World this weekend was to experience moments of great joy with my children, followed by that "punched in the gut" feeling when thinking about the families who had these kind of moments with their own children permanently and savagely taken from them.
On the plane ride home, my own beautiful kindergartner fell asleep on my lap with her ridiculously oversized Disney World lollipop still in her mouth:
I stroked her soft baby cheeks and wondered where she got that scratch and counted her eyelashes and just cried.
I cried again when I saw the armed police officer outside our elementary school when I dropped the kids off this morning, even though his presence brought me comfort.
Time with my children, experiences with my family: one gift from my diagnosis was great clarity, and these are the only things that matter to me. We might not have tomorrow -- that is of course the reality for all of us, although a cancer diagnosis will help drive the point home. But you know what? Cancer happens. Accidents happen. But a massacre of babies at an elementary school? THIS CANNOT HAPPEN AGAIN.