Violence in the news seems a dime a dozen sometimes, doesn’t it?
So much so that, at least for me, there’s a certain numbness to hearing about horrific tragedies. So when I saw the news report that a woman and 3 children were found dead in Bourbon, Missouri, about an hour from our house, I thought, “Well, that’s sad. What makes someone do that?” and then finished getting ready for church.
And then, via a quick Facebook message, this all came crashing right into our community.
Turns out the mom, who police suspect killed her 3 beautiful daughters and then turned the gun on herself, was from our suburb. Not just our suburb, but a mile away…which means that her first- and second-grade girls attended school with our boys.
I didn’t know the mom well; I’d only been in a meeting with her a time or two last year, and this year, my interaction came at the preschool that her youngest and Jack Henry both attended (though not in the same class), as we were always dropping our kids off at the same time.
I found this out on the way to church this morning, and have cried off and on all day. For her husband, who reported his family missing on Friday night, not knowing he’d never see them alive again. For those girls, whose suffering I really can’t even bring myself to think about. For our school staff and the kids who knew the older two girls well.
But mostly, for my own boys, to whom I had to tell a horrible and unfortunately true story today. (Jack Henry was not included in our conversation.) I pulled out the yearbook, showed them the girls’ pictures, and just started crying. And I bawled through the whole conversation, in which we told them what happened, and we found out that though Bennett and S were not in the same class, they were currently sitting at the same lunch table every day at school, so yes, he knew her. We talked a lot about mental illness, and how it makes your brain not work correctly, and that there had to be something not working right to make her do something so horrible. We assured them that this was incredibly rare, and that most communities will never live through something so horrific.
Nothing prepares you for telling your kids about this kind of event. And not telling them wasn’t an option…I wanted them to hear the truth from us, so that anything they hear over the next days and weeks can be tested against what they know is true. I mean, adults can’t even understand how this could happen; how can a child grasp this until-now foreign concept of a mother killing her own children?
I’m thankful that we’re on spring break right now. This will give the teachers some time to mourn without students present, though I have no delusions of the first day back being easy. The TV station vans and cameras outside the school today were disturbing to see; hopefully, they’ll have the decency to stay away when kids return next week, as the newness of the story will have worn off by then.
I’m up way later than I need to be writing this, but I can’t stop thinking about it, and I can’t stop crying, and I can’t stop peeking in at the boys in their beds, praying that their security has not been shaken.