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I was wrapping up a newborn session, positioning a two week old baby boy into the arms of his family’s eighty-seven year old patriarch. I was watching for the light from the windows behind them, turning their bodies to catch it, just so. So that the light would carve shadows that would not swallow them whole, but more strongly define them against the background.

I was in the car ten minutes later, listening to whatever station the radio had been left on earlier, when the announcer came to the air between songs. She did not tell me about the artist or giver her station ID. But she did say the words: Boston, explosions. I did what I do when something startles me, I called my husband, tried to. After four attempts with the cell service failing, we spoke briefly before the phones went to silence again.

We spent the afternoon together, but separate. Our kids running around the yard, blissfully unaware, we scoured social media, watched news clips, prayed. To distract myself, I began editing the images from my session, found myself smiling at the smooth newness of the baby’s cheeks, the impish grin of his older sister, remembering goodness is here too.

In the grocery store last night, my husband held his phone to me, showing his twitter feed, the confirmation of an eight year old, dead.

At the checkout, my eyes fell to Alex. I looked at his skinny arms, his fidgeting feet stepping side to side, the smudges of dirt still on his cheeks from an afternoon of play. He looked up and flashed me an awkward toothed grin, his giant front teeth, the small space beside them, where he lost a tooth yesterday at school.

My son is eight and yesterday, he lost a tooth.

Somewhere, close to my own home, a mother has an eight year old who, yesterday, lost his life.

How does your heart not break?

I am not a runner, I am not an avid Marathon Monday fan. (Truth be told, if the waitress at the Union Oyster House had not asked my children if they would be there, cheering on the runners when we were visiting the city on Friday, I would have not even realized it was happening.)

I am not even a Bostonian, truly. But, I am a New Englander and it’s the city closest to my home. It is the city I visited growing up, school field trips, special occasions. I have lived off the Red Line, spent long nights that fade into mornings, walking the streets, but I would not say I am any more tied to Boston than my neighbor here in my small over-the-border of MA town. I have no hard claim to feel this hurt.

But I do, I feel it. And not because I am local enough that my cell services were disrupted in the chaos that immediately followed the bombs. And not because I am a New Englander. Not even because I am American.

I feel it, because I am human and we have been designed to crave love, fellowship, and justice.

And this, this is not justice. This is not fair. This is not ever going to be an comprehensible act.

This is evil, this is darkness. But, it will not swallow us whole. This is evil, carving our goodness out from the blackness, hoping to consume, but defining instead.



  1. Kathleen D. Bailey

    I feel like my heart is breaking. Boston IS my city, the way New York is the city for people from Jersey and Connecticut. It’s where I go. Dave and I were just there on New Year’s Eve, and Sheila and I were there a month ago. No, Melanie, you are right. We will not let darkness overcome us.

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