Invitation: Come for Comfort

On Saturday afternoon I was at the nail place getting my no-chip manicure, looking at and listening to the people around me, which feels a bit like watching TV–calming and weird at the same time. There were two young women talking about their plans to go out drinking, discussing the names of drinks they planned to try: the “Dirty Girl Scout,” the “Naked Girl Scout,” and something with the words “blow job” in the title. There was a lady talking about her plans for the family Christmas dinner she was making, and how some of the kids could eat off of Christmas plates but not all could because she didn’t have enough for everyone, but maybe she should go to Kohl’s and buy more? And then there was the gigantic football player and his girlfriend: he was getting a mani-pedi, she was texting her friends.

Then the Christmas music started, specifically, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and tears started running down my cheeks because all I have on my mind are the people of Newton, Connecticut and their families. I was crying, but couldn’t wipe my face because my hands were soaking in polish remover, and this seemed both ridiculous and completely appropriate at the same time. We go about our regular, sweet, silly little lives, because what else would we do, and at the same time we are all, as one of the characters in Jan Karon’s lovely “Mitford” novels says, “trying to swallow something that won’t go down.”broken-hearts-on-hands

I’ve been wondering for days whether to write this post because what in God’s name can anyone say or do?  That is the question I was asking myself on Saturday, sitting there in the nail place, especially when the owner’s two little boys came in and crammed themselves into one pedicure chair together and played Angry Birds on an i-Pad. What can I do? What can I say? What can I do?

So this post has just been a draft, and would have remained as such until today’s news of the funerals started coming out, and I realized that I was actually afraid to take my 7-year old son out shopping on our way home tonight. What they say when school shootings happen is always the same: “Things like this don’t happen here.” But that has never been true. Things like this happen here, wherever you are reading this; here is Virginia, Oregon, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Norway…the bottom line is that Newton, Connecticut is anywhere, everywhere, and those children and those families are us. All of us.

My intention in writing this post is to invite you to come and be here. Something like a virtual prayer service. Just be here, with whatever you have, whatever you can offer, whatever you feel. Come and sit here, in front of your computer screen, and pray as hard as you can, pray with everything in your heart. Cry or breathe, let your heart break open, then pray some more, because it matters and you won’t be alone. I truly believe that when we have no idea what to bring but bring ourselves anyway, it matters. If all you have to offer is grief, then sit here in front of your computer with your grief. You aren’t alone, and it matters. Your grief matters. Your love matters. There is love here. There is heart here. Because you are here and you aren’t alone.
brokenheartThe poet Denise Levertov wrote, “In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” That is what made me write this post. And because, as the Rilke poem below tells us, when grief is all you have, then grief is what you bring. It is right and good to demand that God hear our grief and help us bear it.

Read the poem. And if you want to let me know that you were here, if it helps you to do that, I promise you that your prayers will be in my heart as I keep offering up whatever I have to offer. Your prayers will echo in the hearts of everyone who is here reading, and that matters. Together we can share what feels unbearable, together all our prayers will mean something, not just to us individually but to everyone else in pain. I promise that too.

I read this quote from one of the Newton school neighbors who took some children into his home to wait for their parents: “This little boy turns around, and composes himself, and he looks at me like he had just removed himself from the carnage and he says, ‘Just saying, your house is very small,'” Rosen said. “I wanted to tell him, ‘I love you. I love you.'”

When our hearts are broken, sometimes love comes out. It will never be enough, but it matters more than we ever know. I love you. I love you.

Pushing Through

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
 in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.

Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)

18 thoughts on “Invitation: Come for Comfort

Add yours

  1. The mosque and Peoples of Faith are sponsoring a vigil tomorrow/Tuesday at 5:15pm on the Quad. Don’t know if that will help or not, but it won’t hurt.


  2. Thank you for letting me know that you are there to listen and pray with me and all those who have read this. I have been transported to a time when my husband and I lost our daughter, Melissa. There simply are no words that can express the intensity of feeling that the friends and families are experiencing right now. I pray that knowing that others care will help surround them with the love and concern that can help them survive this initial shock. My experience taught me that grief takes many forms and we must accept everyone’s way through it. My prayer is for the strong families and school staff who try every day to protect their children.


  3. Thank you, Leslie. I feel like all I’ve done for three days is roam the internet, read favoured blogs, search out the shared grief and wisdom and comfort from like minded others. I pray for strength, for peace for the mothers and fathers staring at presents wrapped under the trees that their children will never open. I want to scream, I too don’t know what to do. So I love my children, and I pray, and I trust and trust and trust in my loving God. And I chant “Peace on Earth Goodwill to all”.


    1. Dear Lana,

      Thank you for sharing these thoughts and for being here. I’m sending so much love to you, and sharing the same grief and helplessness and crazy faith, all at the same time.

      With love,



  4. Thank you. I am stumbling through so many feelings now. Disbelief, anger, sadness, guilt, fear and a longing for an answer where none exist or could ever be enough. I find myself wishing I was more grateful, that I wasn’t in the face of such tragedy, yet…I stumble… Looking for a place to send my rage and sorrow, my grief…

    Thank you for writing. It helped me.


  5. My heart goes out to you.
    And also a request: Please please may the American people come to their senses and change their unique and harmful legislation regarding gun ownership.
    That is what I would pray for.

    From Michalsuz, Wellington, New Zealand


  6. Leslie, Thank you for putting into words what so many of us are feeling. The grief is unbearable alone. Knowing that you have a community to share it with helps.My prayer is for the strenght to go on living and find meaning in life and love.


  7. Sometimes I think, “What more can possibly be said when there seem to be no words to adequately express what we feel?” So I am grateful that you offer not only heartfelt, beautiful words but a place and a way for us to join, even electronically, in prayer. Blessings to you and your family, Leslie.


  8. Hi, Leslie-

    I wanted you to know I was here praying for the parents who have gone through inexplicable grief, and all who have been affected by this senseless violence in whatever way. I try to remember that God will not abandon us, He will always be there for us.
    I love you. Thanks for doing this.


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