Letter to the Killer’s Mother

Published by Susan Gillis Chapman on

late summer

Dear Nancy,

By now the whole world knows who you are, and maybe there are some, like me, who lie awake at night wondering how it was for you, those last few moments.  Or perhaps it had been hours, days, weeks.  You are–were– a single mother with an unusual child, a brilliant boy– but different.  You protected him by keeping him home, away from the bullies, away from the conversations in the hallway he didn’t know how to take part in  At some point, you simply closed the door to school and chose to teach him yourself.  Among other things, you shared with him your passion for shooting guns.  How could you possibly know?

He was different.  Maybe your mother’s instinct kept you awake at night too.  Did you wonder how things would turn out for him?  He wasn’t like you, from what I hear.  I see your photo–a beautiful woman with a charismatic, easy smile.  He–this special boy– looks more like a martian, a stranger in a strange land, wide-eyed, frozen in fear.  I can understand your need to protect him.  I can almost make sense of the drift of your paranoid fantasies.  But my shared experience stops when I imagine the arsenal you thought you needed to protect your home in case things fell apart.  Yes, things would fall apart, but guns would not be there to protect you.  How I wish you could have seen this coming.

Nancy, I’ve been a single mother of a brilliant boy and I understand that kind of love.  I also have had the imagining of things falling apart.  But for some extraordinary stroke of luck, I’ve lived in places where survival comes from love, not fear. If you were still with us, you’d see this love now in your community– neighbors helping neighbors, strangers reaching out to share grief.  I wish you could have known this kind of world, a society where real safety comes from goodness and trust rather than weapons.  How I wish you and your son had found a happier ending.

Today on the radio I heard an interview with a man who believes, as you did, that Americans deserve to bear arms, to defend their property and the ones they love.  At one point, when asked why he owns an assault rifle, he said defiantly that the very idea that government would limit them makes him want to buy more.  I stood there in the kitchen, shaking my head in disbelief.  I thought of you and your boy.  If ever there was a ‘red light’ example of toxic certainty, this was it.  When things fell apart for you, did you change your mind?   If you had a voice from the grave, what would you say?

The children’s funerals are very public.  The media is wise to keep you own boy’s story quiet.  But you– you are the victim caught in the middle.  Neither a hero in the school nor a villain.  I’m not sure how many people are thinking of you tonight, praying for you and sending love and sadness.  But, for now, it’s the least I can do.

May you and all beings benefit in some small way from this terrible human tragedy.

With love


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Susan Gillis Chapman

teaches part time for Green Zone Institute and for Karuna Training. Susan is a retired Marital and Family therapist who has been practicing mindfulness meditation for over 35 years.  She is the author of the book The Five Keys To Mindful Communication and a contributor to The Mindful Revolution, edited by Barry Boyce. Her website is: http://www.susangillischapman.com. Read more about Susan here.