I have moved a lot in my life. A lot. In the almost eleven years I have been married I have lived in sixteen different houses. I have perfected the art of packing and unpacking our things. Back in December when our family was getting ready to move from our home in Sandy Hook to our new home in Washington, I had decided that I just wasn’t up for the job of packing up this time. After losing Emilie I knew boxing up our home meant saying goodbye to more than our house… it meant saying goodbye to a piece of her and I just wasn’t strong enough. With our mediocre negotiating skills, we were able to get Robbie’s new job to do the moving for us.
This last week, standing in our new home in Washington, I looked at all the boxes filling up every corner of the house and felt overwhelmed. There were so many of them. I didn’t know which boxes held which things. I felt lost and a little anxious. I was anticipating the emotions I knew I would have to deal with by opening those boxes. They weren’t filled with just “stuff”. They were filled with memories. Our family’s magnet collection, scrapbooks, blankets and pictures… our history. This is what makes a house a home. So, with box cutter in hand, one by one I opened up each box and began unpacking.
Working my way into the master bedroom, I rhythmically began to open and sort through our packed clothes. Grab a box and cut, cut, cut, open and unpack. Cut, cut, cut, open and like being kicked in the stomach I looked down and saw Emilie’s beautiful bright white bed spread with pink ruffles folded neatly in front of me. Emilie is not here. I thought. I will not be placing this on her bed. She is gone. She is gone. As the tears began to well up in my eyes I could feel this growing anger build inside of me. HOW could this have happened? She was six years old. SIX! The more of her things I began to collect and open, the more angry I became. How could he hurt her the way he did? I wanted to scream at this young man who took my child’s life. Anger was growing. Cut, cut, cut, open and there in front of me was Emilie’s little portable space heater. The hatred grew. I hated this heater. I hated this heater because this heater had scared Emilie.
The night of December 13th 2012, the night before the shooting that would take her life, I tried to plug in that space heater to warm up Emilie’s freezing bedroom. This was not something I had ever done before and was going against a strict rule: never use the space heater if you are asleep. Her room was so cold and I felt so bad for her and I thought, it’s okay this one time. I propped it up on a box and got ready to plug it in. “Mom! What are you doing?” Emilie shouted at me. I explained that I wanted to warm up her room for her a bit, just this once. Emilie panicked and said, “Mom, that is so dangerous and it can start a fire!” She began to cry, begging and pleading with me not to plug it in. It scared her. Anger swelled in my heart as I looked at this little machine. I wanted to break it. I wanted to take a bat and beat it till my heart stopped screaming. I threw it down on the ground and began to cry. I couldn’t protect her. I couldn’t save her. And sometimes I wish I could take a bat and beat down the murderer who hurt her.
Triggers are hard. They are often unpredictable and they are strong. I have learned to not fight these emotions, but to let them run through me. It is still tough. Grief is a long long road and there are no quick fixes. It is about understanding myself and knowing what I am capable of and what I am not. Moving is hard and emotional. I look around and I see our things out of their boxes and put into this new place of ours. Not with the same meaning as they had before, but with the same potential to create our home, our new home and now new life into something meaningful.