The massacre that occurred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, USA, a little over one week before Christmas Day last year rocked the world. Whenever something like that happens, it cuts your soul to the core but when it involves children, it rocks you beyond belief.
During televised coverage, a father of one of the victims, tearfully described his six-year-old daughter's loving nature. He talked about how she would rush to draw a picture for someone if she even suspected they were feeling sad. Her two younger siblings would seek her first if they had a problem.
He related that on the morning of that fateful day, he and his angel exchanged greetings in Portuguese as he was teaching her the language. Just before he walked out the door, he kissed her on the forehead. That was the last time they'd ever speak to each other.
One news report spoke of one boy whose parents brought him from England "so he could have a better life in America". Adam Lanza, the murderer, who even took his mother's life, aborted that family's mission in cold blood. He ended his own life but the people who revered the little angels and their courageous school personnel, are left to live while trying to overcome their grief.
One schoolteacher died having no idea that her boyfriend had secretly asked her parents for her hand in marriage. He had planned to propose to her on Christmas Eve.
Television reporters have said that several residents of that community removed their Christmas decorations and Christmas tress as they felt there was no reason to celebrate the holiday.
We've heard accounts from the parents, spouses, siblings, friends, neighbours and co-workers of 9/11 victims, Columbine shooting victims, the 'Joker' theatre victims and all of the other unnecessary bloodshed incidents that went down in history. They almost always refer to their last interaction with a victim. Many times they tearfully say that they were glad that they were able to tell the person that they loved them on the day that they died.
It is testament to the fact that we should never take our children, other relatives or friends for granted. Find ways to say "I love you". Some of you may not consider yourselves the sentimental type but there are ways in which you can be loving without feeling like a 'wuss' or too mushy.
I think the best way to say "I love you" to a child is to simply say it. However, here are some little but significant ways to show your love to your children:
• Take them to a movie that they want to see and don't fuss to go or while you're there.
• Set up a treasure hunt around the house or your backyard. Hide coins or single dollar bills and afterwards, carry them to the arcade and let them use what they 'found'.
• Take a long nature walk together at their pace and let them talk to their hearts' delight. Pretend that the conversation is extremely interesting and ask leading questions.
• Find qualities about them that you genuinely love and compliment them in front of others.
• Frame a photo of the two of you and display it in their room.
• Send them a handmade card in the mail with a coupon to get ice cream with you.
• Using blankets and chairs or a card table, build a clubhouse together and have a picnic inside.
• Read "I love you" books together.
• Let them stay up past their bedtime with you and watch cartoon classics together.
• Tuck an encouraging note inside their lunchbox.
• Give them your full attention.
• Tell them some of the ways they make you happy.
• Make them laugh and laugh with them.
• Make their favourite treat for their arrival home and show them your joy when they arrive.
• Ask for hugs and kisses.
• Make them a coupon book filled with things they'd enjoy doing, or things they'd like to get out of doing.
• Take a day off from everything: work, household duties, technology, etc. and focus entirely on them.
• Write them a poem using the initials of their name.
• Decorate their room for no reason.
• Create a sign that lavishes them with praise.
• 'Kidnap' them from school and take them out for lunch.
• Make a treasure box from an old shoe box, fill it with "gold" (chocolate coins) and make an official looking treasure map with clues for them to locate the hidden treasure with.
• Huddle together with them and take turns making up stories to tell each other.
• Make a list of things you love about them and put it on their pillow before bedtime.
• Make a CD with all their favourite tunes and have a dance party.
If you think that you don't have the time to do some of these things, just think about — God forbid — not having your child tomorrow… and the rest of your life. You would wish that you had done all of these things and more.
They are your angels. Make time count because you don't know when their call to heaven will manifest.
There will be days when they get on your last nerve, that's understandable; you're human. However, look at them and think of all of those parents who have lost their children much too soon. In this new year, say a prayer for all such parents… and thank God you can still embrace your children every day.
So, have fun and love each other. Whether you decide to say "I love you" directly or indirectly, just do it.