Healing Hearts in Newtown

It’s been over a month since the horrific tragedy in Newtown, CT.  All of us here are asked frequently “How are you doing?” I can’t speak for how the families of the victims are; they remain in my daily thoughts and prayers. The rest of us are healing, as a whole, with the help and love of so many from around the world.


December was tough, as we were all shaken to the very core.  After that fateful Friday, traffic in town was bumper-to-bumper. A normal five-minute drive could take an hour, with almost every state represented in out-of-state license plates. Reporters were everywhere from all over the world. Crowds came, to pay respects or offer help. Not being far from Sandy Hook School, the first week we heard the constant noise of hovering helicopters. The one-week mark was excruciating. The world watched as town bells rang and a moment of silence was observed.  That morning, the weather was raw – grey, cold, and rainy with strong winds, as if Heaven was weeping with us.  By afternoon, the wind stopped, the clouds parted and the sun peeked out as if to say, “Things will get better.”

Most everyone I knew spent Christmas “hunkered down” at home with family.   Many free events were posted, and continue, to help our children smile.  In December, an event was organized for all Newtown children to come and pick out a special toy and do crafts with high school volunteers from upstate Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Santa and Mrs.Claus were there, as were therapy dogs.  Rows of tables held mountains of toys, games, and stuffed animals. Each child was given a big bag and told to fill it with whatever their heart desired. It seemed there wasn’t a single adult in the room with a dry eye.  Everything there was donated from someone, somewhere in the world.  The walls were decorated with drawings from students in Australia.  I was proud when my daughter said to a policeman from Wilton, Connecticut, “Thank you for keeping my school safe.”   It was the first time I saw her smile that week. 

My daughter hasn’t visited with “Santa” for sometime, but that evening, she and her friends all were comforted by him.

We debated whether we should do our Christmas Eve tradition of an after-dinner drive to look at lights.  My daughter didn’t want to forgo this tradition, so we went for a short drive.  That night everyone lit 26 luminaries in their yards.  It was moving.  Newtown police were all given the day off on Christmas Day, as other towns’ forces worked their shifts.

“Twenty-Six Acts of Kindness” swept the nation, everyone reaching out to one another.  At our local grocery store, I came out to find a pink rose with a note from an anonymous stranger on my windshield. A rose was left on every car.  At a coffee shop, I went to pay but someone in New Orleans, Louisiana had pre-paid everyone’s order that day.  The same thing happened to friends at Panera Bread, and at other businesses throughout town. People from all over wanted to comfort Newtown.  It meant a lot to us.  Spreading comfort and happiness is contagious, and I love to “Pay-it-Forward”, (although it’s something Farmgirls regularly practice)!

Most of the media’s left, and memorials taken down, to someday be part of something permanent. When it was time for our kids to all go back to school, it was hard.  At my daughter’s school, therapy dogs made a giant difference, and a few still come each day at lunch.  I’m grateful to them and to our police, as the children have found comfort in their presence.

I snapped this photo the day my daughter returned to school after the holidays.  Even our fur-baby felt sad that day and clung to her “lovey”.

This memorial is still standing, the crane and flag owned by a local contractor.  Inside the heated tent are messages and stuffed animals, sent to our town by millions the world over.  The day we went inside, it was filled with fresh flowers from someone in France, and children received origami swans made by students in Pennsylvania.  Volunteers are always there, offering kinds words and hugs.

Recently, my daughter came home with a handmade pillowcase.  Each child at school was given one in memory of little Charlotte Bacon, whose older brother is a student.  In Charlotte’s memory, each child is now going to do something kind, as a way to honor her and pass on kindness.

  My daughter’s special pillowcase.  At home, it opened dialogue on ways to honor and remember lost ones.  (A quick  thanks to Mittens for agreeing to a “Where’s Waldo?” type pose).

 

Murals like this, sent from other school districts, hang in our schools.

At my house we’re back to a “routine”, and after realizing that the last four weeks I’ve been more absent-minded (misplacing things, being forgetful), I’m making an effort not to “burn the candle at both ends”. I recently poured through a seed catalog, ordering some heirloom seeds, and am dreaming of spring gardening! Nothing’s more cathartic.

January 8th, when my daughter got off the bus, we noticed something hanging near our mailbox. It was a beautiful chime, hand-made of clay with a little brass bell at the end…a “Ben’s Bells”, https://bensbells.org/, made in Tucson, Arizona.  Ben was a little boy who passed away from sudden illness in 2002.  His parents make these in memory of their beloved son, hanging them for others to find as a reminder to be kind to one another. Their efforts are now national. That day, bells were left quietly and randomly in Newtown.  It’s helped lift our spirits. Those of us who found them won’t forget the feeling they brought, or their beautiful message.

The Ben’s Bell that we found by our mailbox.  A beautiful reminder to be kind to others.

This mural hangs over a main road in town, with signatures from Tucson, AZ residents.

The messages of love received from the world have helped our hearts as we never forget, but heal and move forward.  We’re all connected. Kindness prevails. I’ve told my daughter that it was one evil person who caused the pain, but to think of the millions of good people who’ve prayed and reached out.

Love Triumphs.

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  1. CJ Armstrong says:

    Thank you, Nicole, for sharing this update on how things are from someone who is actually living it, every day. Your perspective is helpful to me . . helps me know more about the reality and how to pray!
    Our phone chat the other evening was also such a blessing! I’m so glad you called and we were able to "meet" over the phone. I appreciated, so much, what you shared with me then because, again, it helps me have a "reality" understanding.
    I’m sooooo grateful to see the acts of kindness and caring!
    Thank you, again! Hope to talk with you again, soon!
    Hugs!
    CJ

    CJ, it was great fun "meeting" you on the phone.  I still hope that we get to meet in person someday!  You are always such an inspiration, and someone who really radiates kindness!  Hugs from Connecticut, my Colorado friend! – Nicole

  2. Laurie Dimino says:

    Hi Nicole,
    What a wonderful perspective to point out to Audrey. Yes it was one evil person who changed everything for Newtown, but when we stop and look around us there are MANY beautiful people all around us with arms open wide, just waiting to love and comfort us.
    I too, like CJ, was thrilled to get to "meet" you over the phone, and look forward to definitely meeting you in person one day soon! We are not that far away!
    As always I really enjoyed this blog post, as it does indeed help those of us on the outside looking in understand how your community is healing, step by step, day by day. It warms my heart to see the goodness our fellow Americans are capable of.
    Blessings to you and your community!
    Farmgirl Hugs,
    Laurie

    Laurie, I thought of you and all your kindness, too, when writing this.  I can’t wait to meet up soon!  Big hugs, Nicole

  3. Meredith says:

    Dear Nicole, As usual your post was great. I have been uplifted by the incredible outpouring of support for Newtown from all over the world. I wanted to tell you about the 26 candles everyone lit on Christmas Eve. That was begun by the daughter of my cousin, John Dee,of Bethel. Ashley posted the plan on Facebook and it spread like wildfire. The reason I wanted to tell you about her is that I am so proud of her efforts, and to let you know that those candles were burning nationwide that night. Newtown was wrapped in a huge hug from all over the country, and even though the candles are gone, the sentiment remains. Love to Ct. From Va., Meredith

    Oh Meredith!  How exciting…thank you for telling me this!!  Your cousin’s daughter Ashley should be very proud of her efforts;  it was a beautiful, wonderful idea and it was so peaceful and moving.  Big hugs back to you in VA, and to Ashley. -Nicole

  4. Adrienne says:

    My mentor once said, "The best revenge is massive success." I believe the best tonic to cure a tragic event is to figuratively and literally reach out to comfort those who suffer so they realize they are never alone. Newtown and its citizens will always be in our hearts and their (your) survival is a message to us all. Bless you.

    Beautifully said, Adrienne!  Thank you!  -Nicole

  5. bonnie ellis says:

    Nicole: I have your whole town in my heart and pray for you daily. Isn’t it great what LOVE can do. It’s the only thing that can overcome evil. God Bless.

    Thank you Bonnie, hugs to you! -Nicole

  6. sharon says:

    Thank You for sharing what I am sure is such a tough time for all of you in Newtown. Your blog post made me smile and brought tears to my eyes at the same time. I am glad that the bits of kindness are continuing. I will continue to pray for those lost, and those left behind. Keep strong.

    Sharon (a farmgirl wannabe)

    Thank you Sharon!  -Nicole

  7. Cheri B says:

    Thanks- for taking time to help us all understand. It is kind of you to share. My kids have been members of Sunbury Halter and Saddle 4H club for many years, Nici has been president for the past year and they wanted to make snowflakes to decorate the new school. The advisor heard that they had more than enough, so now they will be sending them to a local nursing home instead. We do community service projects every month of the year to help our kids understand paying it forward. How nice of you to share with us, how very small the world becomes sometimes. Thanks, Cheri

    Hi Cheri, I heard that they had so many snowflakes, but that the school in Monroe that they are using looked so beautiful for those kids.  I bet the nursing home will appreciate them, too.  I used to volunteer at a nursing home in my early twenties, and it was something I will never forget.  Thanks for sharing, Cheri.  -Nicole

  8. Raynita says:

    Nicole, I’m wishing right now I had words to express my feelings as I read your words full of wisdom, grace and kindness. The best I can do is say, "Thank you for sharing this today." God bless you, your family, friends and community. Keep looking at those seed catalogs…HOPE calms our souls…..Raynita

    Oh, Raynita, thank you for your kind, sweet comment.  – Nicole

  9. sue m says:

    I still pray everyday for you and your community’s continued healing.Hugs to all from someone who wishes she could do so much more for you and your community.I am glad other beautiful people continue to help you on this difficult journey.Blessings to all
    Sue

    Sue, thank you. Prayers are powerful! -Nicole

  10. Patty says:

    All of this and you still managed to knit that hat for my niece’s new baby on the way? I’m looking at that hat in a whole new way. Hope, healing and new life to you.
    Patty

    Oh Patty, you made me laugh!  Thank you for being so patient with me during our farmgirl swap…I couldn’t believe halfway through the hat I had made the silliest mistake and had to start over!  Not like me, at all!  But I have to say, knitting is one of the most therapeutic activities I can think of, and always tell my knitting students that knitting is "my yoga".  Knitting that hat definitely gave me something else to focus on. Big hugs to you!  -Nicole

  11. Barb Delaney says:

    Hi Nicole, Wow you have been strong through this all. You are amazing. Thank you once again for your message-Be Kind! Sad that it has taken a tragedy for people to pull together, let us all remember we should be kind to one another. hugs to you and Audrey, hope to see you soon.

    P.S. I am convinced Bonnie is a person in a furry dog suit.

    Hugs and prayers for all the families affected by this tragedy.

    Thank you, Barb!  It was so great to see you and your sweet daughter and we hope to see you again soon. 
    As for Bonnie, I agree.  She thinks so, too.  :)  Big hugs, Nicole

  12. Beverly Battaglia says:

    Excellent writing,Nicole! Love, Mother

    Thanks Mom! Hugs!  Nicole

  13. Karin Weaver says:

    Thank You so much Nicole. Thank you for sharing. It is good to know that there are so many good people out there. Our farm is open to disadvantaged youth and children that have been abused and we try to share that there is good in the world but when young their world seems small. Thank you for sharing.

    Thank you, Karin! -Nicole

  14. alex says:

    Hi, i have read and will definitely bookmark your site, just wanted to say i liked this article.

  15. Ken Mackenzie says:

    Very nicely written, Nicole. It must represent the sentiments of every Newtowner.

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