I awakened Sunday to another mother’s pain and wept. Her son, she told reporters on the radio news as I entered my kitchen for my first cup of coffee, had been at the Orlando nightclub when the gunfire started. His boyfriend had been injured, she’d heard, but at that point no one knew her son’s status.
“I’m standing here hoping he is one of the injured,” she said in a later interview, “rather than one left inside.”
Her voice reflected the irony she felt in wishing her son injured.
I found out on last night’s news that her son was one of the 49 dead inside the Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando where a lone terrorist managed the largest mass shooting on American soil. I wept again.
My youngest son had come over to mow the lawn Sunday morning, and after we talked about the tragedy unfolding in Orlando, at one point he wordlessly handed me his phone. On it was displayed the image of the text exchanges between a son and his mother in the wee hours of the morning. The 30-year-old accountant had been hiding in a bathroom at Pulse, sending texts to his “mommy,” asking her to call the police, saying he was going to die. She responded, saying she was calling them now. Then her (I can only imagine must have been frantic) texts back when he did not respond immediately:
U still there?Answer your phone.Call me.Call me.
He did respond — that time. Again begging for help before closing with “Hes coming” and “Im going to die.”
It was their last communication.
A mother’s worst nightmare.
I have worried before, needlessly, when my child has not responded to a text in a reasonable amount of time. I have wondered and worried and needled and nagged. Are you there? Where are you? Call me! I have been frantic by no answer. But all of my worried communications have ended with relief and anger at this child of mine who failed to communicate adequately. Not the soul-tearing anguish this mother must feel.
At another point, my son’s phone indicated a Facebook message. A friend of his at the University of Central Florida was reporting in that he was OK. My nephew, also in school in Orlando, did the same a short time later. I found myself texting those I know there to make sure they were OK. This city a mere two hours away with people I know and love. Terrorism too close to home.
When the news indicated the number of dead had risen from 20 to 50 (later revised to 49) and 53 injured, we all felt it. My husband yelled and expressed his anger at this gunman and this news. I wept. My son turned to walk away, but I saw that he wept too.
I thought of my mother, her Alzheimer’s protecting her from the reality of this moment. My elderly neighbor with his deteriorating health. I envied them. I thought of my own relatively blissful youth and young adulthood. I felt sorry for my children, for my grandson, that they would have to grow and live in this world that is becoming increasingly hostile and turbulent and frightening.
I considered the war that must surely happen. And I worried about my sons.
But mostly I thought of those who had lost their loved ones. Of those who may have survived but will remain haunted by the images of that night, that horror, that loss.
The Bible says to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Today, that is easy.