Last Friday, tragedy struck a small town in Connecticut. A troubled young man ravaged an elementary school with guns, killing 26 people. Twenty of the victims were children, all between the ages of 6 and 7 years old.
I was heading up to my hotel room in Houston, Texas, when I saw the news splayed across multiple television screens.
My initial reaction was shock.
Yet, I carried on about my day. The band had been invited to a private tour of NASA at the Johnson Space Center and Neutral Buoyancy Lab. I needed to geek out on spaceships for a minute, so I posted silly pictures of me posing in an astronaut’s helmet; holding hands with a diving dummy; and with Brian Setzer and (half) his Orchestra behind Apollo Mission Control desks.
After a fulfilling tour and good Tex-Mex dinner, I returned to my hotel room. I flopped onto the hard bed and flipped on the television. Every news channel was laden with the day’s tragedy. Still, not much information was known, but the media coverage was almost too much to bear. I felt guilty my day had been uneventful; just fun and silly.
On a deeper level, I felt a bit selfish that my new life is going so well, and others are enduring so much pain. I would never assume my experience with pain and loss is anywhere near the depth of losing a child, but I know well the crevasses along the journey of grief.
Suddenly, I wanted to ignore it all. It was too heavy. I changed the channel, and somewhere between the ending of The Lord of the Rings and the beginning of Die Hard, I fell asleep.
The next morning, I trudged down to breakfast. My driver, Steve, was just finishing his meal. Steve is a good, solid man who fiercely loves God, his wife, and his children. He is also a successful tour manager, fellow musician and friend.
He sat quietly. I plopped down my grits and coffee next to a saxophone player, and invited Steve to join us.
We all began to talk about our day off, and quickly learned Steve’s best friend had lost his 7-year old son, Daniel, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Suddenly, the media-heavy tragedy really hit home. It felt as if someone had punched us all, squarely, in the gut, heart and face.
Feelings of guilt welled up inside of me once again. I had no words of wisdom; no profundity to share. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all. At the same time, therein lay an opportunity to help: to support the support of a family who is searching for answers; who needs comfort and peace.
Tears were present in Steve’s kind, blue eyes as he talked about his best friend’s family.
“They are as precious as you will find,” he smiled, mournfully, as he stared into his coffee cup. “It’s killing me to be away from them. I can’t even imagine what they are dealing with right now.”
“As we were crying together over the phone last night, [my friend] didn’t mention ‘stricter gun laws’ or ‘gun possession should be a felony’, but rather, ‘how could someone do this? How do we go on?’”
All politics aside, in the wake of such senseless tragedy, how do we go on?
I don’t know. But God does.
Everyone’s journey of grief is different, but at some point in the process, we all have a choice. We either turn to the Father, or we turn away from Him.
I, for one, cannot do life without Him. It is my fervent prayer that we all turn to Him.
Long after the saxophone player left his tip on the breakfast table, Steve and I still sat. He described how happy and spirited Daniel was, recalled how his parents first met, and detailed how Daniel and his older siblings were — and are — the light of their parents’ lives. Steve then showed me a picture. It was of Daniel, posing playfully with his older brother and sister on the beach. His smile instantly indicated he was full of life, pure joy, and missing his two bottom teeth.
I pushed aside my half-eaten grits and allowed my eyes to well up with tears.
And then, Steve perked up.
“It’s so awesome to picture little Daniel’s face glowing as he sits on the Father’s lap,” his deep, blue eyes twinkled. “God is good.”
And, for an all-too brief moment, we were quiet. Comforted. Grateful for the glimpse of joy in a sea of sorrow; grateful for hope.
There is always hope. God is always good. May we find comfort and peace in the loving arms of our Creator.
Daniel Barden has.
Additional close friends of the Barden family have set up a fund to help them in their time of grief. If you are able, financial donations are appreciated and welcomed. Please pray often for this family — and all the families — who have lost their precious loved ones.