A mother with heavy eyelids, standing firm-footed at a NICU crib. A mother on hands and knees, pulling cherry tomatoes from a backyard garden for supper's side salad. A mother with an empty house, a comfy sofa, and a cue full of Netflix movies.
No matter what a mother is doing at the time they are hit with the ton of bricks news that their child has died, the reaction is likely one-in-the-same--a loss of breath, a wave of grief, a quivering of balance, and a mind-reel of sweet memories grappling for synapses and brain nerves to clutch onto.
It's what I imagine was the reaction of Susan Bro, whose daughter, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car driven by an alleged Nazi sympathizer violently plowed through a crowd of demonstrators protesting a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va.
An unsettling aftershock from a quake of hatred.
Yet for a mom in the thick of grief, Bro has publicly displayed peace-personified. In interviews, she has admired her daughter's passion for advocacy of the disenfranchised. She's emphasized how she loved how her daughter loved all people. Her father Mark Heyer, too, amidst his own confusion and sadness, found the strength to forgive the driver who struck and killed his daughter on national television.
Bro and Heyer shouldn't just be proud of their brave, beautiful daughter. They should also be very proud of themselves. The seeds of acceptance and empathy they've sowed into their daughter's life are worth more than gold. Those seeds will continue to blossom and grow despite the storms that brew around them.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." -Proverbs 22:6
“I don’t want her death to be a focus of more hatred, I want her death to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion,” Bro told the Huffington Post.
While the historical implications are vast, more than anything, the defining events of Charlottesville remind us that little ears are always listening. Our children are intent on everything in earshot, and they're filing away each and every sound byte so that it may resource their future lives. Are we feeding them with words of hope and not fear, acceptance and not rejection, love and not hate?
Just as Heather Heyer's parents filled their daughter's head and heart with declarations of acceptance and equality, and just as the Bible encourages unity amidst diversity, we must continue to verbalize these same truths so that they echo for all to hear.