Since Friday’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, a photo of Robert and Alissa Parker, parents of six-year-old Emilie Parker, has been circulating in the papers, online, and on TV. In it, Emilie’s father has his arm around his wife, and he appears shocked and dazed by news no parent should ever be made to hear. Her mother, a visible and crumpled tissue in her right hand, seems stricken with what had to have been disbelief and unimaginable grief. It should have been a very private moment between them, but the photograph will no doubt come to serve as an iconic image of one of the most tragic mass slayings in the nation’s history—a killing spree that left twenty children, all of them six and seven years old, dead from multiple gunshot wounds.
Any mother or father looking at the grieving parents of Emilie Parker—a lover of all things new, but food—would have to know that there could be no greater suffering than that. I had a very brief taste of it when, as a result of a lab test error, my own daughter, now grown, was wrongly diagnosed in her first year with what is often a fatal illness. For a few hours, I waited, alone, while her doctor ran the test again, and I remember feeling that, were she to die, I would likely not survive the loss.
I think only faith can make it possible to endure that kind of pain and to have hope for renewal in life. May the grieving parents of Newtown find it, if it is lost; hold tight to it; and be healed by it.