Almost exactly 2 years ago, I was in charge of an old fashioned Christmas Nativity for our ward party. It was chaotic, touching, joyful, funny, spiritual and musical. Everything anyone would want in an old fashioned nativity. We had Mary and Joseph. We had 3 wise men and their gifts and entourage – even a camel. A huge set had been built with a stable and Bethlehem skyline and twinkly stars. We had a donkey, an adventurous 8 year old to be the star. We had shepherds and many sheep. The sheep had a tendency to “wander”, but it added to the charm. And angels, we had many beautiful angels. At our dress rehearsal on Wednesday night, we were ready. The costumes were distributed and worn, the songs were sung, thank you ornaments and candy canes were distributed from me to all the beautiful children. The angels loved jumping off of the stage to “fly” with their wings, usually shouting at me, “Watch me! I can fly!” The performance was set for the coming Saturday morning with a wonderful ward brunch. We were so excited!
I didn’t mention that the ward was the Newtown Ward in Connecticut.
On Friday, December 14, things changed.
I don’t have the words to describe the panic and upheaval that the Sandy Hook shooting wrought.
One of the angels from the Nativity was a victim, her family a much loved and valued part of our ward family. She was 6. A beautiful, smart, exuberant little girl who was in first grade. Everyone in this tight, protective community knew at least one (usually more) child or adult that was gunned down. Other children from our ward attended that elementary school and saw and heard things that no child should ever see or hear.
I wasn’t a first responder. I didn’t see the carnage in the school. But I saw the eyes of those around me. In those eyes I saw such pain and grief and disbelief. I saw helplessness and despair. I still see those eyes.
As a ward we gathered that Friday night to try and offer comfort to each other. As RS president, I hugged all the sisters there, wishing I could do more to comfort them.
The next week is still a blur. I answered hundreds of telephone calls and emails from all over the world. One of the priorities was protecting the victims. The VT of our sweet ward family who lost their daughter, acted as intermediary for all of the meals and emails. She was and is one of my heroes. I received gifts for Newtown of books, CDs, blankets, stuffed animals, and much more. We received thousands of hearts and snowflakes. Everything was accepted with thanks. I hope that it helped others to heal.
I visited people. I called people. I set up therapy and grief counseling, grief massage, meals, help for the first responders. I offered a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.
I wish I could have offered a blessing to so many who needed it. A blessing from a loving sister and mother for those who were not comfortable asking a man in a suit – and there were many.
I could not.
I had to petition for permission for all that I did, because, even though I had a “leadership” position in our ward, I did not have priesthood authority. I am still trying to come to terms with that. I’m trying.
The Heavenly Parents and Brother that I love would not deny me, or any of their children, the power of their love or divinity. The priesthood is that power. I believe that.
I believe that women should be ordained. I believe that women and men are equal before our Heavenly Parents.