No mother wants to read that on her firstborn’s death certificate. And there it was. My son Kristoffer’s death certificate read: homicide.
No mother wants their child killed, especially at the far-too-young-to-die-age of 29 years and 17 days. People magazine reported, “A dedicated father to Mikajsa, 3, and Aaliyah, 17 months, he told friends this deployment would be his last.” “‘He wanted to be around for the birthdays,’ says friend Master Sgt. Steven Stalker.”
Killed on his fourteenth deployment, Time magazine expressed my sentiments, “ . . . if anyone was supposed to make it back, it was him.” Two other mothers — Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mom, and Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mom — expected their beloved teenagers to return home and to celebrate many more birthdays before entering God’s presence.
I can’t claim cultural intelligence to understand Sybrina or Lesley’s grief related to the tragic circumstances surrounding their sons’ deaths. However, my mother’s heart resonates with their losses — our sympatheia (together-suffering), our faith, our fears for our sons’ safety, and our traumatic heart injury from the loss of our precious sons.
Although the circumstances differ surrounding the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, both unarmed, their deaths sparked a divided national outcry. The international media coverage of my son’s death over-stimulated my heightened, adrenalized state, detracting me from mourning. To avoid the horror of my new reality, I read Google-alerts with links to articles and videos reporting my son’s sacrifice.
His highly-publicized story tapped into wounds buried within the hearts of enraged, name-calling commentators. Why do angry people with ungrieved injuries and unperceived prejudices attach themselves to others’ losses and lash out? Vicious rants about my son, Trayvon and Michael held no connection with the sons known and loved by their mothers.
Ungrieved pain and unperceived prejudice distort reality.
Both of these teens’ deaths revived the ugly, invisible racial ghosts many white people believed dead and aroused hibernating hurts and hidden hardships of African Americans. My Job’s comforters dumped their anti-war biases, apparently thinking their opinions offered some sort of comfort or explanation for my son’s demise. As I tolerated their tirades, I thought. You’re a complete, unsympathetic cretin. Thanks! You just said my son’s life and death was in vain. Your “comfort” is not about my pain or loss; it’s about your ignorance or rancor.
After the military notifiers informed me that my son had been killed, my mind heard my heart thumping and these oddly comforting words, “God numbers our days.” (Psalm 139:16; Job 14:5). Our slain sons did not take the Almighty Jehovah, Who Is, Who Was, and Who Is to Come, by surprise. (Revelation 1:8). So how do I relate to the painful suffering of what I dreaded and never desired? I cling to the verse, “What man meant for evil, Elohim—who is strong, powerful and just — meant for good in order to preserve many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
When my mind strays to the Pakistani-Taliban commander and IED maker who buried three IED’s killing my son and two others, my tortured soul meditates on God’s truth, “God numbers our days.” No human cut my son’s purpose, or life or future short.
And what of Trayvon and Michael’s ill-timed deaths? Listening to the lawyers, social activists and media commentators slash at the pain ripping my heart apart for the mothers of Trayvon, Michael, George Zimmerman, and Darren Wilson.
Some non-witnesses claim knowledge of the facts. I wish the truth was self-evident. Depending upon which side of common heritage aligns our opinions, will we ask Elohim Yakol, The God Who Is Able (Daniel 3:17), to deliver us from the blazing furnace of passions fueled by the idolatry of bitterness?
The tongue holds the power of life or death. No matter our opinions formed by ancestral predilections, how do I keep my heart open to understanding prejudice I’ve never experienced? I turn to Elohim-Yachal, The God of Hope (Romans 15:13), to empower me to love and accept others like myself — even those I dislike — just as God loved and accepted me.