I could hardly breathe. More desperate than ever, I wrapped my arms tightly around my chest.
The lights were dim, but I could hear the flurry of motion down the hallway. Was my baby dying as I sat in the corner staring out at the dark skies surrounding the hospital?
“You are responsible, not me! You should have taught him about guns!”
The hoarse whisper caused my arms to wrap even tighter around my chest. Yet again, I couldn’t catch my breath. My husband put his hand on my knee. Was he trying to steady himself or me?
So, how many hours had we been here?
Would my precious child live through this night?
We weren’t the only parents grieving that night.
The year was 1973. We were sitting in the parent’s waiting room at the hospital in Des Moines, Iowa.
Sadly, tonight was not our first trip to the hospital in the middle of the night, holding our limp child in our arms. Months later, they diagnosed my baby as a “Bubble Child.” It would take another six months for that diagnosis: His immune system wasn’t functioning.
There were six of us there, two sets of parents and one set of grandparents.
My husband and I prayed fervently as the older man stormed back and forth. I could feel his anger.
It didn’t take us long to piece their story together
The young couple and their children were visiting the grandparents. The grandfather of the seven-year-old boy had left a loaded shotgun leaning against the hallway’s corner. Sadly, the little boy and his sister decided to investigate the firearm. The gun went off, shooting the little boy in the stomach.
In The Wee Hours of the Morning – Two children at risk
The doctors reported from the operating suite periodically: We had to remove his intestines. And, They’re trying to piece his stomach back together. My heart ached for the other mother as I listened to her sobbing.
The doctors returned and spoke quietly to the couple. I watched the grandfather as he continued pacing. How could that self-righteous monster blame the grieving parents? His acidic rhetoric was unending. He refused to acknowledge any responsibility for what happened to his grandson. I was amazed my husband didn’t say anything to him. I could tell he wanted to by the clenching and unclenching of his fists.
So many questions bombarded my mind: How much effort does it take to secure a firearm to protect a child? How can you even live without a stomach or intestines?
Our Children – Our Guns
My mind was reeling. I wanted to scream at the old fool to shut up and sit down. My soul was being destroyed minute by minute as we waited to see if our child was still breathing.
Suddenly, I realized I was invested in the other child’s safety as much as my own child’s. I prayed for hours for the two little boys fighting for their lives in that hospital in 1973. How could life be so cruel as to take a child so young?
The one demand I made of my husband when our first child was born was there would be no guns in our home. I was immovable on that one point. With no argument, he moved his hunting rifle back to his mother’s place. That was it. Only one gun, but it was now gone in favor of the child in the house.
As I watched the events unfold in Uvalde with the rest of you this week, my life catapulted back to that night in Des Moines.
We stand alone as Americans living in a land without an active war in the amount of carnage experienced by children with firearms. Our children should only be thinking about their next adventure, not shooters in their safe spaces. Or are there safe spaces anymore?
Armed shooter drills now traumatize our children. It’s their new reality.
Is the masculinity of our adult males so threatened they feel the need to own automatic weapons? We didn’t even give them to our soldiers. Yet, we turn our heads when an immature and angry teenager walks into a store to purchase an assault rifle and tactical gear.
Our Children Deserve So Much More
I don’t know what the answer is. But I do understand the trauma and pain that never goes away as mothers pray for their children’s lives. When that precious life is at risk, we are willing to do whatever is necessary to save them—the anguish of not knowing whether your child will live rips your soul into tiny pieces. You will never find a way to piece it back together.
This week has been horrible. I’ve endured too many weeks like this one. It’s gut-wrenching when my mind spins back to that night in 1973. I will never forget the older man who stole my innocence as a parent. There genuinely are monsters among us.
Our children depend on us. Hold your child tight and tell them how much you love them. Stop tolerating the insanity of allowing assault weapons on the streets of our towns and cities.
Apathy will not save us.
Gun violence is a complex issue requiring many approaches to its prevention. It’s time we got started working on a plan.
Our Children – Our Guns
Sadly, firearms were the leading cause of death for kids one and older for the first time in 2020, the most recent year for which CDC data is available.
School shootings are not typical of who we are as Americans, nor are they acceptable.
So, what’s your next step?