This one might be a little rough, so consider yourself warned. As so much we’ve seen and read and watched has been rough over the past few days . . .

Mark and I had that horrid conversation the other day, that I imagine many parents of the sick have had this weekend. It’s a rather gut-wrenching thing to bring up, but it inevitably comes at times like this: Which do you think is worse, losing a child to something like cancer or losing a child to something like a school shooting?

My answer was quick and unequivocal: School shooting, no question. Now let me be very clear — there is no good way to lose a child. NO good way. None of the options are remotely acceptable, nor should they be. But I have spent years envisioning what our last days and moments with Austin could be like and they’re pretty lovely. Not happy, not good, nowhere near okay. But they’d be filled with an overwhelming display of love. Every second would be spent holding and comforting, crying and remembering, loving and loving and loving.

I’m not stupid. I know it would be horrid. It would be painful and ugly and completely and utterly heartbreaking. But I would hold him. I would get as physically close as whatever machines and tubes he might be hooked to would allow, and I would wrap myself around him and hold him to the end, til he drew his last breath. And that would count for something.

The hardest thing for me watching and reading and thinking, endlessly thinking about these parents in Connecticut, was the fact that when they went to bed on Friday night, their babies were still lying on the floor of their classrooms, covered in blood and unmoved, untouched, as part of a crime scene. They never got to touch them again, to even see them again. Never, not even dead; the coroner said the parents were shown only photographs to spare them the agony of viewing the actual bodies in such a horrific state. But I think I would want to see it. I know that may not be wise, that it would be an unbearable image that I would never be able to shake from my mind. But so would the photo, really. I mean, is that truly any easier? I would want to touch my child’s body one more time. Touch their hair, stroke their cheek, kiss their lips, even cold and lifeless. I would not know how to go on without that.

Mark’s not so sure. He thinks the years of pain and suffering that children who die of cancer have to endure might be worse than the single moment of fear. He may be right, if you’re only thinking of the one who dies. I suppose he is right if we’re thinking only of the victims. Those children on Friday did not suffer long. But their parents will suffer forever.

I choose holding.

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