Service of Mourning

December 17th, 2012

Categories: Mourning

On Sunday mornings I weep at the finale of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on ABC News when he lists the war dead.

I’ve become even more sensitive to others’ grief since I’ve lost so many dear family members and friends although before I thought I knew what it was like. I’d horrify myself trying to predict how I’d feel knowing I’d never again see certain people. There’s nothing like the real thing and it never gets easier with experience. I wish I could somehow prevent others–even people I dislike–from living through it.

I understand circumstances that lead to suicide but killing innocents, as in Friday’s shooting of five year olds and countless nurturing adults in a Newton, Conn. elementary school, is breathtaking and unfathomable. Unlike hideous and unexpected death from nature–hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, tornadoes and disease–such killing is as unnatural as deliberately flying planes into buildings.

I had planned to post another topic today but the frivolity of every subject was unfitting while so many sit shocked at the loss of their loved ones. They started Friday doing a most normal thing: Sending the little ones off to school or going to their workplace to teach and advise children.

I hope that the media heeds the urging and pleas of Newton police Lieutenant Paul Vance to leave the families alone.

9 Responses to “Service of Mourning”

  1. Larry Kay Said:

    JM, How wonderful that you make this post today. Except for 9/11, no USA mass killing comes close to the impact this one has had on me. Plus the moving double meaning of “service”.

    In addition, on the radio (WNYC), after reading the names of the 20 children, the newscaster said “We do not know the names of the 10 Afghan kids killed in the latest bombing.” [approximate quote] It chills me that the nightmare of Newtown is closer to being everyday in some countries.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Thanks Larry,

    I had similar thoughts about children who grow up in war zones and how frightened they and their parents must be every day. Imagine waving goodbye every morning not knowing if you will see your parents/child again.

    Doesn’t make this mass killing any easier to comprehend.

    Like the aftermath of any act of terrorism, we are faced with the fact that we’re not safe anywhere.

    Meanwhile, how do we stop this? Even the media knows it has its part in it–look at the impact of all that publicity to impress a sick mind inflamed by anger–though most hardly recognize their roles.

  3. Horace Peabody Said:

    There are as many ways of mourning on this earth as there are cultures on this earth, and that includes more than just human beings. I read somewhere that even plants have been known to mourn.

    Perhaps reflecting its New England heritage, the way one side of my family expresses its grief seems understated to an extreme. There is a minimum of weeping and wailing, a minimum of prayers and words at funerals and the meals after them may seem to some to be positively and excessively cheerful. Consequently, it becomes even more difficult than usual to guess whether people are happy or unhappy or what they are really thinking. Furthermore, such funerals are events at which strangers like TV reporters and vote seeking politicians, up to and including the President, would find themselves not just uncomfortable, but decidedly unwelcome.

    I also have no doubt but what any competent TV news producer, if ordered to film one these funerals for broadcast, would leave as much of the tape as possible on the cutting room floor as being so utterly boring that it couldn’t even sell the tangiest of “tangy snacks” or the sweetest of “soda pops.”

    This leads to my point. I believe that the massacre at Newtown, at least to some extent, is our fault, the fault of all of us. We all have such an appetite for the sensational that crazies like this shooter know that if they slaughter a bunch of small children, they’ll get on national TV in a big way. I’ll bet that if we all turned off our TVs, the internet, whatever, the minute the next mass killing hits the air, and the one after that, eventually, there would be fewer of them.

    Lastly, thank you for endorsing Lieutenant Vance’s plea that the media leave the families of the victims alone. I agree whole heartedly that they have suffered enough.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Never invite me to a funeral of someone I love or of someone who someone I am fond of loved. I feel it or empathize so deeply I can’t control what happens.

    I come from a family of strong people who never cry–and believe me, they’ve had cause. My eyes tear up when I hear the National Anthem. I am ashamed and feel like a stripper dressed for work at a convention of nuns but that’s the way it is.

  5. Martha Takayama Said:

    The enormity of the tragedy that has befallen our nation seems to be more than the mind and the soul can absorb. Outward rituals such as the creation of provisional shrines seem all too familiar today. The solace they are supposed to provide can only be an ephemeral distraction, but the mourning process will be endless for those most closely touched.

    When will we address directly and realistically the intertwined issues of gun control and mental health care that are intrinsic to any attempt to prevent this type of mad episode becoming a part of our daily existence? How many times does our nation need to go through rites of collective regret and accompanying mourning due to irrational epidemic violence before taking realistic, mature action?

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    People don’t know what to do or to say so they buy flowers and stuffed animals and light candles to express grief, often for strangers, in the only way they can think of. It makes something almost too enormous to grasp into something manageable.

    The NRA is big business and it contributes to political war chests–or not. Mayor Bloomberg tried to dispel the organization’s clout in an effort to encourage politicians, starting with the President, to do what’s right about weapons of mass destruction that don’t belong in the hands of civilians and clips that spew out countless bullets in seconds. A smart Senator such as New York’s Schumer spoke of clips with no more than 10 bullets. Why would a hunter need more than one at a time?

    So maybe we start by limiting the amount of money anybody can spend on an election. This would solve many problems.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Short of incarcerating everyone, atrocities will happen, and beating up on the NRA will not solve the problem, but could even make it worse. Remove guns, and bombs will create greater carnage. Rather than blaming the organization, consider the fact that a number of potentially dangerous people who could be easily detected are ignored and go about ready to explode at any time.

    In addition to failure to contain crazies, it’s wise to remember that society has changed since the Second Amendment was written. There was a much greater respect for guns then than now, and just about everyone knew how to handle them. It’s time to revise laws accordingly so that they are made unavailable to those who have little to no idea what they are doing.

    Last weeks 26 deaths were horrific, and many of them possibly unnecessary. A neighbor, whose wife taught in tough neighborhoods for over 30 years, said that the so called security personel in schools are usually unarmed, thus unable to bring down anyone with an assault weapon. An armed guard or two in the Newton school could have saved many lives. Perhaps even the knowledge that he could be shot on sight might discourage future like episodes.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    So would less focus on the crazy person by the media. I think the crazies fantacize about what it will be like to have everyone talking about them.

    The NRA is organized and wealthy making it very difficult for any other voices to be heard. They are symbolic of the products they represent: Threatening. A gun pointed at most people wins an argument. And to condone clips with multiple bullets for civilians to own and use and the guns to run the clips doesn’t make sense. These contraptions are unsportsmanlike, for one thing. They remind me of snowmobiles used to hunt game as well as the people who mug old ladies.

  9. Martha Takayama Said:


    Your observations are very wise.

    However it would appear that as of today the seemingly unassailable power of the NRA is being challenged in an unprecedented fashion. Those who handle money on a grand scale are rethinking investing in guns. Cerberus Management is selling its holdings in the weapons manufacturer The Freedom Group. We have to hope that we have reached a point of no return with respect to taking action to mitigate these evermore frequent senseless rampages.

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