Empty Chairs At Empty Tables

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George Hochsprung, the husband of slain Principal Dawn Hochsprung, spoke to CNN this morning. I watched through eyes brimming with tears as he talked of his wife, almost like she was going to come back. That common tragic disconnect that occurs in the wake of such unbelievable devastation. In the interview, he spoke of his life no longer making much sense. Being 20 years older than his wife, he never imagined a day that he wouldn’t be with her. He always thought he’d go first. He says he should’ve gone first.

 

As the people of Newtown pick up the pieces from last weeks tragedy, I am reminded of the routine feelings that keep survivors up at night. The parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues, collectively crying out through sobs

 

It should’ve been me! It should have been me.

 

If they could, if it were possible, they would go back and take the bullets for their babies.

 

If they could, if it were possible, they would happily hand over their lives for their loved ones.

 

In the play Les Miserable there is a musical number called “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” A powerful lyric sent shivers down my spine in light of last week.

 

“Oh my friends, my friends forgive me that I live and you are gone. There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain that goes on and on.”

 

This is not simply a dark hour before the dawn, this isn’t just a trial. Losing a child and a wife and a colleague cannot and will not make sense to us because it violates every version of reality we cling to. It is incomprehensible. It is impossible for anything to ever be the same again. And quite often it leads to feelings of guilt of sustained life.

 

While thinking and praying about this, I was struck by the goodness and the Godliness in survivor’s guilt. Wishing one’s life away in the stead of another is the very definition of love. A love that is beautifully bold and knows no limits. A love that defies logic The very sacrificial love that melts our hearts before Christ. That sacrifice of it all with nothing held back is the heartbeat of the gospel message.

 

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

–       John 15:13 (KJV)

 

For his sons and daughters

For her husband

For a student

For a stranger

For the gunman himself

 

George’s wife did just that. She gave herself over to the barrel of the gun to protect the children in her care. Reports have come out that as the teachers urged her to come with them and the children into hiding, she kindly refused, resolving to try to talk the man down. A holy act of sacrifice.

 

We can ask every question in the book as to why this happened. How it can be prevented. How evil threads its way through this world.

 

But I believe when we are brought down in agony by evil, what is most true about our spirits is what rises to the surface. Survivor’s guilt is the lingering reminder of a love so real. A love that death cannot remove. A love that is unselfish, caring less about our own well being than that of our loved one. A love some would say is ludicrous.

 

A father willing to walk the plank for his little girl emulates Christ. A mother making herself a human shield instead of coming home to her kids is the bedrock of kingdom come.

 

 

Praying for Grace and Peace in Newtown today,

 

RR

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One thought on “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables

  1. Amen, RR. Amen. This tragedy has wrenched my heart from my chest. May those precious souls rest in peace and wholeness with the Lord Who loves them.

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