When Words are All We Have

I have been writing since I was a child. I wrote my first stories in elementary school, echoes of the books I loved, Trixie Belden and Nacy Drew mysteries. In fifth grade, I read my story entitled "The Sun Came Shining" aloud to the class. It was a story of young love, and when the boyfriend was killed saving the girl's brother, every girl in my classroom cried. How powerful! I knew then that I wanted to become a writer.

Writing was my lifeline years later, when the commune that had been ten years of my life broke up. We were in Israel. I stayed, enchanted in a land where every step passed through centuries, where the modern conflicts overlayed ancient ones, where the people were vibrant, bold and kind, and where I had to deprogram and re-identify  myself...what I belived, what I desired, what to wear, whether to put my son in public school, take a job (I had to, to survive) and whether or not I could stay. After a few scattered poems through-out ten years, coming back to writing was coming home to myself. I poured out my questions, emotional turmoil, fears and hopes onto the page. When I returned to the states, I took a writing class and the floodgates opened, memories I wanted to capture, a way to process my experience.

And I kept up a steady writing practice after that, joined writing groups, wrote poems, got published, worked on fiction, dreamed of that author book tour, performed poems, but of course, kept my day job.

When my son died, it was as though my heart shattered. I could not write. I couldn't pray; the grief felt bottomless and bleak. It would be a long hard climb out of despair. But eventually the writing saved me again. The realization that I could transform my pain into art through words was my salvation.

The idea of Writing Circles for Healing was my way of putting all the pieces of my life together. To offer support so others can share their stories, to be a catalyst for fresh perspectives, transformation and healing, was also my healing.

When my room-mate asked if I had heard the news, I could not imagine what he meant. When I turned on the tv and the horrific news flashed across that screen that children had been slaughtered in a school, I felt torn apart and I felt I had to bear witness. I had to watch and pray. I lit  a candle and spent most of the week-end praying, weeping, joined in a heartfelt communion of sympathy around the planet. I knew I would have to write a poem, that poetry was the only way to cope, to transform the pain into an affirmation of life. Could I? It felt immense, beyond words. Like picking through rubble, I had to crawl to reach the depths within me where my grief for my son was interlaced with the memory of being a preschool teacher, the children I had once guided to learn their ABCs, whose lives depended on me, although I was not aware of it then.

The poem came to me slowly. I knew it had to be 26 sections, one for each victim. I did not count the shooter nor his mother, although they are part of the story. But for the purpose of screaming my rage and my sorrow, of honoring the strength and grace of teachers and parents who survived, of redemption through faith in the coming future, I needed to keep the focus on the innocent. For this, words were not enough, and for this, words are all I have.

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