Empathy for unknown mom of Florida victim

Published 2:05 am Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When my eyes blinked open the morning after Valentine’s Day, I thought about her. I don’t know her name, but she was on my mind as I woke up to a new day.

“She’s waking up to the reality that her child died yesterday,” I whispered as my feet hit the floor. “It’s not a news story for her.”

As I sipped my first cup of coffee, I wondered what she was facing on this day. Did she have to identify her son or daughter before authorities released the body? “The body,” those words echoed in my head as I dressed.

That is what this woman, whom I don’t know, has as this-moment’s reality — her child’s dead body.

Does that sound too harsh? Is it too descriptive to say “dead body?” Should I say instead that her child passed away, crossed over, went to glory, is gone to meet Jesus or Muhammad or merged with divine energy or whatever sanitary way we humans find to name death?

My brain screams “NO;” there is no way to sanitize this if you are that mother. She understands in a personal way that when the lungs breathe for the last time and a heart takes its final beat, it is the death of a human, and that human was her baby.

All day long, she stayed on my mind. As I ate lunch with friends, was she choosing a casket? Was she being strong for children who looked to her for answers to questions about why their sibling was never coming home again?

When I picked my daughter up at her grandfather’s house, was this woman sitting with grandparents who struggled with their own grief? Were they holding her or was she being strong for them, too?

That evening as I read posts on social media commenting on the shooting at a high school on Valentine’s Day, I knew that none of the words meant anything to her. The arguments between people on the political left or right, those for and against gun control, seemed petty when I thought about her standing in an empty bedroom.

As I prepared for sleep, did she lie down on the bed hugging the pillow that cradled her child’s head that last night before that horrible day? Did she cry herself to sleep or did sleep fail to come and deliver her for a while from the nightmare she is living?

It is so easy for the emotion surrounding an issue like gun control to sweep us up in its energy. We choose our sides and defend our positions, saying things to each other on Facebook we’d never say face-to-face. Oh no, we won’t budge from our stance.

We want our assault rifles is the cry from one side. We don’t want you to have them screams the other side. It all gets very nasty, very quickly, and I’m as guilty as anyone. I think my views are correct and I am unwilling to make any compromise.

Has she risen from that cold bed to search a closet for the final outfit her child will wear? Is she remembering the last conversation? Does she try to recall whether she hugged him or her before they both rushed into their day?

On Facebook, they are talking about candlelight vigils and protest marches. People are angry, frustrated and incredibly sad. They are crying, praying, and asking why this keeps happening — why so many innocent people are dying, especially children.

Reporters talk about the tragedy, dig up everything they can about those involved. Politicians carefully walk a line between expressing condolences and stating a new position on the gun issue.

Meanwhile, this woman in Florida, the one whose name I don’t know, sent a child to school expecting that child to be safe and to come home. That did not happen.

And, while people and politicians argue about guns, she looks into a casket and sees the face of her dead child.


Nancy Blackmon is a yoga teacher and a former newspaper editor.