Happy Birthday, Lauren Rousseau

I never met Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, who was murdered in December 2012 by a disturbed young man who had likewise never met her, but whose doting mother had provided him with access to high-powered firearms and who had made sure he was well trained in how to use them.

I know Lauren’s generous and courageous mother, who raised her family with love and respect.

I have briefly met and spoken with Lauren’s courageous father, who took part in her raising.

I have known for years Lauren’s generous and courageous stepfather, who by example and encouragement guided me toward the sobriety that changed not only my life, but also the lives of my three precious daughters.

Lauren would have been excited about going to work that morning of December 14, 2012, her mother says, because it was the work the young woman had longed for – teaching children in an elementary school. And she would have been excited about her plans for the evening, with a young man she had fallen in love with. And she would have been excited as Christmas approached – a holiday Lauren and her family had always marked with ongoing celebrations.

Lauren’s passing is a tragedy – entirely out of her control, and brought nearby by simple choices she herself had made over time, and that she made that early morning when she left her childhood home and went out into the world, filled with enthusiasm.

I do not experience the tragedy by virtue of the degrees of separation that bring me closer to her – just because I know people who knew her. Her entire family could be utter strangers to me, and her passing would still be a tragedy. John Donne was right – we are all part of the continent of humanity and we are all diminished by the passing of any part of the continent.

Today, June 8, is Lauren’s birthday – her 35th, a landmark often celebrated as a mix of the accomplishment in one’s life, and as a reminder of how the passage of time is persistent.

Today, it is up to us to be persistent – to continue to commemorate and honor the life that Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau managed to live in her 30 years, and to grant her the continuation in our lives that Walt Whitman granted to Civil War casualties being laid to rest as the moon was rising over the ceremony:

“The moon gives you light,

And the bugles and the drums give you music;

And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,

My heart gives you love.”

Walt Whitman, “Dirge for Two Veterans

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