In Response to Tragedy – An Open Letter to Adam

I, as so many around the country and the world, am grieving the loss of the innocent children and adults whose lives you took last Friday.  I still cannot watch the news or look at their faces without feeling my throat tighten and my eyes filling up.  Yet, this morning, I was drawn to rise early and write to you – because next to all those innocent faces, I also saw, dear Adam, your face.  I know how very desperately you did not want to be seen or to be known.  So, I am praying that this letter reaches you by the Grace only God can provide.

You may wonder, Adam, how I see you.  Well, in part, I see you though the eyes of my beautiful seven year old grandson who has autism.  You see, last year, at his end-of-year program, he decided he just could not walk out onto the stage with all those people staring.  Like you, though perhaps for different reasons, he decided he just could not be seen in that way.

And, as I watched the news, I saw your picture.  And, I saw you.  My first overwhelming thought was why the picture of you was so young – thirteen I believe.  I wondered how it was in this digital age no one, not even a national network, could find a more recent picture of you.  Did no one have a birthday or holiday picture?  Were there no pictures from any family gatherings, events, special occasions?  Was there no one who carried a picture of you on their smart phone?  Was there no one who held a more recent picture of you at anytime over the past seven years?  I came to know more of you, Adam, by what I did not see.

Later I heard that the first person you killed was your mother.  This was so very heartbreaking to hold.  As just a child, you could not have known or seen what was hidden deep in your mother’s heart.  I suspect that what was hidden there was her tender love for you yet sadly buried under the frustration and desperation a mother feels when confronted with an unrelenting helplessness to help her struggling child.  Sadly, it seems you did not feel this from your mother or, perhaps you did, but did not feel worthy of it.  I am so very sorry for this and regret that we will never know.

And, that picture of you at thirteen.  I saw you clearly, Adam, already hiding – hiding your face down from the camera and my heart ached for the pain already becoming unbearable for you.  Later, a schoolmate would say you hated to be up in front of the class as you would get all red in the face.  What shame you must have carried every day going to school until, finally, home schooling was the only bearable option.  I, like my grandson, for different reasons, also so wanted to hide as a young child.  This place in my heart knows you well, dear Adam.  From me, by only God’s Grace, you cannot hide.  I see you and I know you, tenderly.

Tenderly because I’m sure you did not realize, until the moment you passed, that you were really not going to escape anything.  God’s Grace requires that all hatred and evil be purged for it is the only way healing can happen for all.  It is why the Bible tells us we must reap what we have sown.  So, for all the tenderness and understanding my heart feels for you, for all I see and know of you my brother, our Beloved God loves you most of all.  And, only in His care do I pray you will come to know the amazing Grace that purges all fear, hatred and evil so though once blind you will see. 

And, only then, dear Adam, will you see and know, fully, the tender faces of the children you killed.  Only then will you look into their eyes and recognize their fear as your fear.  Only then will you feel their deep suffering as your suffering.  Only then will you look upon them and, for the first time, fully recognize yourself.

And, perhaps then, it may also be possible for you to feel the love that is felt for you in this moment by this stranger you never knew.

But knew you.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “In Response to Tragedy – An Open Letter to Adam

  1. Regina

    Amen. So eloquently written, filled with deep compassion and profound love, deep understanding and profound insight, touching beyond words. Thank you. It is as if you wrote from the One Heart, which included mine. God Bless each and everyone.

  2. Rev. Nancy in Austin, TX

    Thank you, dear Rev. Stephanie, for your compassionate way of seeing this young man, who, with a quick sound-bite was labeled “monster” by those who do not see as deeply or as tenderly as you. I, too, am thinking of Adam and of his remaining earth-family, who are living victims of this heartbreaking tragedy. I can only imagine how they must feel as they grieve and try to make sense of what has happened, as their privacy is being torn away in relentless pursuit of one more detail.
    I hope that the collective sacrifice made by those who were killed opens and expresses — as Regina said — the One Heart, so that the season of Love and Peace becomes a year-round way of walking in the world.

  3. Ilona Kwiecien

    Very touching and a perspective that I, for one, have not heard in the midst of the endless coverage and analysis. I hope all are at peace

  4. Kathy Dancing Heart Gregg

    Yes, we need to focus on Adam–how all of us, as a part of our society, let him down. Maybe his parents–where is his father?–tried. Maybe his school tried, but we are still so clumsy in understanding the delicate state of mind of someone who may be very gifted but whose gift also creates vulnerability. That person is different, sensitive, doesn’t fit in, is ostracized by his peers who don’t understand him. He feels unacceptable, despairing, alienated and full of rage. Of course we need better gun control, but even more we need a society that is sensitive to differences and loving in the care for them.

    Kathy Gregg

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