Every Mother’s Son

I think about when they were little boys. Before all of the craziness settled in. Saying their first words. Taking their first steps. That first tooth growing in and the sweet smile that followed. Did their families clap for them with each new accomplishment? Were they happy? When did they get so angry and how could it have been prevented? This is what I think about. Not what should be done now. But what could have been done then. 

The little boy who grew up to detonate a bomb at the Boston Marathon. Or the one who walked into Columbine High School and killed his classmates. The one who piloted a plane into the World Trade Center. They were little boys once. Just like my little boys, perhaps. And then something changed. How do you stop that change from occuring to prevent other senseless crimes? I don’t know. I wish I did.

I talk to my sons about the death penalty. I don’t believe in it and they don’t either. It is not right, to take a life, we agree. And if it is state-sanctioned or federally-sanctioned, it doesn’t make it any more right. If the man responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing is given the death penalty, each juror, in my opinion, is responsible for pre-meditating his murder. And that can never be justified. There is no eye-for-an-eye in my world view.  I have both of my legs. My child was not ripped into a million pieces. I do not hear constant ringing in my ears from the sound of the blast. I pray that I would feel this strongly even without my limbs. I think I would.

Today I read about where the bomber will go if he doesn’t get the death penalty. It is a prison in Colorado. The inmates are confined to their cells 23 hours per day. There is a sliver of sunlight coming through one barred window. The sparse furniture is made of cement and is secured to the wall and the floor. When the prisoners are let out for that one hour, they walk around in a walled space as big as a swimming pool. Alone. The article told of one prisoner who befriended a wasp. He fed it when it came into his cell. He talked to it. The article said the prison is Hell on Earth. That is a good description, I think.

I asked my middle boy his thoughts about this prison. What do you think about the bomber going here?, I ask. I don’t like it, he said. It sounds horrible. Yes, I reply, but think of the horrible things he did to all of those people. It still isn’t right, he says.  We can’t do that to anyone, it doesn’t matter what they did. My son is strong in his beliefs.  But what, then?, I say. I don’t know, he says. Me neither, I say. I don’t know.

I listened to a story on the radio about a man who killed another in a bar fight. The man he killed was an only son and his mother visited her son’s killer in jail. First, she did it because she was angry. But she learned, over the course of his sentence, to forgive him. When he was released from jail, she helped him to buy the house next to hers. He takes out her trash once each week and shovels her walkway when it snows. He helps unload groceries and sometimes just sits with her. I don’t have a son, she says. So now, I have him. I like that story. But it sounds like a bit of a fairytale. Could any of us do that? I wish.

There will be mistakes in my sons’ lives. The mistakes will not be newsworthy. They will be the average old mistakes that we all make. Cheating on a test. Or a girl friend. Having too much to drink or too little to say. I will wonder, when these things happen, if I didn’t teach them well. If I missed something, an opportunity, a conversation, some way to stop the mistake from happening. I will stew over it. Maybe suffer a few sleepless nights. But it will fade and I will move on. There will be many more successes than failures. Of this I am sure.

Is that how the moms of those little boys felt? And who will shovel their walks now?

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