After Friday's horrific events in Connecticut, I have to ask Why?
I've asked "Why?" several times this year - after the shootings at the Aurora movie theater and the Portland mall and after my husband passed away suddenly on May 10, 2012 from an undiagnosed medical condition.
Two years ago, my family went on a Christmas Cruise with my husband's family. We visited San Juan, Puerto Rico, strolled along the beach in St. Maarten, and went to Nassau in the Bahamas on Christmas day, 2010.
This year, my two teenage daughters and I are facing Christmas without their dad.
And once again, I have to ask Why?
I don't know the answer. But I know that my daughters and I have been very fortunate to receive so much love and support from our family, friends, fellow church members, neighbors, co-workers, and teachers.
Neighbors and members of our church family dropped off food trays, casseroles, desserts, drinks and paper products at our home that night. The next morning, two of my husband’s business associates showed up at our front door with a sandwich tray and news that they had just created a scholarship fund for our daughters at a local bank. That day we continued to receive dozens of flowers, plants, calls, cards and donations to the scholarship fund along with many food items.
The next few days were a blur – planning a funeral, selecting a casket, writing my husband’s obituary. I was supposed to being seeing the new movie "The Avengers" with my family that day, not planning my husband's funeral.
But there was one thing I could rely on and that was how technology helped me deal with the sudden loss of my husband. Within hours of hearing the news, my cell phone was flooded with calls and text messages from friends from all over the country. When I checked my computer later that night, I had received many emails along with Facebook messages and tweets, all expressing sympathy.
Many of these messages and emails were from friends, family members, former co-workers, people I had gone to college with years before, and my husband’s business associates from all over the country. I also received Facebook messages from several of the foreign exchange students that we had hosted while my daughter was in high school.
Everyday I received text messages from my friend Lynn who lives in Illinois and I had met at a Glee concert in Chicago in June 2011. Receiving all these messages from so many people helped me get through this difficult time.
Seven months later, it's still hard. But at times I have found that I have received the most support from people I haven't even met. One of my twitter friends, Lindsay in Vermont, sent me a Vermont Teddy Bear wearing a blue bow tie. I named the Teddy Bear Blaine after a character in one of our favorite TV shows, Glee. I also received sweet notes from my twitter friends Laura and Berni, who both live in Argentina.
Our friends Kari and Darin Shea opened their home in California to us when my youngest daughter and I visited in August and again when both girls and I attended a Glee event in October. These trips gave us something to look forward to and be excited about for the first time in months. I remember when Kari sent me a text one night in July and asked me if I wanted to go to a taping of the game shows "Let's Make A Deal" or "Wheel of Fortune". When I texted back that I was so happy about the upcoming trip, Kari replied that I deserved to be happy. I started crying because that was the first time since May 10 that someone said I should be happy. Most of the time I was being asked to pay a bill, fax a form, or do something.
I've received hugs and concern from the homeless man who helps me feed the stray cats in the Kroger grocery store parking lot. The manager of our local Firestone and clerks in department stores have all expressed their sympathy. We have continued to receive more support and help from my family, our friends and acquaintances in the months since my husband passed away.
My youngest daughter and I just completed a Grief Support Group 8 week session at our local Children's Hospital. At these meetings I met other women who have lost their husband's this year as well. One of the women lost her husband to a heart attack in June. She has four children, close in age to my daughters. I've found out that we have a lot in common and it has helped me to talk to someone else going through the same thing.
I just try to take it day by day. Two weeks ago, I was having a good week until I felt sad again on that Friday night. I checked my email at midnight and found an email along with a newsletter from the Director of the Grief Support Group regarding handling grief during the holidays.
I cried as I read the newsletter about how difficult the holidays can be when someone you love is no longer there. Attached to the newsletter was a link to a blog written by a woman whose daughter passed away from colon cancer a little more than a year ago.
I cried again as I read her blog and quickly sent her a tweet, expressing my sympathy on the loss of her daughter. I received an immediate tweet from her. At midnight. On a Friday night. I sent her a second tweet explaining that I lost my husband 7 months ago and now my 2 daughters and I are facing our first Christmas without their dad. She immediately responded with this tweet "Leslie It's not easy-but I have learned even tho people leave us, relationships never die. My prayers r with you and your family."
And now this tragedy has happened in a small town in Connecticut. At first I couldn't even read the story when the news first broke around noon on Friday. And now I see the pictures of the 20 children and 6 adults who died in a senseless act of violence at their school.
And now their families have to plan their loved ones funerals, pick out caskets, attend memorial services. I've done that this year and it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
All I can do is pray for their families. And I like to think that my husband was there helping to welcome these 26 souls to heaven on Friday.