There is something so tragic in last month’s awful murder of those sweet unassuming Amish kids. We associate the Amish with being lovers of peace, living a life of separatism and simplicity, rejecting the electronic machinery that the rest of us take for granted. No cars, no televisions, no computers or I-Pods, just a close-to-God way of life that at times we wish we could emulate, for its harmony with the earth and its closeness to others in the community. Visiting neighbors is part of the community structure, they actually know who their neighbors are! Sharing hopes, dreams and aspirations with each other is built-in to the DNA of the Amish extended family. But, as a cartoon by Marshall Ramsey in The New York Times sadly reminds us, in the list of remaining safe places in the world, we can now scratch off Amish country. How truly very sad.
When a child dies, there are in fact two losses, there is a double death. The death of the child is a tragedy, of course. But perhaps even worse is the death of the future with that child. The family loses part of their expected future, now there will be no wedding, no grandchildren, no family trips, no participation in family holday celebration, no church baptism, no nothing. For that child, the future is over, and that loss will continue to hurt, not only now, but forever. The parents will attend the funeral and cry and ask God to hug that precious child in Heaven, and perhaps that will bring them solace. But every single year, at every single birthday anniversary and family holiday, the absence of their child will be noticed and mourned.
There is a fascinating piece of this story that has intrigued me from its beginning, and that is that the families of the victims immediately forgave the killer. Not one full day had passed after their children had been brutally murdered and their parents had already issued a loving and compassionate statement of forgiveness. And, at the killer’s funeral, there were in attendance a few members of the families of the victims. Wow, I thought, I could never do that! If someone murdered my child, you would have to physically restrain me from going after the murderer and taking vengeance. I too would end up in jail, no doubt about it. I suspect that my sentiments would be yours too. So I was, to be perfectly honest, floored by the speed of their forgiveness. You and I have always been taught that first there needs to be an apology and only then can forgiveness come. But the Amish are right–they will carry in their hearts the weight of their children’s death forever, why bother adding the additional burden of anger? It will do them no good to hate, even when that hatred could be perfectly justified. They will need to concentrate all their energies on mourning and healing; anger and hatred will only make that process much more difficult. They did the right thing to forgive their children’s killer, even if it may not seem so to the rest of us. Now they can concentrate on the pure emotions of love and sadness and pain. Our prayers are with them in this difficult time of their lives, may healing come soon and last forever.
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