Several weeks ago, I was driving my kids to the weekly tennis lesson when my kindergartner piped up from the backseat, “Mom, how old do you have to be to die?”
I paused. I made a split-second decision.
“People of all ages die, buddy,” I answered matter-of-factly, holding my breath.
“What?” he asked, as if he hadn’t heard me correctly.
“Anybody can die,” I said. “Even babies.”
I could see in my rear-view mirror that this stopped him. His brow furrowed. I continued, “Usually, most people don’t die until they are very old. But sometimes, younger people do die. You don’t need to worry about it.”
I could see him thinking, looking out the window. “No, Mom. Really. How old do you have to be to die?”
I’m completely numb after yesterday’s bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon. I had friends running, and I had friends living and working nearby. I know Boston, and I know the area affected. But even without those connections, my heart would be broken. I’m still not healed from December. I’m still raw from losing so many children. The thought that we lost another child, the thought that children and runners and bystanders lost limbs and mothers sustained brain injuries and a 29-year-old woman with so much ahead of her lost her life… I’m just numb. I’m so sad. I’m worried about the world I am handing my children. I am tired of having to explain to them that yet another person did something very, very bad. I’m angry that I still find myself actively seeking out exits in movie theaters, vigilant of people around me. I am reminded every time I go to my children’s school and have to remember that oh yeah, only one of the front doors is open now, and their classrooms are locked. I’m afraid that now there won’t be finish lines at races with fans and families surrounding them; that once again, we’ll have to take measures to try and protect ourselves from crazy, evil people.
All I know is this: we are not safe. Not ever. Not really. But the longer our country stays so very polarized, at odds with each other, embracing anger and hatred for the Other Side, the weaker and more vulnerable we are to terrorists both foreign and domestic. The longer we tolerate a government that will not compromise, that refuses to work together to create a better place for us and for our children to live — to LIVE and not to DIE — we open ourselves even more to attack. We are united in our grief. We need to be united in our determination to make this work. History has proven that a divided nation cannot stand. I am tired of living in fear. We need to come together.
We owe it to Martin Richard, because 8 years old is not old enough to die.