It’s something of a coincidence that this week, of all weeks, my 8-year-old daughter had to master the pronunciation of the words “deceased” and “consolation.”
Thursday morning, which was also coincidentally the day 9-year-old Christina Taylor Greene was laid to rest in a casket handmade by monks in Tuscon, AZ, it was my daughter’s responsibility to stand at the lectern of IHM church (she’s a student at IHM school) and read the petition for “consolation” and “for all the deceased” during the morning mass.
She landed this gig a week ago after playing Rock/Paper/Scissors with the neighbor boy, who also wanted to read this petition. She won and had been elated about that ever since, working carefully with me every evening to make sure she pronounced “consolation” and “deceased” correctly, over and over again.
A perfect refrain for the week, as it turns out.
She recited the petition perfectly that morning and I thought of Obama’s speech the night before (perhaps the first time I’ve ever been deeply moved by a presidential speech) and the part where he said we see ourselves and our children in the victims:
For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong. We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them. In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners. Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son. In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law. In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.
And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.
So deserving of our love.
And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.
Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.
After my daughter read the petition, Fr. Bart encouraged the kids to not lash out in anger when hurt, to instead seek healing and to help heal others. That, along with Obama’s speech, are small steps in the direction of consolation, along with the stories of the acts of heroism that occurred during the shooting.
My daughter doesn’t really yet know what the reality of being deceased means, as she hasn’t lost a loved one. She can pronounce “consolation” now but has yet to express it or experience it at a deep level. When that day arrives, I hope, along with Obama, that this country really will live up to her (and all our children’s) expectations and that she’ll have reason to say, “We are so blessed. We have a good life,” like Christina used to say to her mother.
Memory Eternal, Christina, Dot, Dorwan, Judge Roll, Phyllis and Gabe.