The role of death

Last Friday, twenty six- and seven-year-old kids and six adults at an elementary school were killed when a man gunned them down with an assault rifle.  I’m still reeling from this, as are many people around the world.  The tragedy hit home because my own son is a kindergartner, and all I can think is, “What if that had been his school?  His class?”

It’s not as if death isn’t everywhere.  In the last decade, my grandmother, favorite uncle, ex-mother-in-law, and college-aged cousin have passed away.  I’ve lost classmates and classmates’ parents.  Just today, my ex-brother-in-law passed away after a long illness.

And it’s not as if I shy away from death in what I write.  I’ve killed characters in so many different ways: zombie attacks and magical flesh-eating potions, cancer and heart attacks, sniper attacks and IEDs, car accidents, murders and suicides.

When my characters die, it’s for a reason like character development, or as a plot device. I’m controlling who dies, and why.  My readers might not like what happens, but I hope they can see that it has a purpose.

But that doesn’t work for what happened on Friday.  There’s no reason for these children to have been killed. I’m not going to get into the politics of how to prevent another massacre; there are plenty of others debating that across the internet.  I’ll just repeat what I just wrote: There’s no reason for these children to have been killed.

Although it’s no comfort, I’m going to remember the words of Mark Twain: “It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”  When something like this happens, it doesn’t make sense.  Twenty-six families burying their children and loved ones.  A grieving community, a grieving world, appalled that this happened.

And then I’m going to give my son extra hugs.

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