Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Mother Lode

Mother's Day is coming. If you haven't already considered getting mom a nice card or some flowers, it's not too late. It's also time for me to consider the spectrum of motherhood. I spend a good deal of time trying to comprehend the connection that exists between my son and his mother. It is unique and profound. Okay, maybe it's not that unique. My mother is one of my best friends. Always has been. Except for a while there when I was testing that bond, trying to find out just how much weight it would support. As it turns out, it was and continues to be a lifeline. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose that.
That's why I was so deeply affected when I watched Francine Wheeler sing a song with Dar Williams. The song was "Family," by Pierce Pettis and I only made it to the one minute mark before I started crying. Francine is the mother of Ben Wheeler, one of the first graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. The loss of a child, whether by accident, illness or crazed gunman, is all but incomprehensible to me. It's not supposed to happen in that order. In an interview after the song, she talked about the direction her life has taken since her son was taken from her. She has joined a growing movement of men and women who believe we need to take some time and figure out how to keep our kids safe. She chose gun control as her platform.
Beckie Brown chose to campaign against drunk driving. She helped establish Mothers Against Drunk Driver's first chapter, in 1980. This was a short time after her son, Marcus, died from injuries sustained in a traffic accident that involved another teenager. A drunk teenager. She helped get Florida, where she lived, to raise the legal drinking age to twenty-one. By 1988, the legal drinking age in every state was twenty-one. Alcohol related traffic deaths among sixteen to twenty year olds declined by seventy-seven percent over the thirty years since she took up the cause. Along the way, Ms. Brown ruffled plenty of feathers socially and politically by calling for zero tolerance legislation for dealing with teenaged drinking and driving, asking the federal government to withhold highway improvement funds from those states who refused to get on board.
Beckie Brown passed away last year, and even though she could look with pride on her achievements, I'm certain that she would trade them all to see her son graduate from high school. From college. Get married. As ugly coincidence would have it, her oldest son killed himself in 1987, causing her to turn her attention to issues surrounding gun violence. The doubts that plague every parent were magnified. What could I have done better? What could I have done differently?
No law is going to keep accidents from happening. Bulletproof glass doesn't stop the bullets that have already found their target. No legislation is going to keep hearts from being broken. But we can honor those who died too son by trying to figure out how to keep it from happening again.

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