Like every other parent in the country -- or maybe even the world -- I've spent the last week reevaluating.
Crying. Praying. Holding my children close. Breathing them in. Thanking God that they are still here with me.
In moments when I am alone, I find myself with unbidden tears streaming down my face. I don't even realize they are there until they start dripping onto my shirt and then I remember.
I can't stop thinking about it. Even when I don't think that I'm thinking about it, it's still there, niggling away at my subconscious. Those names. Those faces. Those ages. The same age as my sweet Josie.
I ache for those mommies and daddies. Those brothers and sisters and grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends. I keep feeling like I'm going to throw up.
I want to sleep. To forget. To go back in time.
That day, that horrible day, my two oldest girls came and sat with me on my bed and we hugged each other and cried. They are 8 and 7. I can't figure out how to explain to them that we are living in a world where things like this happen.
Someone once said that whenever bad things happen, you should always look for the good. Look for the helpers, because someone will always be there helping. And it's true. There are moments of good in all bad situations. I try to tell them this. I try to remember it myself.
But on the inside I'm thinking, "Is it safe to go to the library? Should we go to the movie theater? Are we safe at the mall? At church? At a Christmas play? Anywhere?"
And I don't know the answer.
A friend of mine told me that her mom used to pray for a hedge of protection around each of her children and for an angel to stand guard at every window and every door. That's seems like such an old-fashioned notion, doesn't it?
You may or may not be a Christian or believe in God, and that's fine. But this past week has just been too much for me to stand. I'll admit that I have fallen to my knees more than once. I always seem to return to the question of "why?" and I guess that's just not for me to know.
We pray for miracles. We hope for them and we cross our fingers and we bargain with God and we wish on stars.
But maybe the miracles are happening all around us. Maybe every single minute that I get to spend with my four babies is a miracle. I never really thought about that before this week.
What if they were gone tomorrow? Did I do enough? Did I hug them tight enough? Did I help them feel special and happy and important? Did they know that they mean EVERYTHING to me? Did I make it clear enough to them?
Probably not. I probably said something like, "Stop whining!" or "Quit being a pest!" or "I can't pick you up right now," or "Shhh, Mommy's on the phone" or "wait until I'm done with my email" or "I'll color with you after I check Facebook" or something else that, in retrospect, is ridiculously stupid.
What is wrong with me? Where are my priorities? What wouldn't these parents give for just one more minute with their precious little babies?
As I check on my children while they sleep (because I can't), check the locks on the doors, check the alarms, and check on my children yet again, I pray that God will help me to appreciate the miracles that are in my life this Christmas. There is no guarantee that they will be here next Christmas - or even tomorrow.
And I'm praying something else, too - an old prayer that's new to me... I'm praying for a hedge of protection around my children, please God, please. And for an angel at every window and every door.