Toward the end of his life, my husband had a consultation with a surgeon on the option of cancer surgery. The surgeon’s comment was “The mortality rate for this surgery is quite good but the morbidity rate is poor. You might not be able to speak in more than a whisper. David realized at that point that as an Anglican priest he might have preached his last sermon. With the spread of the disease, in fact it was and his last words, somewhat to his amusement, were “Beware of biblical literalism”.
This somehow came back in the light of the recent US tragedy and the constitutional literalism of “The right to bear arms”. For a Canadian, to view this right as an individual one is frankly ludicrous. My father, for some reason unknown to me – for he had never hunted in his life – had a modest collection of antique rifles. When I inherited them as his only child, I gave them as quickly as possible to a friend and colleague who was interested in them. He was Head of Anaesthesiology at a major Toronto Hospital and one of the most gentle persons I have known so I knew they would be safe with him. Though he “went moose hunting” with friends every year, it was only at his requiem that his daughter revealed that he had never fired a single shot. He just couldn’t. No one so far has publicly dared to ask why a mother with a troubled son would want to take him shooting for fun. But someone will ultimately have to. It involves not just one family, but the human one.
The morning that this terrible event happened I was volunteering at my grandson’s school in his kindergarten class of 20 children. No child should ever have to endure the slaughter of Newtown. Whatever the combination of elements that led to it, the end result is not just one for mourning, moving as it is for the town and the nation. It calls for the acceptance of responsibility.
In a sense, President Obama did accept it when he talked about the importance of parenting and keeping children safe. His address at the memorial service echoed Psalm 42, sung so beautifully by the rabbi. It also expressed the need for change – not one kind but many kinds of rethinking and action. I hope fervently that he can steel his will to do both against those who think that nothing will ever change. Nothing would be a better legacy than that.