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Remembering... the happy and the sad

Today is my little sister J's birthday, Happy Birthday J!! xx

 

It's also the 3rd anniversary of the Amish school killings*. Below is an op-ed piece I wrote a week after this heinous crime originally happened. I thought it fitting to republish it here today, lest we forget...

  

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I have done some terrible things in my life. Things that haunt me. But the worst is the fact that for the longest time I could not forgive. I carried my hurts like badges of honor, when in essence they were the most shameful part of me.

 

For the past week, I have been trying to live my life, but I can't seem to get the Amish schoolhouse slaughtering out of my head.

 

With all the talk of the religious right, what people forget is that to be a Christian is to set yourself apart from the world.

 

The Amish truly set themselves apart. And maybe that’s why they did something so shocking, it rocked me and so much of the outside world to the core.

 

They instantly forgave Charles Roberts IV, a man who crashed their insulated life, murdered their innocents and changed their world forever.

 

I read about the mothers preparing their own precious girls for burial, dressing them in snow-white dresses they made – to symbolize the purity of heaven.

 

I remembered my own loss of loved ones and how paralyzed I was each time, only realizing months after, what I could have, should have, done. But these women sewed dresses and laid their hands on their little ones who had been shattered by bullets. They didn’t pay someone thousands of dollars to prepare them so that in the end, their own family would not recognize them.

 

Raised a Catholic, I remember my first Holy Communion, Confirmation and Wedding… days when I dressed in snow white. I had been taught it was to symbolize my purity – but the Amish admit to being sinners and fix their eyes on heaven. They say of their children’s murderer, “We must forgive him. If we don’t forgive him and reach out to his family, how will God forgive us?”

 

I remember when I decided to forgive everyone in my life who had hurt me. What prompted it was the realization of my hurting others, of breaking a covenant that I had had with God since I was a little girl. A lesson, that for all my worldliness, I had to learn the hard way, when breathing became difficult.

 

Watch the news on any given day and you’ll see victims’ families having their say when the accused becomes the convicted and is sentenced. Some say, “Justice has been served. I can finally sleep.” Others say, “I don’t think the punishment was severe enough.” And still others, dancing around a vague, out of reach feeling… “I thought there would be closure but there isn’t.”

 

I don’t know what I would feel or say in their shoes, but I do know closure is highly overrated. Why would you want to get over a loss of someone you love? Yes, yes. You want to stop hurting and later, rather than sooner, you do. But you never want to let go of the loved ones, and life is nothing if not a series of losses, and how we deal with them is what makes us who we are. On the other hand, assigning blame and holding onto hurt only creates a bleeding wound inside you. A wound that leaves an ugly scar, a loss of faith, hope and openness to love. Hurts fade. Wounds heal. But, scars? Forever.

 

Maybe the Amish don’t know it, but it seems to me that their public display of forgiveness hurled them into our world and made our entire society look shabby and powerless in comparison to their plain clothes and no-tech world.

 

Even our grandiose move to compassion seems inadequate. With the outpouring of more than a million dollars in donations, the Amish have insisted that a fund also be established for the Roberts Family.

 

We should follow the Amish example.

 

Forgive Charles Roberts. Pray for his family. And remember these angels, especially the next time someone hurts you…

 

Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12

Marian Fisher, 13

Naomi Rose Ebersol, 7

Mary Liz Miller, 8,

Lena Miller, 7

 

*Amish school shooting refers to an attack that occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States, on the date of October 2, 2006.Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and eventually shot and killed five girls (aged 6–13) before committing suicide in the schoolhouse. (wiki)

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Taken on June 4, 2009