By Rochelle Lefkowitz
New moms often get frilly, even funny cards and e-greetings for their first Mother’s Day. But this Sunday, the first Mother’s Day after Newtown, 20 Connecticut mothers will get no sweet, hand-lettered card or chalky clay handprints from a much-beloved young son or daughter. Instead, it will simply be another day to put on a brave face for family and friends, to live through the daily heartache of unbearable loss.
One bleak, wintry Friday evening, when I was in my early 30s, I felt the smooth, cold barrel of a gun, first on the small of my back, then at my left temple, for the longest 20 minutes of my life. My mother was lucky. The call she got was from me, many days later, telling her and my father that a story I’d written about this dangerous encounter — which I hadn’t told them about until then — would run the next day in their local paper.
Clearly shaken, my mother was luckier this time than that other day, years earlier, when she and my father began a lifetime of surviving the death of their only child, a firstborn, infant son whose death, from that day forward, shadowed their lives and then mine.
When death takes both your parents, you are an orphan. When it claims a spouse, the survivor is known as a widow or a widower. We have no word for a mother whose child has died. She is left bereft, her child forever gone, but with no name for the source of her sorrow.
In defeating gun control legislation last month, Congress robbed the mothers of Newtown — and every mother whose child has died of gunshot wounds — of their one remaining cold comfort. Never again will they see that child walk through the door or hear that child’s voice.
We cannot, of course, bring these children back from the dead. But for a brief time last month, there was a chance that this time, all this loss would bring forth a new law, to begin to protect other parents and children from this cruel fate. For the moment, that, too, seems gone.
But here’s why I cannot believe that it is gone for good.
Having survived an encounter with a coward armed with a gun years ago, and as the mother now of a young adult son, if I could say three things to every elected official who just did, or someday will, have the chance to cast a vote to prevent gun violence, my first would be: May you never get a phone call informing you that a child of yours was in the wrong place at the wrong time and died of a gunshot wound.
The second? May the broken-hearted mothers and others who loved each child in this country who has died of gunshot wounds haunt your dreams for as long as you live.
And the third? Know that legions of women voters will track your position on gun violence prevention. We know who you are. And when we cast our votes, we will not forget where you stand.
— Rochelle Lefkowitz is a communications strategist living in the San Francisco Bay Area.