a blog about words and faith and life by Cindy Maddox

Twenty-eight times


We just rang the bells of my church . . .
twenty-eight times, not twenty-six.
Twenty-eight times,
because twenty-eight people died last Friday in Newtown,
all taken by the same hand.

So we rang the bells and we said the names
in alphabetical order, like I got them off the internet,
in alphabetical order, like calling roll
in alphabetical order, because our hearts long for
any kind of order we can make.

But two were tacked on at the end,
not in order because they are different from the others
different from each other
different in our hearts’ response.
I said her first for she was easier to say,
not that I understand her but because at least I can say
she was a victim.
But him? I choke on his name.
My throat constricts around the name
that I must force out because I am a pastor
and it is my job to pronounce God’s forgiveness.

I don’t want to say his name.
I don’t want to ring the bell for him.
I want the bell to sound different, at least,
not the melodious dum-da-dum every other name received.
I want to hear a clank, a clatter, a cacophany
that marks him as different from his victims.
But the bell rings dum-da-dum and I am forced to hear it echo.

Twenty-eight times, not twenty-six.

Because I am a pastor.
Because I am a Christian.
Because I am a mom.
Because if I had known him as a two-year-old
and had felt his warm arms around my neck,
I would want the bell to ring for him, too
for the lost child
the wounded soul.

So we rang the bells.
Twenty-eight times, not twenty-six.
Because God cries
for every

Comments on: "Twenty-eight times" (2)

  1. elisabethbarton@sbcglobal.net said:

    “Our greatest challenge is to see God not only in the eyes of the suffering child but in the suffering itself. To thank God for the sunset pink clouds…but also for the mosquitoes I must fan from my face while watching the clouds.” Philip Simons
    Cindy, thank for you seeing God in all twenty-eight names.
    Blessings, Elisabeth

  2. You have great courage and spirit, both to do what you did in reading the names and to write about your struggle with it. Your church is blessed to have you. Be well~

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