My mind has drifted south to Charleston, SC a lot this last week. And while I've prayed for the families of all the victims and the survivors, I have to confess my mind and prayers keep going back to three little girls.
Church - the building holds so many memories for me, specifically Dad's office. That's where I hung out while sermon notes were typed, helped with printing and folding the church bulletin, rested during services while I was sick (Preachers and their wives don't always have the luxury of staying home with sick kids), made phone calls during extra-long choir practices or meetings, read books, was bored to tears, as a teenager sat and pondered what it would be like to make an appointment and chat with Dad, but never, ever, ever did it cross my mind that it would be a place where I would hover and hide with Mom while hearing my Dad and fellow church family members die. And that room will be an even harder room for that child and parent to face in months to come when it must be cleaned out to make room for the next pastor.
I think about the young girl who was in the Bible study with her Grandma and Dad, whose Grandma had the presence of mind to cover her and play dead - the horror and nightmare of such a scenario.
I cannot comprehend how anyone could shoot innocent people, especially an 87 year old woman.
I know how much a church hurts when a faithful member dies. Imagine losing 9 at one time - of your diehard faithfuls, as my Dad used to call the Wednesday night crowd.
There's a church family who is hurting beyond belief right now, and they will for a very long time.
There are devastated families whose lives will NEVER be the same.
There are three little girls who had fathers who loved them, men who were faithful to God, men who will no longer be there to guide them through the turbulent teen years and conflicting college days. Three little girls whose lives are forever altered, and not in a good way.
And as social media and national media has moved on to politics, my heart grieves even more.
May the balm of Gilead be so ever real to those families as they say their formal goodbyes this week.