[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following was originally printed in The Forum newspaper, on March 29, 2014.]
Living Faith: ‘I wish he’d never been born,’ a father says
By Roxane B. Salonen
I had to double-back upon reading the words in the newspaper article.
They came from a father with a haunting admission: he wishes his son had never been born.
The world knows of the son whose father questions his existence. The name Adam Lanza became notorious after a school-shooting rampage in Connecticut in December 2012 that resulted in 28 corpses, including his own.
On some level the words of Peter Lanza make sense. This is a man who has been traumatized by the actions of his son, and the wounds are still oozing. Nevertheless, his admission is so counterintuitive to everything a parent should think.
Such utterances beg those of us who walk with faith to reflect. They provide an opportunity for the family of God to consider the situation anew, through God’s eyes.
I hope the kind of tragedy it took for Adam’s father to say these words will never be my lot, nor yours, but they challenge me nevertheless.
According to a recent report in The New Yorker, Peter Lanza keeps a box containing family photographs in the home he shares with his second wife, but right now it’s taped shut.
He told the reporter he can’t look at them, and if he displayed the photos of just his older son, Ryan, it wouldn’t seem right, so he keeps them all buried – like so many of his feelings.
“You can’t mourn for the little boy he once was,” he’d said. “You can’t fool yourself.”
But why can’t you, not fool yourself but mourn? It is here where I find an answer to what’s troubling me most about all of this.
No, I can’t possibly understand what Peter Lanza has gone through. But if I were faced with such a wretched scenario, I hope that by God’s grace I would be able to do what he hasn’t – to allow myself to grieve and honor the little child I helped bring into the world.
Awful things happen every day that are contrary to the plan of God. This is the result of the free will offered by God so we can love. But sometimes we misfire, or at least our brains do. We are fragile, complex creatures and God understands this most of all.
It’s been well over a year now and we don’t seem any closer to having unraveled the mystery of Adam Lanza’s mind on that tragic day or the ones leading up to it. Many remain justifiably disturbed that we can’t account for what happened, maybe most especially Peter Lanza himself.
But that doesn’t mean hope is lost or healing impossible. I believe it’s very possible, and for Adam’s father in particular it will happen the moment he is able to reach into that sealed-up box and touch the photos of his young son.
Because you can’t tell me that at 3 months old little Adam did not coo and grin, and in doing so, bring a smile to his father’s face.
If Adam Lanza had never been born, his parents would not have experienced the joy of his young life, fleeting as it may have been. Those moments of beauty and hope simply would not have happened.
What eventually took place was unthinkable, and because he cannot solve that puzzle, Peter Lanza is haunted, as many of us would be and are. But we’re not meant to be stuck in that place of despair.
Perhaps we need to set aside for a time, if possible, the evil that went down and instead try to see the situation as God might.
Peter Lanza may never be able to get over what his son was responsible for. He may always be plagued by the “what ifs.” But my prayer for him is that somehow, he’ll allow God to lead him back to the place of Adam’s initial innocence.
Adam Lanza’s life did count for something good. Maybe that’s not the way it ended, but it is the way it began, and there is value in that, not just for the Lanzas but for all of us.
Thankfully, God would never say to any of us, “I wish you’d never been born.” It isn’t possible and I hope that when we find ourselves wishing ill on those who have hurt and disappointed us, we can seek that glimmer of good, no matter how minuscule, and know that every single life is worthy of being.