Sunday, December 16, 2012

A grieving father pays tribute to his murdered daughter



This is deeply painful to watch and profoundly moving.

Robbie Parker's daughter Emilie was just six years old when she was shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, along with 19 other children and six of their teachers. Yet even in the midst of his unbearable grief, he finds words of sympathy for the family of the killer: "I can't imagine how hard this experience must be for you," he said.

What peace, compassion, humility, forgiveness, love... it passes understanding.

32 Comments:

Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Archbishop. This man will not watch it. He does not wish to invade the space of private grief.

16 December 2012 16:50  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

OIG,

This grieving father manifestly wanted people to hear his testimony and witness to his faith. There is no invasion of 'private grief': he chose voluntarily to address the public domain, pay tribute to his daughter, and show compassion to the family of the killer.

16 December 2012 17:00  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

One hopes that for Christ’s sake, that grieving father did not have a microphone thrust in his face and invited to say a few words, because if that is the way it happened, then that is obscene and this man want’s nothing to do with it...

16 December 2012 17:02  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...


Archbishop. Our posts crossed. If that is what the man wishes, then that is different, but will not view it just yet, if at all.

16 December 2012 17:04  
Blogger Span Ows said...

What peace, compassion, humility, forgiveness, love... it passes understanding

Indeed YG; I must say that I doubt I could be the same.

16 December 2012 18:22  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

I am reminded of this wonderful hymn:

Be still and know I am with you
be still, I am the Lord.
I will not leave you orphans.
I leave with you my world. Be one.

You fear the light may be fading
you fear to lose your way.
Be still, and know I am near you
I'll lead you to the day
and the sun.

Be glad the day you have sorrow
be glad, for then you live.
The stars shine only in darkness,
and in your need. I give my peace.

16 December 2012 18:40  
Blogger John Magee said...

Inspector

Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

This father's simple message is from the bottom of his heart. His words as a mouring father are meant to comfort others including the father and family of the killer.

His message is truly love and forgiveness

Dignified grief.

Please watch it to honor all those killed.

No pompous sermon, preaching, or intentional PR here.

What this man says is the essence of Christ's teachings.

16 December 2012 20:07  
Blogger non mouse said...

Thank you, Your Grace -- for honouring the message of a good man who plumbs the true meaning of "compassion."

Like OiG, I deplore the media's exploitation of grief; my disgust started young -- during the Aberfan Disaster. Since then, one aspect of that exploitation continually passes my understanding. It is the media's exposure of those bereaved ones who, at these times, call for "Revenge," and for what they--humans all-- consider to be justice. Of course I support essential measures to ensure safety for the surviving community; but Justice? Well, Portia in The Merchant of Venice got it right for me.

So while I cannot myself watch this video, I am glad that you and Mr. Parker are empowered to use the media: to turn against the trend for Revenge.

Perhaps that's what our cultural Bard did too: for the theme brings me once more to Hamlet and his much derided 'hesitation.' For he ultimately quit his rotten world while defending his cause and his loves: not as a hot-headed revenger, but as a warrior. Perhaps that's why the (presumably) pagan Fortinbras sets him up for Valhalla.

Kudos again, then, to Mr. Parker and Your Grace. May God bless the families of all involved in today's tragedy. May all their loved ones RIP: in that Better Place.

16 December 2012 21:37  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...


John. Not been able to watch the link yet. You see, it would upset this man. If the father has the strength of belief they say he has, he will know he will meet his little girl again in wonderful circumstances. The Inspector humbly states he himself has that belief.

16 December 2012 21:39  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Cannot watch your link either, Your Grace. Sorry. I just got my youngest ready for school tomorrow. She's got a bit of cold and is tired after a long day and so, complained about her homework, her lunch, the fact that she can't take her iPod to school when others can, the new boots she wants. She clumsily knocked over and broke a favourite coffee mug I had since I can remember and had a temper-tantrum because her friend can't come over on the last day of Hanukkah...and she was puzzled why Daddy was so patient with her and even set her up to watch a couple of episodes of the The Simpsons on his new laptop. There are twenty families which will never have such "battles" with the little ones they lost and would give all for just one more. For now this is all this dad can contain, YG.

16 December 2012 22:42  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

The difficulty in this case is that there is no individual to prosecute. There is no possibility of vicarious retribution - that first and most essential responsibility of the Law. The killer is dead of a self-inflicted wound. He leaves behind only an awful emptiness, and an unsatisfiable demand for justice - a demand that now can only find its realization in the final judgment of God. That is a sufficient answer. But we all of us much prefer that Justice be performed in the realm of sight rather than faith.

A number of years ago I attended the funeral of an infant. The father of the boy was a teacher and so many of his teaching colleagues were present. Many of his colleagues were not believers. I wondered then what they thought of the little white coffin not much bigger than a shoebox. I wondered at how quickly they would retreat from a circumstance they could neither explain nor redeem. To them it was simply a random pointless tragedy and they could offer nothing by way of purpose beyond "I hope that doesn't happen to me." This is a moment men come face to face with the naked dead universe, and see in it the face of a rotting corpse. And so they seek out some narcotic of pleasure to distract themselves from the vision.

The grief of another man is a terrible and valuable thing. It reminds us that we are not the masters of our own destiny - that the experiences and pleasures of this life have a definite, sometimes horrible and often unexpected end. We may retreat into bread and circuses, and live with the comfortable illusion that though one day we will die, yet tomorrow we will still see the sunrise. But we cannot escape the memory of that sorrow. We cannot suppress it far enough that it may no longer be heard.

Pity those who face the reality of death with empty hands - who have nothing on which to cling but despair. Then give thanks that we do not have to grieve as those who have no hope.

carl

16 December 2012 22:56  
Blogger John Magee said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

16 December 2012 23:32  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

Carl said ...

"The difficulty in this case is that there is no individual to prosecute. There is no possibility of vicarious retribution - that first and most essential responsibility of the Law. The killer is dead of a self-inflicted wound. He leaves behind only an awful emptiness, and an unsatisfiable demand for justice - a demand that now can only find its realization in the final judgment of God. That is a sufficient answer. But we all of us much prefer that Justice be performed in the realm of sight rather than faith.
"


And that, my friend, is where you and I part company. Robert Parker expressed no such sentiment or showed any such difficulty. Not all of us have this need.

I recall a father speaking after an IRA atrocity some years ago forgiving the perpetrators of a murder against one of his children. He did not call for vicarious retribution or revenge. He did not prefer that "Justice be performed in the realm of sight rather than faith." Instead, he called for peace.

Admittedly, different circumstances but surely the same essential message. I get the impression you would want to put the perpetrator up against a wall and shoot him to satisfy a deep need for revenge.

God alone knows what demons drove this maniac. God alone knows how He will receive him.

He's dead. That sufficient - surely?

17 December 2012 00:46  
Blogger The Way of Dodo said...

John Magee

Respect.

17 December 2012 00:47  
Blogger John Magee said...

Dodo.

???

17 December 2012 01:25  
Blogger non mouse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

17 December 2012 01:26  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Dodo

I was very particular in my choice of words. The state does not take revenge. It exacts vicarious retribution. That is one of its divinely-ordained purposes. I as an individual am prohibited from taking revenge. The state is required to punish the murderer in the stead of his victim. I as an individual may forgive. The state is supposed to commit the offender to the jailer until the debt of his crime is fully paid regardless of the offender's remorse or repentance.

Would it be preferable to have taken the shooter alive? Yes, it would. Because then there would have been some visible measure of retribution applied to the offender. He would have been forced to confront his crimes and endure the consequences, and the public would have seen it. There would have been some sense of justice done even though it can never compensate for the lives lost. Does this always happen? No. And I think one reason is to remind us that justice is ultimately not given to men to enact. We must trust that there will be ultimate justice for events like this. But that doesn't lessen the difficulty of not seeing justice done before our eyes.

I don't know if the shooter warrants the death penalty. It's not relevant to the discussion. What is relevant is that a great evil was done, and we will never see in this life any visible punishment for the crime. To the atheist, the shooter escaped punishment and is now safely housed among the dead far from the reach of law. That is a different kind grief that the atheist must carry alone. It is a wound that can never heal. He will endlessly imagine a little boy in his last moments - hopelessly trying to evade multiple shots. And he will live daily with the reality that nothing will ever be done about it. That is unrequitable grief. Pity them for it, and be grateful you do not have to carry such a burden.

carl

17 December 2012 01:26  
Blogger non mouse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

17 December 2012 02:05  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

"I as an individual am prohibited from taking revenge"LOL

You should really keep this in mind
the next time you are giving hairdressing advice.It is very creepy viewing your attempts at the normalcy of human emotion,especially when it involves children...sort of like watching Hitler patting little children on the head.

You remind me so much of that sad repressed army officer in "American Beauty" who tortured everything around him and collected Nazi memorabilia. The burden an atheist carries is nothing compared to your burden of having to live with your evil self for the rest of your life.
A hypocrite would say you deserve to be pitied..as I am not one..I say you deserve everything you get.

17 December 2012 02:10  
Blogger non mouse said...

Maybe, just maybe, the young perpetrator in this case was a tad ambivalent on this score: But we all of us much prefer that Justice be performed in the realm of sight rather than faith. So that's Hasty Generalization there @ 22:56, Mr. U.S. Military Personage. Sir.

You knew that all along of course. The rest of your post clearly moves towards Portia's view that it's better to see Salvation. She does predicate her argument on the generalized Judaeo-Christian assumption that all humanity bears the mark of Original Sin - just as we all have souls - but you perhaps accept that.
She says: [...]
Though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of [. . .]
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the [. . .] there.

(Merchant of Venice. 197-204)

And, if you've ever considered the characters in the play beyond what you know as "grade school level," that gal had to deal with plenty of ambivalence -- something the viewpoint of a Military Man should render visible. Her garden was not quite the Eden it might seem.
_________________________________


Again, Deo Gratias for the Living Christianity of Mr. Parker.

As to the freedom to view: Your Grace, I know, understands that some people like their messages booted in by harsh details, whilst other minds reject the battering.

17 December 2012 02:14  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

non mouse

Change only two facts in this story and there would be no ambivalence. Assume the shooter was unidentified, and had escaped. How then would the public react? The eternal facts would not be changed. Ultimate justice is still a certainty. And yet we would be enraged. Why? Because we want to see justice served. Temporal justice has been evaded and this offends us. To a lesser degree this also applies to a suicide. He has slipped the noose of temporal justice. We cannot serve justice on a corpse. It requires a living body.

But I take your point on the hasty generalization.

carl

17 December 2012 04:42  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I can't watch the video either. This is one of those times where I have sympathy from afar but I cannot open myself to empathy because it's too overwhelming.

For the other stuff up there, I'm a little bewildered to be honest. There seems to be an enormous gulf between that mindset and my own. It's uncrossable.

17 December 2012 08:14  
Blogger William said...

Your Grace

I finally managed to watch it.

Mr Parker understands that the road to healing starts with forgiveness. Though I suspect that he also knows that he will never fully recover in this life.

A wise, broken-hearted man trying to shine some light in the darkness. I am humbled.

17 December 2012 08:27  
Blogger Marya said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

17 December 2012 09:11  
Blogger non mouse said...

Mr. Jacobs (04:42) -- in response to your hypothetical scenario, mine @ 21:37: "Of course I support essential measures to ensure safety for the surviving community; but Justice?"
Your respect for temporal justice is of course your prerogative. My own horror at state officials who routinely wield guns remains unabated, as does my aversion to the mentalities of judge+jury+executioners.

Some of us may prefer to remember that "Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord," (Rom. 12:19; cf. Deut. 32:35). And then there is John 8:7. Somehow I am also reminded of Isaiah 51: 17-22: the "cup of trembling" as Baldwin used it in "Sonny's Blues." It's to do with sublime oppositions of suffering and nurturing, I think.

On the young man in question, my reference to ambiguity suggested that he may, in some way, have considered himself as catering to "Justice ... in the realm of sight"; we cannot know what caused his public aberration. At the same time, he denied your temporal justice by taking it out of the State's hands.

Whatever the causes, it must be terrible for anyone to reflect on the possibility of having contributed to these events.

17 December 2012 09:15  
Blogger non mouse said...

PS and clarification. By "the mentalities of judge+jury+executioners" I refer to individuals who set themselves up all three roles.

17 December 2012 09:19  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Inspector, you really should watch the clip, there is no voyeurism in doing so.

The grieving father is a young man of the highest quality and profound faith. What Robbie Parker says draws on Christ's teaching in his family's moment of terrible grief, and one can only pray for the Parkers as they go forward in life, as they certainly will.

There is not much wrong with the United States if it's people can rise up in the face of adversity as Robbie Parker has done.

17 December 2012 10:12  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Can’t do it Bluedog. DanJ0 has it exactly. This is one of those times where I have sympathy from afar but I cannot open myself to empathy because it's too overwhelming.. Nothing more to say, other than this. It was perpetrated by one human against so many weak and defenseless innocent fellow humans. What he did demeans us all. There is original sin alright, it is with us now, carried down the generations and it is being passed to the next. By us ALL.





17 December 2012 18:28  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Your Grace, as the other hold-out on watching the recording, I've had a few further thoughts on the issue. I can't speak for OIG, but even though he now recognizes his reluctance to open himself to such level of empathy, his original position is still valid. Initially he said, "Archbishop. This man will not watch it. He does not wish to invade the space of private grief." You then, Your Grace, countered by saying that Robbie Parker, "manifestly wanted people to hear his testimony and witness to his faith. There is no invasion of 'private grief': he chose voluntarily to address the public domain, pay tribute to his daughter, and show compassion to the family of the killer." I believe that you are both correct.

Mr Parker wanted or needed to speak and he should be heard...by those of us who can cope. But having experienced deep grief on several occasions...on losing a parent, then a best friend, then grandparents I was close to and (perhaps hardest of all) a five year-old girl, a playmate of one of my daughter's who was a frequent guest and practically a member of the family... I spoke, or rambled at those times when I was in something like a mental shock and a feverish and jumbled state I imagine some forms of insanity to be like. In retrospect, I know I've said deep, touching and profound things, but also uttered blasphemies and angry thoughts, babbled idiocies and wallowed in dramatic and maudlin self-pity. Had there been a microphone and a camera in the vicinity, I would have had no hesitation to utter all to the voyeuristic billions of the world. For several days after each shock I would communicate my grief to anyone who cared to hear about it and probably to just as many who did not. It was only with passage of time and with the support of family and community that I consolidated my thoughts and feelings, rejected a good number of them and "synthesized" my position, if you'll forgive the marxian terminology. It was only at the last tragedy that a friend who recently became a rabbi and had experience with grief, that I heard the first sensible advice: Say as little as possible and read tehhillim, Psalms, over and over again, even if you have to go on for days, until you are bored to the point of passing out and soon nature, your body, mind and Almighty's ever-present love will eventually penetrate through the fog of grief.

Although I gathered only snippets of what Mr Parker said, mostly from comments here, I understand that he said some profound and even uplifting things. I pray that his chance to share with the world will help to heal his grief and that he will always recall the time he spoke with a sense of accomplishment. But. But it could have gone the way as well. He could have understandably exploded with incoherent rage, hatred and outlandish accusations.

As you surely must know, Your Grace, while we are always "ourselves" in all circumstances, even the most tragic ones, there are parts of our selves we may not wish to share freely once we return to what we think is our normative state. And this is how both you and the Inspector can be equally correct, Your Grace. You in saying that Mr Parker deserves to be heard and the Inspector feeling a sense of intrusion on a man who may, later, wish to say something else and in a different way. And beyond that, I think the Inspector also recognized that subjecting one's self to such raw and powerful emotions is also an intrusion one one's own integrity. Just some thoughts whilst trying to make sense of all this, YG.

17 December 2012 19:28  
Blogger non mouse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

17 December 2012 19:36  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Avi. Wise words from you, and at the expense of sharing with us your own private griefs of past.

We are all at risk of being de-sensitised by various media of today. We all lose from that. We need to be, in these circumstances, ALWAYS angered and despairing of what went on. God help us if we are ever reduced to a shrug of the shoulders after a massacre, as we tend to be when a single youth is stabbed to death in London...

A small addition to your fine post which this man would be honoured if you would endorse...


17 December 2012 19:44  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Thank you, Inspector and add away; disasters and grief are not closed topics. I fear they'll be with us for a while. In any case, it's I who've made a small addition to your posts and I'm glad you've endorsed it.

I was troubled by my reluctance to read about Sandy Hook, to even let my wife tell me anything about it, explaining that I'm busy. Only by Sunday evening did I manage to read a general commentary about it. I hae better control of the "media-feed" of uesteryear, as we don't keep a tv anymore, having gone over to laptops and now to the Galaxy phones which make even laptops obsolete, but I undestand Sandy Hook is on the tube 24/7. So when I saw your comment, I felt grateful for not being alone in my unarticulated and inarticulate reluctance to face that pain. Your reluctance to intrude on a mourner and your refusal to subject yourself at this time to the grief made sense to me...as did His Grace's comment... and prompted me to think about why I was thinking the way I was. Oddly enough, I can cope better with the gory accidents I see on the roads, the terrorist savagery that was around when I was in Israel, the images of war and disasters. But this? A pointless slaughter of precious little munchkins by a demented boy who killed himself in the end without leaving even even a stupid message for us to rage at, as Carl pointed out.

And while we are becoming de-sensitized with media banality, as you say, note how we're also being emotionally played and manipulated and instructed on when and how to grieve with evolving rituals of orchestrated public prayers, tearful promises and declarations by our betters, all enhanced by the paraphernalia industry of bouquets, candles (with those special wind cones), teddy bears and temporary on-site shrines. And sometime, probably before the weekend, the grief extravaganza will be concluded for us and we'll be led to newer things.

17 December 2012 23:42  

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